Immobile Government – Is Our Political Class Nimble Enough To Solve The Drug Trafficking Problem?

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One of the major problems facing this country is the lost war on drugs. Initiated over forty years ago, all levels of U.S. government have probably spent over a trillion dollars and have made very little progress in the battle, with a lawless narco state evolving just below our southern border, a lawless state perverted by excessive drug cartel profits. Consider some recent news articles that illustrate these points of lawlessness and drug cartel violence:

– A recent Huffington Post article reported on the murder of a Mexican mother who had been protesting in front of a Mexican governor’s office to demand justice for her recently murdered daughter. Three judges have been suspended for releasing the main suspect in her daughter’s murder, who apparently turned right around and killed the protesting mother, a murder that was caught on a security videotape. The murders took place in Ciudad Juarez where over 3,000 people have been killed by drug gang battles in 2010. This is more than the 2,600 people that were killed there in 2009. Of the 2,600 murders in 2009, there were 93 homicide cases opened and only 19 convictions. This computes out to a opened case ratio of 3.6% and a meager conviction rate of .73%.

– Even if the mother’s killer had been locked up in a Mexican prison, there is no guarantee he would have stayed there. Another recent Huffington Post article reported that almost 150 inmates had escaped from a northern Mexican prison, a breakout that was likely facilitated by prison employees. The local government issued a statement that read: “The state does not have the capacity to prevent them [violent prisoners]from escaping.”  Does not sound like a very secure prison system if those running it acknowledge openly that they cannot prevent escapes.

The article went on to report that the area where the prison was located had also been plagued by drug cartel violence between the Gulf and Zeta gangs. It was unknown whether threats of the guards by the gangs or financial incentives from the gangs to the guards to help with the escape were factors but obviously were worthy of investigation. Thus, it is highly likely that drug cartel influences were involved in one way or another.

– The Associated Press reported on December 15, 2010 that a U.S. border patrol agent had been killed in a shootout near Nogales, Arizona, the area of the busiest drug smuggling corridor from Mexico into the U.S. Officials estimate that half of all marijuana seizures along the entire southern U.S. border are made in this area, which is also the busiest entry point for illegal immigrants. The scary thing about this report is that the death and gun battle did not occur right on the border but 13 miles inland from the border when a party of armed men and Border agents exchanged fire. Just two months ago, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had bragged that the border was more secure than ever before. The slain agent’s family might disagree with her assessment.

– The Associated Press reported on November 25, 2010 that U.S. law enforcement authorities had discovered a cross border tunnel between Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego that was a way for the Mexican drug cartels to smuggle drugs into the country. The tunnel was the second tunnel discovered within the month, making one wonder how many other, undiscovered drug tunnels might be out there.

The law enforcement agents found 40 tons of marijuana in the tunnel system, it was equipped with lighting, ventilation, and a rail system to move the drugs under the border, and it extended the length of seven football fields. On the Mexican side of the border the tunnel entrance went down more than 80 feet to a wood lined floor and on the U.S. side the entrance was 50 feet down.

– Other news reports on drug cartels and Mexico in 2010 included a raid in South America where a totally submersible submarine, to be used for drug smuggling, was found under construction in the jungle, the murder of a U.S. citizen who was jet skiing on vacation on a lake between the Mexican and U.S. borders, and the recommendation by the Mexican government that Mexican citizens returning to Mexico for the holidays travel in convoys and only in daylight for their own safety from bandits and drug cartels.

Whatever the political class and the government is doing is not working but still costing us untold billions and billions of dollars a year. The demand for illegal drugs has not abated significantly while the obscene profits made by filling that demand has resulted in a more and more violent criminal element of suppliers. With the death of a Border agent 13 miles from the border we are seeing the first migration of the Mexican lawlessness and violence deeper and deeper into our country.

And those bringing the violence are not ordinary street thugs. If they are capable of digging sophisticated smuggling tunnels and fully functional submarines, we are facing a well financed, well organized, and focused criminal force, a force that more or less can bribe, threaten, or kill any Mexican official that disrupts their operations.

Compare their capabilities with the American political class, a group of politicians that list the passage of a law that regulates the sound volume of television commercials as a major 2009 accomplishment. If we allow our political class and their approach to problem solving to confront this threat, who do you think wins?

It gets back to what New York Times writer David Brooks calls “immobile government.” It is highly unlikely, after more than four decades, that the current group of politicians in this country are nimble enough, or smart enough, to successfully repel the likely migration of drug cartel violence into this country. The drug cartels are focused, well organized and nimble, three descriptions I would never apply to our political class.

What should we do in the face of this immobility? One apporach would impanel a special commission of smart Americans, sans politicians and lobbyists, to do a ground up look of the entire drug market, legal and illegal. It would draw on the expertise of economists, sociologists, medical experts, substance abuse experts, drug enforcement experts, legal experts, etc. and also on the experiences of other nations which have had varying degrees of success by changing their approach to the whole drug addiction social issue.

The panel’s work would result in a small set of alternatives to the whole issue, alternatives that would be voted on by the American public, bypassing the immobile Congress and political class altogether. The most popular alternative, as determined by the voters who would have considered the pros and cons of each option, as laid out by the panel, would be implemented nationwide. This would simultaneously return the power of democracy to the people while finally improving the nation’s plight of violent and intrusive drug cartels.

The state government of California now spends a bigger portion of its budget on its prison systems than it does on its school systems. By changing our approach to the war on drugs, maybe, just maybe, we can end this type of insanity from our political class. However, it ends only if we find a way to bypass their immobility. After forty years or so, it is highly unlikely they will follow the advice from an old Who song and start “going mobile.”

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