Terror is a word that can take on various meanings and different connotations. Unfortunately, given the 9-11 terrorist attacks, we have tended to think only about Bin Laden-like terror threats over the past ten years. The reason why is clear: Bin Laden and his followers, in whatever form they took, were dedicated to destroying the United States in anyway possible and killing as many U.S. civilians and military personnel as possible in the process. This type of terror has occupied most of our attention.
This is not to say this is a bad thing, Bin Laden and his followers were, and will continue to be, a large threat. But at least most of their actions were stunted by sheer geography, thousands and thousand of miles and two vast oceans, geographic barriers to their terror plans.
However, there are other types of terror in this world and unfortunately, one type is growing in strength, violence, and ferocity just south of our southern borders. For this type of terror we do not have the luxury and safety of geography, this terror is right next door.
Of course, we are talking about the drug cartel violence and situation in Mexico. We have blogged many times about the drug cartel situation and its associated violence in Mexico, they have been some of our most popular posts. And although, we have not revisited the issue for a little while, that does not mean things have settled down. In fact, based on the following press accounts, the situation and the potential for drug cartel violence to spill over into this country have grown significantly over the past month or so:
– In the April 29, 2011 issue of The Week magazine, an article described how sixteen police officers were arrested and connected to the killings of 145 fellow Mexicans. The police were accused of providing protection for the actual killers who are suspected of being from the Zetas, Mexico’s most violent drug cartel. The 145 victims were bus riders who were kidnapped and then killed when the probably refused to join the cartel as gunmen or drug carriers.
The article reports that over 15,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico just in 2010. Serious stuff when innocent people are given the choice of either joining a criminal gang or being executed.
– A May 15, 2011 Associated Press report told how at least 27 Guatemalans were killed by assailants who in addition to killing them also decapitated most of the bodies. Police believe that these killings were related to a 2008 ambush of an alleged Guatemalan drug boss by the Mexican Zetas drug cartel. In that attack, the Zetas allegedly killed eight other people.
This activity is viewed as the Zetas’ attempt to control international drug operations, not just Mexican drug operations. According to the article, Guatemala has become a major shipping point for illegal drugs headed for the United States.
– A May 26, 2011 Associated Press article reported that a gun battle between two rival drug gangs in a Mexican city left 29 people dead. The article reported that the gun battle took place along a highway and the scene was littered with fake military uniforms, bulletproof vests, hand grenades, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
In a related story within the same article, AP reported that Mexican military troops had been deployed after another gun battle between rival drug gangs had resulted in 1,200 civilians leaving their homes to find safety in the military guarded shelters in nearby towns. This was similar to an incident last November when 400 civilians left their homes and took refuge in surrounding towns to get away from cartel gun battles.
– A May 15, 2011 Associated Press article discussed another frontier when it comes to drug smuggling. The article reports that the Mexican drug cartels have moved some of their smuggling operations into Canada which also serves as a transport place to move the drugs into the United States. This is viewed as an easier way into the country because the U.S./Canadian border does not have as much anti-smuggling resources as the Mexican/United States border.
The article explained the preferred method of smuggling, namely small planes flying low into U.S. air space from Canada, land at a multitude of small airports along the border where they are met by their partners to unload the contraband form the plane. One example cited explained the the entire unloading operation took about 90 seconds and involved the smuggling of 175 pounds of marijuana and 400,000 Ecstasy pills. The efficiency and small footprint of the operation makes it almost impossible to stop.
– But drugs are not the only things being smuggled into the United States. A May 19, 2011 Associated press report described how 513 people from South America and Central America were recently found being transported in two tractor trailers. Their destination: the United States. Each had paid about the equivalent of $7,000 to an organized smuggling ring to get into this country. The United Nations estimates that this type of smuggling is about a $6.5 billion business annually. The article reports that 95% of Mexicans now crossing illegally into America were paying smugglers to help them get across.
The more disturbing fact was that included in the 513 people were not just poor people looking for work from South and Central America. The 513 people also included Nepalese and Chinese. Who is to say that for the right price, these smugglers would not consider smuggling in Bin Laden followers into the the United States. I am sure they could afford the $7,000 fee.
– An article in the May 20, issue of The Week magazine reported that a rally was recently held in Mexico to protest both the actions of the drug cartels and the government’s military-like reaction to the cartels. The article stated that almost 14,000 people have been killed since the Mexican government began using its military against the drug cartels.
Kidnapping, refugees, unspeakable violence (e.g. decapitations), smugglers of both drugs and human beings, crooked cops, etc., certainly a defined and dangerous source of terror. And all of these incidents occurred just within the past month or so and probably does not capture all of the terror-like actions of the drug and smuggling cartels. Again, this is happening right outside our borders, both our southern and northern borders. We do not have that geographic safety afforded to us against Islamic terrorists.
Unless the political class and the government does something soon, there is little doubt in my mind that this form of drug cartel terror will intensify within Mexico and soon spill over into our country. Unfortunately, with the 2012 Presidential election process already preoccupying every politician, the odds of this terror infecting the United States is very, very high as our politicians become more and more distracted by their own political careers in 2012 vs. our safety.
We need to implement an in-depth, strategic series of steps to solve these intertwined problems of leaky borders, illegal immigrants, and the war on drugs. In order to do a comprehensive root cause analysis, formulate the proper solutions to these problems’ root causes, sell solutions to the country, and execute the plans, time and focus is needed. However, we do not have the time, given the growing violence and strength of the drug cartels or the focus of our politicians, given the 2012 elections.
In order to get around these problems, consider the following, short term band aid fix in order to stave off this terror threat:
- First,recall the tens of thousands of U.S. troops we currently have stationed around the world that are serving no strategic or military purposes. This would involve bringing home the 84,000 U.S. troops stationed throughout Europe, the 30,000 troops stationed in South Korea, the 30,000 troops stationed in japan, and the 50,000 or so U.S. troops in Iraq. Bringing these troops home would not compromise our nation’s effort to counteract Islamic terrorism abroad.
- The United States border with Mexico is about 2,000 miles long.
- The number of troops being brought home would total about 194,000.
- These troops would be deployed into three eight hours shifts of about 67,000 troops per shift.
- At any one time during a 24 hour day, there would be 67,000 trained U.S. troops lined up along the Mexican border, facing south, with the mission of blocking the smuggling of people looking for work, drug cartel refugees, and contraband both into and out of the country. This would be the equivalent of putting one soldier every 50 yards along the border.
- This type of deployment would relieve some of the U.S. border agents who would be moved to the northern border to handle the more difficult job of intercepting contraband coming in from Canada.
This would help seal our borders from illegal activity, would certainly be less costly than deploying these 194,000 troops all over the world, would not compromise our other anti-terror efforts, and would at least temporarily restrict the wealth, growth, and influence of the drug cartels.
Until our political class has the will, focus, and brains to strategically attack these problems, we need to secure the borders, in the very near term, from this ever growing, ever present terror threat. Failure to do so may eventually result in a 9-11-like debacle that far away terrorists unleashed on this country. The nearby Mexican drug cartels apparently do not hesitate when it comes to murdering, butchering, and kidnapping their own countrymen, It is doubtful they would have any problems doing the same to any American if it served the cartel’s interest.