Opinion: Overcoming the scourge of drugs in America


Published: 10-05-2023 6:00 AM

Andrew Demers is a political and public affairs professional who has worked on congressional, Senate, and presidential campaigns. He lives in Manchester.

Several Republican presidential candidates have shown growing enthusiasm on the campaign trail for a disastrous policy proposal that would employ American military force within Mexico, a measure aimed at combatting the power of cartels and the influx of illicit drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Endorsed by candidates including Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Vivek Ramaswamy, this proposal may appear to reflect the “get tough on drugs” policy America needs, but even a brief analysis uncovers serious concerns that demand an immediate reevaluation of such a dangerous and misguided discussion. Presidential candidates rallying behind such a perilous policy stance warrant a strong rebuke.

The first and fundamental flaw of the proposal is its myopic focus on disrupting the supply side of the drug trade while disregarding the fact that it is the demand for drugs here in America that is fueling the profits of the drug cartels. Proposals that do not focus on addressing the demand side of this issue are spurious, at best.

Another warning sign for this misguided military intervention is the lack of specificity regarding the operational scope of these proposals. This ambiguity highlights the abominations inherent in such strategies: untold human casualties and suffering, exorbitant financial expenses, and ultimately, the near impossibility of success.

It is essential to recognize that drug cartels exert significant influence over nearly every segment of Mexican society, effectively governing large portions of the country’s territory and enjoying deep integration within its governmental and societal frameworks. Highly militarized, with their own armies, they are better equipped than the Mexican military. The consequences of attempting to dismantle these cartels would require substantial commitments of treasure and blood comparable to the resource-intensive War on Terror, which would no doubt have similarly disastrous results.

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Mexico is a sovereign nation, and, as such, an invasion would predictably elicit considerable resistance both domestically and internationally. Combined with an outcome reminiscent of the failed two-decade Afghan occupation is the potential of replicating the Syrian war’s humanitarian crisis, but this time along America’s southern border. The ramifications of a war in Mexico would translate into a comparable influx of nearly 25 million refugees fleeing northward, an inevitable consequence should we choose to initiate military action, since displaced refugees will certainly have valid asylum claims.

The historical failures of previous military interventions bear a strikingly clear warning: The odds of success for this policy are close to zero. Furthermore, the risk of cartels relocating, potentially sparking an expansion of warfare into South America, or even worse, escalating resistance to the extent of border incursions and terrorist attacks on American soil, underscore the very real dangers of such a strategy.

And aside from the possible humanitarian and economic catastrophe, the nonchalant disregard for global opinion on the part of candidates and public officials imperils the very coalitions that are necessary to counter emerging challenges in Latin America, such as the expanding influence of China and the resurgence of anti-American sentiments abroad.

An important point that cannot be ignored this presidential campaign season is the disconnect between these proposals and the foundational principles of Republican conservatism. In short, advocating for limited governmental intervention and fiscal responsibility clashes vehemently with the short-sighted endorsement of misguided military intervention.

It is crucial that Republican candidates and policy makers engage in substantive policy discussions, and not assume that the American public lacks intelligence and has quickly forgotten the abject failure of the previous 20 years of foreign policy.

Resorting to military intervention without a comprehensive understanding of its implications would be a grave mistake, contradicting not only common-sense conservative principles but also the lessons of history.

To achieve real success, we should redirect our focus toward reducing America’s demand for drugs and improving our public health strategies to combat addiction. Then we can begin to overcome the scourge of drugs and reduce the funds, power, and influence of the international drug cartels.