US Troops to Mexican Drug War? (So Contemplates Rick Perry)

Would troops to Mexico help in the drug war?

Via the Dallas Morning News’ Wayne Slater:  Rick Perry open to sending the US military into Mexico

Host Chuck Todd asked whether Perry would advocate military involvement on the Mexican side of the border. Perry responded: “I think we have to have any aspect of law enforfement that we have including the military. I think we have the same situation we had in Columbia. Obviously, Mexico has to approve any type of assistance that we can give them. But the fact of the matter is these are people who are highly motivated for money, they are viscious, they are armed to the teeth. And I want to see them defeated. And any means we can to run these people off our border and to save Americans’ lives we have to be engaged in.”

Three things come to mind (apart from being appalled that the DMN misspelled Colombia, not to mention “enforcement” and “vicious”).

First, it all depends on what Perry means.  Does he mean combat troops or advisors/trainers?  If his model is Colombia (no “u”) then he means advisors/trainers.  The thing is, however, is that the US has sent advisors/trainers to Mexico.  So one is left to ponder whether he doesn’t know that or whether he really is suggesting combat troops (a worse idea in this context, I am not sure I can summon).

Second, the situation is Mexico, while similar to Colombia, is not identical.  Indeed, there are several extremely important differences, not the least of which being that Mexico’s violence is one of warring drugs cartels, which was never the central problem in Colombia.

Third, he hits on the main issue:  money (gobs and gobs and gobs of it).  As such, until we find a way to take these obscene profits* out of the equation, no amount of force is likely to stop the drug trade.


*This is one of those cases where the phrase “obscene profits” it utterly apt given the violence, death and mayhem that the black market in drugs creates.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Latin America, US Politics, World 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:

    Perry must not have enough work to do as Texas Gov… you would think there would be some innocent people to execute or something.

  2. Oh yeah, I don’t see how a guerilla quasi-war with the country right next to us could POSSIBLY turn out badly.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Let me make the argument for invading Mexico outright.

    Look at the places we’ve sent troops lately. In WW2 the boys found interesting food, unfamiliar but enjoyable booze, and lots of babes. The same in Korea and Vietnam but with a miserable jungle climate. And since then its been Kuwait and Iraq and Afghanistan. No interesting ethnic cuisine, no unfamiliar but enjoyable types of booze — in fact, in some cases no booze at all — and scarcely a babe to be found.

    The time has come to invade somewhere fun. Mexican food, tequila, Dos Equis, beautiful women and the climate while overly hot has its attractions. There are lovely beaches, after all. Not to mention tons of weed!

    So I say yes to invading Mexico. Unless we can come up with a plausible reason to go after Australia or maybe Greece.

  4. anjin-san: You do know that the governor of Texas can’t pardon anyone, or even commute their sentence, unilaterally, right?

    As to the substance of the piece: I can’t see any productive direct role for the U.S. military in Mexico. I think improved training for Mexican troops in counterinsurgency and urban conflict (based on the U.S. experience in Iraq) might be helpful, but it seems to me that rooting out corruption in Mexican local and state law enforcement to put them back in the anti-drug war mission would be more helpful in the long term, coupled with a strategy to ultimately reduce the profitability of the drug trade (legalization, decriminalization, less aggressive enforcement of laws against small-scale importation, etc.), would be more effective.

  5. anjin-san says:

    > You do know that the governor of Texas can’t pardon anyone, or even commute their sentence, unilaterally, right?

    Can’t claim to know chapter and verse of Texas law, but it seems clear the Governor has some powers in this area:

    DALLAS | Thu Aug 30, 2007 3:31pm EDT
    (Reuters) – Texas Governor Rick Perry commuted the death sentence of a man hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday, a rare occurrence in America’s most active capital punishment state.

    Perry’s office said the governor had commuted two previous death sentences related to convicts who were judged to be mentally retarded.

    He has also granted clemency in 2005 to 28 death row inmates who had committed their crimes while they were under the age of 18, but that was in response to a Supreme Court ruling on the issue.

  6. Trumwill says:

    Anjin, the key word is “unilaterally”. Lawrence is right. The Texas Governor can only pardon or commute someone when the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends that he do so. That recommendation is rare and without it the governor cannot do much.

  7. ponce says:

    A Taylor talking about a second Mexican American war?

  8. Well, this Taylor would be rather opposed to such an event.

  9. tom p says:

    “The time has come to invade somewhere fun. Mexican food, tequila, Dos Equis, beautiful women and the climate while overly hot has its attractions. ”

    I suggest we invade only the higher elevations of Mexico. Speaking from personal experience, none of them get either too hot or too humid.

    PS: One cannot buy Dos Equis in Mexico… only the un-pastuerized version (and much better) Tres Equis.

    PSS: But the women are even more beautiful at the higher elevations.

    PSSS: And the Tequila… AYYY ya ya …..

  10. tom p says:

    “But the women are even more beautiful at the higher elevations.”

    It might have to do with a lack of oxygen…. but I really don’t care.

  11. Mic says:

    I think the military intervening is Mexico is better than the military occupying Iraq. Iraq never had WMDs. Bush went to Iraq to cover up the fact that he couldn’t get Bin Laden. We need to focus our attention to what it is happening on our own Borders.

  12. André Kenji says:

    I live in Brazil, that has a problem with drug gangs. Usually, it´s very difficult to fight them via military force: they infiltrate themselves among the civilian population, as their business requires. Any tough action will result in a bloodshed and will be very limited, as the favelas in Rio de Janeiro shows.

    In Colombia, the big difference is that the cartels there mostly PRODUCED cocaine, so, they were distributed in more sparse areas(Laboratories in the jungle), mainly in the border with Bolivia. That´s not the case in Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nogales and Nuevo Laredo. It´s also true that it took lots of time and money to control the cartels in Colombia(They still exist, for sure).

  13. wr says:

    Why don’t we invade Grenada again? That seemed to be pretty easy.

  14. Mr. Prosser says:

    Rick Perry has as much influence on sending US troops to Mexico as a snowflake has influence on the Mississippi River. An easy throw away line spoken by a politician looking for the next step up the ladder. By the way Mike Reynolds, no invasion of Greece. The women are beautiful but the food is inedible and the booze is godawful.

  15. Contracts says:

    So the governor of the state that Waco is located in sees the military as a legitimate arm of law enforcement?  Things certainly have changed in the US in the last 20(ish) years.

  16. sam says:

    Maybe if Texas seceded –as Perry has suggested — the governor could then send in the Army of Texas (formerly known as the Texas National Guard) to take care of bidness. That’s a solution that I think most of us could come around to endorsing.

  17. Doctor Z says:

    I live in Mexico in a resort area. If you don’t live here, you really don’t know what it is like. I drove from Matamoros and was victimized by corrupt police. There is a twisted “Robin Hood” mentality that exists here. Any foreigner with money is OK to steal from using any form of fraud or trickery or just conversion. Nobody of the general populace has guns or pocket knives. Everyone has a machete, although pocket knives are seized as an illegal weapon. Right. Only cops have guns and they use fabricated infractions to get your money and anything else they may want. A real infraction can land you in jail unless you want to join the corruption and bribe your way out of it or pay the ticket at the police station after surrendering your license.
    My point? The Narcos have the power over the people by 2 methods: 1. Deadly force: Deadly force Against anyone they feel as a threat or to leave a message to make a point of inspiring fear – terrorism . 2. Money to bribe: The easier way to keep important people in authority to work with them while still maintaining their position.
    Sending a military force to deal with a “Hydra” seems foolish. Who will watch their back? The local people clain that even the Federalis are involved in corruption. No, they do not stoop to shaking down tourists, they are in it for high stakes. The local people allege many are affiliated with organized crime. After all, if you find something of value, how can you “fence” it without a contact in organized crime? The people are greedy and thanks to the entertainment media, they have become unhappy with poverty and will do almost anything to change it. The people in general lack morals and respect for the law. If you obey the speed limit, you will be the only one in the country doing so. Capitalism has found it’s way here and is struggling as it requires trust to succeed. So, the business people struggle with it as a child would struggle with a large sword, fumbling ungainly and inflicting unecessary wounds due to the lack of character needed to retain trust and confidence. If someone is successful, they soon become “Boss Hogg”.
    Is it really a good idea to send troops into a 3rd world country where only a small minority of people would be on your side? What would the best case scenario be? Kill a few Narcos?  They are wise like cock roaches. Perhaps this is how to consider strategy: How do you deal with cock roaches on their home turf and successfully route them?
    The shotgun works in football and bird hunting.
    Don’t waste the time.