Drug-gang violence south of the border has reached a horrendous and frightening level.
Every day there is a new horror story of innocent people being killed, of battles between Mexican police and well-armed drug gangs, of officials who are leading crackdowns being assassinated.
Earlier this week, NPR reported that the border city of Ciudad Mier had become a ghost town. All but a few hundred of what was once a city of more than 6,000 had fled. The police station was firebombed and police vehicles set ablaze. The city has become the center of a turf war between two drug gangs, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas mafia over smuggling routes that run through or near the town.
The McAllen, Texas, Monitor reports that more than 29,000 people have been killed in Mexican drug violence since late 2006. To give the reader a feel for that number, it is a little less than the population of Austintown.
And there is no question that the United States is to an arguable degree complicit in this violence. It is the U.S. appetite for drugs that is fueling the war. There are enormous amounts of greenbacks at stake. And many of the weapons being used in this war come from the United States, the estimated percentage ranging from a low of 20 percent to a high of 90 percent. A report released this month by Mayors Against Illegal Guns and based on data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, documented 19,000 guns found in the Mexican drug war that came from stores in the United States, mostly in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.
And there is spillover violence from Mexico to border towns and border states that must be of concern to the United States.
But it is primarily Mexico’s problem, and Mexicans are dying every day because of it.
The United States has been providing assistance in this war, as it should and as it must. But a line must be drawn.
A dangerous trial balloon
Americans who are looking for where to draw that line can look to statements this week by Texas Gov. Rick Perry for guidance.
During an interview on MSNBC, Perry was asked, “Would you advocate military involvement in Mexico on the Mexico side of the border to help Mexico in this drug war?”
He responded: “I think we have to use every aspect of law enforcement that we have, including the military. I think you have the same situation as you had in Colombia. 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 with money. They are vicious. They are armed to the teeth. I want to see them defeated. And any means that we can to run these people off our border and to save Americans’ lives we need to be engaged in.”
Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said Perry’s point is that the U.S. must consider all options to secure the border.
No, not all options. Sending U.S. troops into yet another nation is not an option.
We’ll stipulate that it is highly unlikely that the Mexican government would welcome U.S. troops fighting on its land. But it doesn’t hurt for the rest of America to take note of what Perry — and perhaps some others on the border — are hinting at.
U.S. soldiers fighting and dying in a war with Mexican drug gangs should be off the table. We are trying to extricate our troops from two other fronts, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress is talking about pulling troops out of strategic outposts in Europe and Asia. This is not the time for the governor of Texas or anyone else to be rattling sabers toward Mexico.