President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told reporters today that the spiraling drug related violence along the US/Mexico border has not put Mexico in danger of becoming a failed state. In fact, he tried to spin the violence as a positive.
Here is Blair’s assessment of the situation in Mexico, “Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state. Repeat that. Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state. The violence that we see now is the result of Mexico taking action against the drug cartels. So it is, in fact, the result of positive moves which the Mexican government has taken to break the baneful influence that these cartels have had on many aspects of the Mexican government and Mexican life.”
Blair continued, “The assistance that the United States is providing does have an intelligence component in terms of assisting the Mexican authorities. They are very much in the lead. It is very much something that is built on their capabilities – not on the United States moving in and pretending that it knows things better. And I think it’s something that we ought to do. And the Mexican campaign, and this campaign, is our campaign, too.”
I agree with Blair that Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state, but I think his view that the border violence is a byproduct of a crackdown by the Mexican government is wishful thinking to say the least. The border violence is likely in large part related to competition between the drug cartels. The reason why the violence has not spread into the U.S. border is because these cartels don’t want to anything that could make it more difficult to get their products to their customer base. I doubt that the 400 additional federal agents and equipment sent there by Obama this week will make much of a difference.
The easy way to reduce the drug trade and the violence that comes with it is to change the federal policy on illegal drugs. Legalization and regulation would be the smart thing to do, but do the cultural stigma against drugs, this will never happen. The other option would be to cut down the market for illegal drugs, by stressing recovery over incarceration.
It is cheaper to send an addict to rehab than it is to house him/her in a prison, but since nobody has ever won an election by sending addicts to rehab, politicians spend their time trying to out tough each other on the drug issue. The outcome of all of this posturing is a protection and strengthening of the market for drugs in this country. Those who are worried about the violence spilling over into the U.S. are overreacting, but contrary to Blair’s statements, there is nothing positive about the current situation.