The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released their Armed Conflict Survey a couple of days ago, beginning with the term hyper-violent criminality. Unfortunately for Mexicans, visitors to Mexico, and large numbers of US citizens living in frontera states like Arizona and New Mexico, that’s an apt phrase. Mexico is a failed state — if it was anywhere else in the world but the United States border, it would be the source of lurid media reports, graphic pleas for help from assorted NGOs, and quite likely the destination of UN Peacekeepers.
Some 23,000 people that we know of and can categorize were murdered in Mexico last year. This includes military and law enforcement personnel, judges, and numerous other government officials. That’s second only to Syria. Last year the number two spot was held by Afghanistan.
“The first two months of 2017 were the most violent January and February on record, with 3,779 homicide cases registered by the authorities. The following month was even worse: March 2017 saw 2,020 murders. This was the highest monthly tally since June 2011, a bloody moment in the midst of Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’. In December 2006, President Felipe Calderon deployed the armed forces to the streets with the mission of crushing the cartels. But the resulting conflict brought misery to Mexico: 105,000 people lost their lives in intentional homicides between that month and November 2012.”
It is on our border, however. Mexico as a nation (such as it is, politically) remains as central to US politics as interest rates, pussy grabbings, deleted emails and allegations of [insert some other type of fuckery here]. It also remains economically important, boasting an estimated 15th highest GDP in the world.
This shouldn’t be news to anyone who pays attention, but it is (or will be). Much more disturbing, it won’t be news that creates much interest, at least not in the populace writ large, despite clear and obvious security implications. Human smuggling, narcotics smuggling, weapons smuggling, and the ease with which anyone can walk across the border should be a self-evident worry.
How easy is it to get across? I’m not saying I did it myself in a pair of Combat Flip Flops a couple months ago after visiting the Fray Marcos De Niza Historical Landmark, I’m just saying it’s easier to do than to accidentally carrying a multi-tool onto an airplane — which I have done. It actually requires very little effort.
Remember the report retired Generals Barry McCaffrey and Robert Scales wrote for theTexas Department of Agriculture?1 The one that dissects the “…increasingly hostile border regions along the Rio Grande River” ?
That report, now six years old, reflected a dire situation then.
“The drug cartels and their criminal elements realize the value in exploiting small communities along the border for storing and breaking down large narcotic loads for further distribution and transportation. The cartels realize that Texas is a big state with limited law enforcement resources to cover vast rural areas. They take advantage of gaps in manpower and response times to push narcotics northward along established smuggling routes such as U.S. 83, U.S. 281, U.S. 77 and the interstate highway system. Narco-terrorist organizations employ a well-organized cadre of “scouts” who use sophisticated communication and observations techniques, encrypted radios and advanced optics to conduct their clandestine surveillance centered principally in the most vulnerable southwestern border counties. These scouts have armed themselves with automatic weapons and have demonstrated an increasing level of willingness to use them against local law enforcement.” (Beyond Crime: The Impact of Cartel Control of the SW Border Counties, p. 26)
By all reports the situation is worsening, and not just in Texas. Ask any of the Border Patrolmen working the San Rafael valley area what’s going on in the Canelo Hills, or those in New Mexico’s boot heel if it’s safe to go hiking in the Peloncillos.
Anyone who thinks the violence in Mexico isn’t having a massive impact domestically is deluding themselves. The Cartels are trans-national criminals as technologically savvy, tactically proficient, and well motivated as anyone CENTCOM is currently fighting (in some cases, more so). They have more money than many small countries, superb intelligence and comms capability, are more willing to use violence than most “Western” countries, and have been ruthlessly perpetuating atrocities just as horrifying as anything we’ve seen from ISIS or al-Shabaab.
Not everyone agrees with the IISS report, of course, and there may be some merit to their accusation of hyperbole. There are typically three sides to every story — two that differ substantially, and the actual truth. The Guardian quoted several such people, including one professor from the University of Reading in the UK, who called it “…shoddy work and sensationalist promotion.”
The Mexican government also refuted the report, though their statement seemed (to me, anyway) largely semantic.
Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter if the IISS is guilty as charged. So what if Mexico isn’t the second most violent country in the world? Does it really matter if it’s the second, or fifth?
Let me answer that, in case you thought it was rhetorical — not a bit. There’s some truly scary shit going on down there, and they’re bringing it steadily north; if that’s not enough cause to lock the border down, the cartels’ willingness to transport anyone and anything across should be. An estimated quarter of a million OTMs (illegal aliens from countries other than Mexico) were apprehended by US law enforcement in 2016, from scores of countries (including many considered to be “countries of interest”, i.e. those that have significant problems with terrorism). Were any of them jihadis?
You can argue whether Mexico is second worst or 190th best, debate the necessity of a wall2, or call anyone in favor of realistic, practicable border control a racist until your voice is raw as your favorite chain-smoking old waitress. Here’s the truth of things: There are large numbers of well-armed, immoral savages subjecting Mexico to nauseating depravity. This is indisputable. That they’re preying mostly on their own people shouldn’t be sufficient cause to ignore it. Nor should the fact that so many of our people are the same color brown as their people make any candid, pragmatic efforts to address that truth politically untenable.
We send carrier groups, MEFs and extraordinarily dangerous specimens of American manhood to faraway places for less cause than what’s happening on our border, and we’re debating about whether we should shut the border down? Why aren’t the cartels designated at foreign terrorist organizations instead of TCOs and DTOs? Hell, why aren’t environmentalists and the BLM decrying the litter and detritus left in vast amounts through hundreds of miles of national parks and protected wilderness areas?
Those are rhetorical questions, and you already know the answer.
1Gen. McCaffrey, by the way, is a former commander of SOUTHCOM, wrote the US Army’s Human Rights Code of Conduct for U.S. Military Joint Command, was Director of the Office of National Drug Policy under President Bill Clinton (confirmed unanimously by the Senate) and is a Bradley Professor of International Security Studies). Gen. (PhD, Duke University) Robert Scales is a former Commandant of the US Army War College, a Nimitz Memorial Lecturer, a member of the Congressional Quadrennial Defense Review, and the only serving officer to have written books subsequently selected for the official reading lists for three services. You can read that report online here.
2I’ll happily address that later, if you’d like.
I just want to do writer shit with my writer friends.