The Associated Press reported today that a shootout in northern Mexico between soldiers and suspected drug cartel gunmen killed two children and wounded five of their relatives who were caught in the crossfire. This is of course, just the latest string of civilian deaths in the country due to the drug war. Unfortunately, innocent people have increasingly been caught in the crossfire of Mexico’s gang battles, from waitresses killed in bar shootings to doctors ducking for cover as gunmen burst into emergency rooms to finish off rivals. American citizens often have a surreal view of the nation as calm waters, sandy beaches, and vacation spots such as Cancun and Acapulco often comes to mind. However, in reality, many places in Mexico are imploding with strife because of the influence of criminal organizations.
Current U.S. foreign policy focuses heavily on adjudicating conflict by spending trillions of dollars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, which results in the neglect of the expanding turmoil in our own backyard. Our foreign policy interest should be concentrated concentrically with the most attention paid to nations that are closest geographically, have vital economic ties, hold natural resources and have historical importance. Countries like Haiti to Venezuela must draw greater attention. However, Mexico is of paramount concern because Mexican problems become American problems at our “porous border.” While immigrants pour from the Mexican border for economic reasons now, those numbers will multiply exponentially if Mexicans are fleeing for safety.
The sovereignty of the Mexican government is falling into the hands of drug lords and corrupted officials. The highly financed cartels, with a market share estimated at $40 billion annually, will continue to use creativity and dark-side capitalism to smuggle drugs into the United States and battle the legitimate Mexican government. The destabilization of Mexico would cause problems for the entire United States not only those communities close to the border. Therefore, it is imperative that the United States must consider spending more of its largess on our neighbors instead of a collection of countries thousands of miles away, where there may be no traction. It is time the United States step up its efforts in order to deal with this problem, as the current Meridia Initiative is insufficient considering the situation.
What is needed is a policy that focuses on the source. Just education, law enforcement and treatment will not end trafficking if illegal drugs are abundantly available. Drugs must be eradicated in the fields where they grow, and stopped in transshipment so they can’t make it to the drug lords. A model should be the same vigorous help the United States gave to Columbia, which resulted in downfall of the Cali and Medellin cartels and debilitated the FARC narco-guerrillas. If the United Stated does not reassess and change course with the Mexico immediately, costs will be in the hundreds of billions, and thousands of lives will be lost or negatively affected.