2009 December 09 Wednesday
The Fall Of Mexico: A Low Grade Civil War?

Writing in The Atlantic Philip Caputo reports on how the fighting in Mexico is taking on some of thee characteristics of a civil war.

To clarify the crime. Of the many things Mexico lacks these days, clarity is near the top of the list. It is dangerous to know the truth. Finding it is frustrating. Statements by U.S. and Mexican government officials, repeated by a news media that prefers simple story lines, have fostered the impression in the United States that the conflict in Mexico is between Calderón’s white hats and the crime syndicates’ black hats. The reality is far more complicated, as suggested by this statistic: out of those 14,000 dead, fewer than 100 have been soldiers. Presumably, army casualties would be far higher if the war were as straightforward as it’s often made out to be.

The small amount of attention given to these events by the US press shows how situational ethics can be. Imagine a US ally in Central America disappearing communist guerrillas out of their houses in the 1980s. Of course Congress would be crying about the evil Republican anti-communists and trying to cut off funds to that country. But drug lords are seen as worse than communists. Or maybe ethical standards have changed since the 1980s? Or perhaps the fact that Mexico is directly on the US border makes our elite more supportive of war tactics by a government.

The army appears to be carrying out lots of executions.

What, then, accounts for the carnage, the worst Mexico has suffered since the revolution, a century ago? To be sure, many of the dead have been cartel criminals. Some were killed in firefights with the army, others in battles between the cartels for control of smuggling routes, and still others in power struggles within the cartels. The toll includes more than 1,000 police officers, some of whom, according to Mexican press reports, were executed by soldiers for suspected links to drug traffickers. Conversely, a number of the fallen soldiers may have been killed by policemen moonlighting as cartel hit men, though that cannot be proved. Meanwhile, human-rights groups have accused the military of unleashing a reign of terror—carrying out forced disappearances, illegal detentions, acts of torture, and assassinations—not only to fight organized crime but also to suppress dissidents and other political troublemakers. What began as a war on drug trafficking has evolved into a low-intensity civil war with more than two sides and no white hats, only shades of black. The ordinary Mexican citizen—never sure who is on what side, or who is fighting whom and for what reason—retreats into a private world where he becomes willfully blind, deaf, and above all, dumb.

How many of the killings done by the Mexican Army or police are really done on behalf of drug smugglers? How many are done by local factions of the government for reasons unrelated to the drug war? How many of the killings done against the drug gangs are basically mistakes? Oops, we thought you were something you aren't. In the fog of war you have to expect some friendly fire casualties.

The United States government ought to build a very formidable barrier along the entire border with Mexico and then hugely increase the staffing of border crossings in order to cut the drug flow. Border control would insulate us from Mexico's violence while also reducing the flow of corrupting drug money and guns into Mexico. The US government should also increase DEA and FBI staffing to run down and tear apart Mexican organized crime in the US.

I urge you to click thru and read the whole article. Mexico is what we should not want to become like.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 December 09 07:34 PM  Mexico


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