There have been increasingly worrisome reports over the last two years about the troubles in Mexico involving the growing power and violence of the Mexican Drug Cartels. Since the Mexican President announced a national policy of all-out assault against the "drug lords", open warfare has in effect broken out in towns and cities throughout the country. Officials on this side of the border believe that this new level of violence may well spill over into our border states.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Mexico & The Drug War
With respect to America's foreign policy with Mexico, we are presented with a number of huge dilemmas. Mexico is a major trading partner. We share a long, porous border with it. The demand for drugs and the attraction of human smuggling and illegal human influx is overwhelming.
Mexico's political history is not a shining example. Government at all levels is riddled with corruption. Much of the country remains poor, and its class divisions resemble the Third World's. Mexico has often used the threat of increased depredation to blackmail the U.S. for foreign aid.
During much of the 20th Century, American agriculture in the Southwest benefited from the cheap seasonal labor provided by Mexican farm workers. The number of such migrant laborers never was statistically significant. But all that changed over the last 30 years.
Experts estimate that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 million illegal Mexican immigrants presently living in the U.S. The vast majority--and by that I mean at least 95%--of all illegal Mexican immigrants don't sneak into the U.S. to do farm labor; they come for all the usual reasons people flee deadbeat Third World economies: Looking for a better life, better employment opportunities, better education, better health care, better housing, public order--in short, prosperity.
The government of Mexico has done essentially nothing to discourage this trend, using it as a pressure valve to vent social discontent. And now it appears that even if Mexico truly wanted to control the illegal Drug Cartels, it may no longer be in a position to do so.
Acting out of self-interest, the United States should consider the following:
1) Legalize drugs. Studies have shown that the actual cost of controlling the illegal drug trade is many times greater than addressing the crime and health problems arising from voluntary use. The moral issues inhibiting legalization are not persuasive: Which would you rather have, a few hundred thousand sad addicts, or mafia-style networks promoting crime throughout your infrastructure?
2) Drastically curtail all immigration, both legal and illegal. The pressure to emigrate from all over the world into the U.S. is intense. But the era of "give me your huddled masses" is over. America is no longer an "empty" country in need of population. Our prosperity, which was built on the exploitation of resource, and the factory system, appears to be rapidly ending. The real standard of living--subtracting excess credit, multiple worker households, and the steep increases in the lower classes--has been steadily declining over the last quarter century. We can no longer "afford" to take on the burden of excess refugees from South America, Asia, Africa. Every wave of additional human growth lessens our ability to deal effectively with the demands this puts on our society. The current fiscal crisis is symptomatic of America's long-term economic decline; it is now clear, in retrospect, that this crisis had been camouflaged by runaway credit. Americans were fooled, and wanted to be fooled. Not only are we no longer a rich enough country to afford to save the rest of the world from its problems of overpopulation and hunger and violence, we may not be able to save ourselves.
We cannot dictate to Mexico--it's a sovereign nation. We are still a world of nations, despite the desire to conceive of our interests as "global" or "universal". If Mexico will not, or cannot, manage itself in such a way that our own interests are respected, we have no choice but to act to protect ourselves. If this means trashing NAFTA, closing our borders, and deporting millions of scofflaws, then we need to do that.
In the long run, this is a superior choice to throwing up our hands and moaning about impossible choices. If we don't preserve our way of life and the prosperity we still in some measure enjoy, we'll end up being just another chaotic confederacy, like Russia.
Mexico may never be able to put its house in order. But that's their problem, not ours. In the meantime, we have more than enough on our own plate to deal with.