The “readout” from Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s November 30 visit to Mexico City constitutes a soothing tidbit of information—bureaucratic Muzak:
In the face of ever-evolving, multinational threats, the U.S. is committed to working with our international partners to enhance information-sharing and our mutual security. We look forward to our continued partnership with the Mexican government as we forge an unprecedented international security framework that facilitates legitimate trade and travel while protecting our citizens.
Not once does the Secretary mention the raging war against the drug cartels. Napolitano’s visit comes as Mexicans somberly recall that in December 2006, President Calderon ordered an offensive against Mexico’s drug cartels. This action he vigorously defends. “There are those who think that it would have been better not to combat the criminal actions. Those people are wrong.”
Since then, citizens of Mexico have ridden a violent rollercoaster of fear and death. While Mexican law enforcement scores important arrests—such as that of Arturo Gallegos Castrellón, leader of the Aztecas, and Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén, leader of the Gulf Cartel—there are dangerous signs of deep-seated weakness and growing uncertainty about Mexico’s future.
Reuters reports, “as the bodies pile up—more than 31,000 across Mexico since December 2006—49 percent of Mexicans say Calderon’s drug war is a failure.” More disturbing news comes with the exposure of the resurgent role of Mexican cartels in the production and export of methamphetamines to the U.S. Drug traffickers are playing dirty politics. Some see Mexico chin-deep in danger.
The choices for policymakers in Mexico and the U.S. are difficult. U.S. counterdrug strategy must constantly be reshaped and strengthened. New ideas such as Mexico’s membership in NORAD should be put on the table. Defeating the cartels requires cross-cutting fusion of law enforcement, intelligence, and military capabilities. And while force is required against organized crime, there must also be clear pathways out of drug abuse and addiction. A U.S. commander-in-chief for the drug fight would also be helpful.
What Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saw as a Category 5 threat in September now appears downgraded to a tropical storm warning by Napolitano. Despite Napolitano’s upbeat “readout” from her latest Mexico visit, most Americans are still shocked by disturbing headlines out of Mexico, worried about our porous southern border and spillover violence, and anxious to see solid results from two years of Obama assistance to beleaguered Mexico.