Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Obama May Send National Guard to the Border

Last week, President Obama began contemplating sending National Guard troops to the border to help stem drug-related border violence.

In 2008, the death toll along the US-Mexican border due to drug violence was 5,800. This year, 1000 people have already been killed.

Drug-related violence has escalated in recent years due to a rise of drug cartels and a militarized crackdown by the Mexican government. Some of this violence has "spilled over" onto U.S. soil, a fact which is not entirely surprising given that 90% of the cocaine consumed in the United States at some point passes through Mexico and 150,000 people are directly involved in the narcotics trade in order to meet US market demand.

However, from FCNL's perspective, a further militarization of the border is not the answer to the growing problem of drug-related violence.

There are already over ten thousand Border Patrol agents working along the southern border and--after sending an additional 3,200 soldiers to the border last week--Mexico currently has over 45,000 Mexican soldiers working against the drug cartels.

The increase in military and police troops along the border has so far done little to nothing to stem the violence. In fact, the most recent State Department Human Rights Report cites that there has been an increase in the number of arbitrary civilian killings by the armed forces. A fact which, as the Huffington Post writes, "only adds to the horrors committed by the drug cartels."


While Obama has specifically stated that he is "not interested in militarizing the border," sending the National Guard to the border would be exactly that.

We believe that a civilian, not military, response would be the best way to deal with the current violence. And we hope that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does too.

She's heading to Mexico at the end of March to address the issue of drug violence and we're hoping she'll remember Leoluca Orlando's (a man she once suggested should get the Nobel Peace Prize) model of empowering civil society to address cartels and crimes syndicates. As Orlando described it to then First Lady when he brought down the mafia, his strategy is like a two-wheel Sicilian cart. One wheel is effective state, police, and judiciary system. The second wheel is civil society.

"If only one wheel rolls, the cart goes around in circles. For the cart to move forward both wheels need to spin at the same pace."

Militarization has been tried before. More troops won't bring more peace. We hope Obama will look to alternative approaches like the Orlando model to deal with the drug violence on the border.

See The Huffington Post's article "Hillary Clinton and the Drug Cartel Violence in Mexico."

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