04 March 2009

La Guerra

There has been a lot of attention paid to the impact that the war on drugs has had on Latin American states like Mexico. This report is consistent with others on Mexico, where exceedingly well-funded drug cartels have grown stronger:

"It's moving to crisis proportions," an unidentified defense official told The Times. The official also said the cartels have reached a size where they are on par with Mexico's army of 130,000.
About 7,000 people have died in the last year — more than 1,000 in January alone — at the hands of Mexico's increasingly violent drug cartels. Murders often involve beheadings or bodies dissolved in vats of acid.
There are some areas where my political views skirt very close to Libertarian, but the drug war has never been one of those. The problems caused by drugs will not be solved by legalization and political control. There is great disagreement here, but I think alcohol is a helpful template for what controlled drug use may look like, and in many cases the hardest hit population are lower income families.

Just as wrong is the assumption that ending the drug war will help states like Mexico and Colombia. There is an extraordinary lack of will in the world. When the situation in Iraq became very dire, the chorus of voices calling for the U.S. pull-out was loud, but it was wrong.

The WSJ's Bret Stephens has an excellent piece in defense of Mexico's efforts to end the drug war, even in light of the heightened tensions:
On a recent trip to Mexico, I asked a family friend -- a professor at the National University -- whether she thought the government was collapsing under the weight of the drug war, which has claimed close to 9,000 lives in the past two years, turned border cities into no-go zones and elicited comparisons between Mexico and Pakistan. "Collapsing?" she said. "It's finally picking itself up."
Her point: Mexico's "drug problem" is of very long standing. The rest of the world is only noticing it now because President Felipe Calderón has decided to break with his predecessors' policy of malign neglect of, if not actual complicity in, the drug trade.
The escalation of the drug war does not mean it is time to quit. It means it is time to finish. The rule of law and the future of the Mexican state will depend on consistency in the face of deep challenges. This is a tipping point. I hope they are equal to the task.

1 comment:

Lacy said...

Great post Joe. Very interesting and disconcerting.