This week’s first Republican presidential primary debate featured renewed calls for the U.S. to consider using the military to obliterate Mexican drug cartels that facilitate human trafficking networks, the entry of illegal narcotics, and act as de facto border czars, exerting significant influence over who can cross the southern border into the U.S.
Calls to use U.S. military assets to pursue action against America’s southern neighbor have spooked numerous officials, who say those efforts would be dangerous and counterproductive to the interests of both nations.
“I believe any action that is unilateral by the United States vis-à-vis Mexico, especially by U.S. uniformed forces, be they police or military, would be completely counterproductive to United States-Mexico relations,” said John Negroponte, who served as permanent representative to the U.N. under President George W. Bush and as ambassador to Mexico under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
The ex-official added, “Mexico is our largest trading partner. We share a 2,200-mile border and we have inter-relationships that are extensive and across an entire spectrum of issues such as migration, trade, people-to-people relations and environmental concerns. I believe such action would be extremely ill-advised.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during the debate that if he wins the 2024 election, “on day one of his tenure as president,” he would support deploying U.S. special forces across the border to destroy fentanyl labs and disrupt cartel operations. He added that the president should use all powers available as commander in chief to protect the country.
Presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who has served as Governor of South Carolina and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), has long maintained support for military interventionism to thwart the cartels. Earlier this year, while speaking at an event, she said, “When it comes to the cartels … you tell the Mexican president, either you do it or we do it. … We can do that by putting special ops in [Mexico]…just like we dealt with ISIS.”
NIKKI HALEY: "When it comes to the cartels…You tell the Mexican president, either you do it or we do it…We can do that by putting special ops in [Mexico]…just like we dealt with ISIS…" pic.twitter.com/bjMkrPsArM
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) March 16, 2023
Gustavo Flores-Macías, associate vice provost for International Affairs and professor of Government and Public Policy at Cornell University, argued in a recent op-ed that the idea of pursuing military action against Mexico is “politically expedient” and would exacerbate existing problems both nations face.
“While reaching for U.S.-led military solutions might make for flashy headlines and score easy political points, a real commitment to addressing drug-related violence requires other, more effective measures from both governments,” he wrote.
A Mexican official warned that 100 years of progress could be wiped out if the U.S. were to deploy military forces to Mexico.
“Any military intervention in Mexico would be a monumental setback for the U.S. and would derail the bilateral relationship. It can destroy the North American trading bloc and worsen the security situation, triggering a wave of migration in the region,” they stated.