In her March 25-26 visit to Mexico, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attracted considerable attention when she said, “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. …So yes, I feel very strongly that we have a co-responsibility.”
Secretary Clinton acknowledges that the U.S. market and American habits are a major contributor to drug fight and horrific violence raging south of the border. Few will dispute this.
But the Secretary goes on to say, “we have been pursuing these [drug] strategies for 30 years.” She adds, “Neither interdiction [of drugs] nor reducing demand have been successful.”
One thinks of a general who in the heat of battle calls the troops together and announces, “Lads, we’re in heck of a fight! Let’s take that hill over yonder from the enemy [i.e. tackle the Mexican cartels] at all costs! But in all fairness I’ve got to be candid with you, I’ve a gut feeling we’ve been backing the wrong strategy for the past 30 years.”
The inspirational utility of such a message in the midst of a crisis is open to discussion.
Overall, while in Mexico City and Monterrey to demonstrate support for President Calderon and the Mexican people, buck up political will, and offer additional material support, the Secretary of State appears to be selling short the very approach – tough interdiction efforts, resolute law enforcement support, and targeting Mexico’s dangerous cartels – that she hopes will help to strengthen and stabilize Mexico.
The U.S. clearly needs a short, medium, and long-term strategy for dealing with the entire spectrum of drug issues from supply source to consumer. Demand reduction, treatment options, legal reform, decriminalization are topics of a debate we need to have in the U.S. Forging consensus on how to handle the scourge of drugs is a work in progress.
Strategic pronouncements from a foxhole in Mexico where the bullets are literally flying may not be the best way to run an anti-drug campaign.