Rick Perry’s Worst Idea Yet

He suggested the possibility of sending troops to Mexico to fight drug cartels.

Via PostPolitics:  Perry: Send U.S. troops to Mexico to fight drug wars

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Saturday that he would consider sending U.S. troops into Mexico to combat drug-related violence and stop it from spilling into the southern United States.

“It may require our military in Mexico,” Perry said in answer to a question about the growing threat of drug violence along the southern border. Perry offered no details, and a spokesman, Robert Black, said afterward that sending troops to Mexico would be merely one way of putting an end to the exploding cartel-related violence in the region.


Perry was in New Hampshire for a two-day campaign tour, his fourth since declaring his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Pressed to explain Perry’s remarks, Black, the spokesman, offered this: “Never say never. Mexico has a problem. They have a significant problem with drug cartels at war with each other. And that is a significant problem for the United States.”

This is a terrible suggestion for a host of reasons.

First, such a move would be a serious escalation of the current policy (a policy that isn’t working as it is).  Not only that, the suggestion suggests a naive belief that all that is needed to fix the drug problem is finding the right level of force.  If  one thing should be clear from the available data:  force alone is not going to solve this problem.  The war on drugs is unwinnable and anyone who suggests that all we need is simply more money, more force, or some combination thereof, is simply revealing their lack of understanding and/or seriousness on this topic.

Second, such a move would just lead to an escalation of violence, not a diminution thereof.  The Mexican cartels are in a position to wage an insurgent style fight against US troops.  Further, they are mixed in with the civilian population.  What, exactly, does Perry think regular troops would be doing in Mexico?

Third, there is also the historical tone deafness to the suggestion, given that US troops in Mexico has a rather significant negative connotation to Mexicans.  While those of us en the north have forgotten about the Mexican-American War, not to mention  numerous incursions by US troops into Mexican territory in the mid-to-late 1800s and the early 1900s, it remains a point of significance to Mexicans.

Fourth, this is an egregious example of American hubris:  the belief that another country ought to welcome the deployment of US troops within their territory because, after all, we just want to help.  But, of course, this is something that Americans would never even contemplate (i.e., having foreign troops acting within our territory).

Fifth, given the ongoing military actions in which the US government is currently engaged, do we really need another one?

In summary:  do we really want to transform the drug war into an actual hot one with US combat* troops deployed to a foreign country?

*There are, of course, US troops operating in advisory, training, and other non-combat capacities in Colombia and Mexico (as well as elsewhere).

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Borders and Immigration, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. anjin-san says:

    I would not trust this guy to make me fries at McDonalds.

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    If sending troops into Mexico to combat one border related problem is ok, why not send troops to stop immigrants? Or send troops to combat unfair trade practices?

  3. James Joyner says:

    And this is why, exasperating as it may be, a two-year campaign for the presidency is a good thing. He’s slowly proving himself too stupid to be president.

  4. Ben Wolf says:

    I’d suggest a 6th reason why this policy is a bad idea: The Mexican government is fighting what is for all intents and purposes an insurgency. The last ten years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan should be an indication to anyone with a pulse our military is largely ineffective against guerillas, despite spending nearly a thousand times their resources.

    This is the best indication yet that Rick Perry is an utter fool.

  5. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner: I’d never thought about it that way before. Interesting take.

  6. Jeremy says:

    @James Joyner: Now you’re making me rethink a blog post of mine. Well, partially.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    On one side of the border billions of dollars waiting to be spent on drugs. On the other side of the border drugs. And the only possible solution is to invade and take down the drug sellers. Right. It’s nice how none of it is our fault.

    By the way, where are those cartels getting their guns?

  8. There’s also the reality that right now 90% of the drug violence has stayed on the Mexican side of the border because the cartels don’t want the US government to get involved. If we start sending our troops into Mexico, the cartles are likely going to respond by sending their “troops” into the US.

  9. CSTAR says:

    Sixth. Why assume that the drug cartels wouldn’t take the war north of the US/Mexican border into say Dallas/Ft. Worth?
    Seventh What happens after the inevitable “drone strike accidentally kills 23 people at a wedding party” event.
    Eight. What will prevent this from becoming a regional conflict involving Guatemala, Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica even Panama?

    I think the reasons just flow out endlessly.

  10. BleevK says:

    @Stormy Dragon: he will claim they hate us for our freedom.

  11. steve says:

    James- This may seem stupid to you. How do you think it plays with potential primary voters?


  12. If you really want to stop the violence in Mexico, legalize marijuana and cocaine, so the cartels are cut off from their main source of income

  13. A Squirrel says:

    @James Joyner: James, uhhh…slowly? 🙂

  14. Jay Tea says:

    Plus, let’s not forget that we’ll be fighting the cartels that the Obama administration’s been arming with, at last count, about 2,000 assault weapons…

    Seriously: as bad as Perry’s idea is, it’s at least more marginally sane than “Operation Fast And Furious” has been. So it would be an improvement…


  15. CSTAR says:

    @James Joyner: In the case of Mr Perry, wouldn’t two weeks be enough?

  16. Ron Beasley says:

    @James Joyner: Stupid – that’s a feature not a bug for much of the Republican base.

  17. Ben Wolf says:

    @Jay Tea: Exactly how is going to war in Mexico better than Fast and Furious? You think more dead American soldiers is somehow preferrable? Not that you’d ever volunteer to put on a uniform.

  18. gogo says:

    rick stop the traffic of arms to mexico and shut up

  19. Bleev K says:

    @Jay Tea: Shut up and go fight.

  20. MNP says:

    What I would be most concerned about, is if a prolonged incursion led to the creation of a similar culture of bribery as exists among the Mexican authorities. I’m not naive enough to think there isn’t some bribery, but most of American bribery is of the “donate for election” style, and as such the rank and file are somewhat honest.

    Rule of law depends on the lower levels being honest, and in this economy it’s the lower levels who are the most in need of money.

  21. @Jay Tea: [Insert standard Republican/NRA line about how you can’t buy a real “assault weapon” in the United States.]

  22. MM says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Exactly how is going to war in Mexico better than Fast and Furious? You think more dead American soldiers is somehow preferrable? Not that you’d ever volunteer to put on a uniform

    Jay Tea is contractually obligated to “but Obama” every thread that is even remotely critical of anyone to the right of the Clintons. When one can’t defend one’s opinions, one deflects.

  23. Gabe says:

    But let’s face it, the real reason Perry is saying this has nothing to do with him actually thinking it’s a good idea. The conservative base is really really unhappy with Perry’s compassion towards immigrants. Solution? Propose to invade Mexico! Tomorrow everyone will be talking about how Perry is just too hardcore on his hatred of Mexicans, hopefully changing the topic from Perry actually being a moderate on immigration. Unfortunately a republican candidate can weather the fallout from saying we should invade a neighbor much easier than he can say that we should treat immigrants who were brought here as children should have the same chances to get an education as anyone else who was born here.

  24. casimir says:

    ge just keeps digging his own grave.

  25. john personna says:

    It’s all very Larry McMurtry.

  26. Nikki says:

    @James Joyner: That the Republican front runner has, once again, proven to be a complete loon must be viewed as an indictment on the quality of this Republican party. You guys are batsh*t insane. Completely, totally, bug-eyed, gone. The statesmen in the ranks can’t get so much as a shout-out or a high-five from your base. They would kick Reagan to the curb. You save your ire for DFHers protesting on Wall Street while the true danger gathers on your right…

  27. Nikki says:

    Well…I just heard about Rick Perry’s hunting lodge he so lovingly once called “[N-word]head.” He was well into his governorship before he decided that perhaps changing the name would be in his best interests. I believe that smear was one they were holding back until they felt they really needed to blow his candidacy out of the water.

    Faux concern trolling on why blacks won’t vote for Republicans in 3…2…1…

    Edit: *SIGH*

  28. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Plus, let’s not forget that we’ll be fighting the cartels that the Obama administration’s been arming with, at last count, about 2,000 assault weapons…

    (Sigh) It always comes back to Obama with you guys, doesn’t it? Just can’t go two minutes without linking some sort of pie-in-the-sky conspiracy or Bad Thing to Obama, can you?

  29. Mr. Prosser says:

    @john personna: More like Cormac McCarthy.

  30. Mike & Ike says:

    35 year war without end. Just say no more to the BS and legalize it
    Then the states can be the dealers, just like they became the
    sellers of Alcohol, Tobacco and as well as bookies with Lotteries

    It built South Florida from a sleepy tourist destination to world class.

    War is big business, so is the drug biz from the police to the courts to the prisons
    its an economy we cannot let go of. I hope you all had your fun with Merry Perry
    and he is not even on punch yet…. Wonder what he is smoking too?

  31. tech98 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    If we start sending our troops into Mexico, the cartles are likely going to respond by sending their “troops” into the US.

    At which point a Republican congressman will boldly respond with legislation demanding burritos be renamed, “freedom wraps”.

  32. TexasFred says:

    I have to say, until this point in time, I was seriously leaning to the support of Rick Perry, no longer…

    His worst idea yet? Indeed it is! And Ideas like this won’t keep him in the Texas State House either…

  33. WR says:

    @James Joyner: It took you this long to see that Perry is too stupid to be president? And you have a doctorate in what now?

  34. WR says:

    @tech98: You are my favorite person on the internet today!

  35. Ronald Reagan says:

    Drug money would only corrupt the US military.

  36. Barry says:

    Can we invade Texas?

  37. Bryan says:

    Perry’s comments also ignores the harsh reality that local police and the military are directly and indirectly involved in this drug war in Mexico. This just isn’t a cartel issue. The cartels have been extremely successful in infiltrating the local, state, and national police and military. What else explains the Zetas who are former Mexican Army Special Forces who were in fact trained by the US? The corrupt Mexican police and military have a vested interest in keeping the Mexican drug war alive.

    This would indirectly lead to the US military directly taking on the Mexican police force and Mexican military.

  38. Dave C says:

    @Bryan: The payroll for corrupted mexican forces are in dollars, all of the money came from american junkies hooked on drugs, the guns came from US, why dont you star your war in US rather than south? which is the fear to end the causes not the effects?

  39. TRUTH says:


    the ONLY way to stop the cartels is to hit em asap so it doesnt become a full fledged fire that we can’t put out.

    it is OUR war whether we like it or NOT

    we cant just sit on our a** and keep telling us ourselves “we cant win the war on drugs”

    we can, and we will,

    put the military to ACTUAL use
    why do we have a military? So Americans have to deal with cartel violence in their neighborhoods?
    NO WAY

    the Military is used to protect us, lets see how they protect us from a REAL ENEMY and not some fake crap “Iraq and Afghanistan”

    The Cartels are very real and they will get stronger and stronger.

  40. TexasFred says:

    @Barry: You can try…