Thursday, March 26, 2009

Obama's Mexico policy so far depressingly familiar

Though it's early, and certainly there are many other pressing issues confronting the new president, I'm increasingly dismayed with the Obama Administration's foreign policy toward Mexico.

For starters, security matters aside, Congress should never have passed and President Obama should never have signed legislation banning Mexican truckers, which not only violated a treaty but immediately inspired new Mexican tariffs on US products. That's pure economic lunacy, ignoring his own public advice on free trade by crawling into some protectionist hole at a time when the economy's retracting. Mexico Trucker understatedly calls this a "small and dangerous spat." Certainly not a good, early sign the Administration has a grasp on US economic interests regarding Mexico.

Obama has received high marks from drug policy reformers in D.C. and on the west coast who are happy he ended the crackdown on state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries, but for the issues I care about most, I can't say I care much for the new president's drug policies, particularly regarding Mexican drug cartels.

Black Hawk helicopters, for example, will not solve what's essentially an economic and political corruption problem in Mexico, but that's what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered them on her first trip down there this week. In many border cities, it's police officers helping smuggle the drugs. Who are you going to use the Black Hawks on, the local police station in Juarez?

Here's a prediction for you: Within the next ten years these helicopters will be used to suppress indigenous uprisings in Mexico's southern states, but they won't put a noticeable dent into drug trafficking. Why would Clinton and Obama want to put themselves in a position of being responsible for that entirely predictable result? Bad idea.

On the US enforcement side, DOJ recently declared that:
The Mexican Cartel Strategy, led by the Deputy Attorney General, uses federal prosecutor-led task forces that bring together all law enforcement components to identify, disrupt and dismantle the Mexican drug cartels through investigation, prosecution and extradition of their key leaders and facilitators, and seizure and forfeiture of their assets."
Gee, that's original. Why hasn't anyone ever tried that before? DOJ announced it's sending 450 more agents to the border, but the truth is they're defending a line on a map that doesn't mean much if, as Texas' homeland security director told the Legislature recently, the cartels' "command and control" centers are actually closer to Houston than the Rio Grande. These smugglers have distribution networks spread out all over North America, you can't choke them off at one spot - that tactic failed under each of the last four Presidents and there's nothing magic about this one that will make it succeed now.

Basically, the Obama Administration is throwing good money after bad on its anti-cartel strategy through the same failed vehicles that led us exactly where we are. Again from DOJ:
DOJ's Organized Drug Enforcement Task Forces Program (OCDETF) is adding analyst personnel to its strike force capacity along the Southwest border and the Office of Justice Programs will be investing $30 million in stimulus funding to assist with state and local law enforcement to combat narcotics activity coming through the southern border and in high intensity drug trafficking areas. State and local law enforcement organizations along the border can apply for COPS and Byrne Justice Assistance grants from the $3 billion provided for those programs in the stimulus package.
So they've got plenty of new money but zilch for new strategies, is how I take this information.

Indeed, the Obama Administration is even indulging the same nativist fantasies on the nation's northern boundary, moving forward with a pointless Bush Administration initiative to require passports and more formal entry and egress to and from Canada. In practice, this will do little more than waste money on bureaucracy, back up traffic and restrict important regional economic ties - just like it has on the Mexican border, where we could cross the border with a Texas driver's license before 9/11.

Obama's Mexico policy so far amounts to more of the same, with a healthy new dose of protectionism larded on top. I'd hoped for a more thoughtful approach, starting with a greater focus on rooting out US-side corruption.

MORE: See related coverage from Drug War Chronicle.

Also, see related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

Not so fast. DEA Raided a Marijuana Dispensary in San Francisco on 3/25/09 so it's not ended.

Anonymous said...

"Who are you going to use the Black Hawks on, the local police station in Juarez?"

Maybe on those using military type weapons.

In the escalating U.S. media war to vilify firearms and make licensed dealers and gun shows look like chaotic arms bazaars, increasingly bogus stories about the U.S. war on drugs are implying or flat-out insisting that Mexico's drug armies are equipped by U.S. store owners.

Missing from the stories are news of 18,000 deserters from the Mexican army in 2008, and the arms they took with them when they left. Underpaid, poorly fed and run by corrupt officials, the desertions are no surprise, putting military training, tactics and weaponry into the hands of ruthless vegetable-product exporters.

Now, in a surprising moment of candor, the LA Times, facing extreme violence on its state's border, is finally reporting that attacks by the drug lords on police are using hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, M203 40-millimeter grenade launchers, fragmentation grenades, anti-tank weapons, dynamite, high-grade bulk explosives and other military ordnance that cannot possibly come from U.S. retail shops (though the Times forgot to make that point explicitly).

"Most of these weapons are being smuggled from Central American countries or by sea, eluding U.S. and Mexican monitors who are focused on the smuggling of semiautomatic and conventional weapons purchased from dealers in the U.S. border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California," the Times said, though other "news" outlets failed to pick up on this critical breaking news.

Some outlets been mentioning plans in Congress to go after law-abiding American gun owners, using Mexico's cartel wars as an excuse.

"The Mexican government said it has seized 2,239 grenades in the last two years" says the LA Times. No apology for implicating licensed American retail stores has been made.

By the way Grits, Hillary Clinton said yesterday that traffickers "are motivated by the demand for illegal drugs in the United States and are armed by the transfer of weapons from the United States. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians."

Anonymous said...

Mr. Henson

It amazing me the broad based knowledge and insight you have. Is there a social policy issue you don't have keen insight into? You are a true Texas treasure!

Anonymous said...

“For starters, security matters aside, Congress should never have passed and President Obama should never have signed legislation banning Mexican truckers, which not only violated a treaty but immediately inspired new Mexican tariffs on US products.”

You may be dismayed, but surely not surprised.

Wednesday, February 28, 2008 Teamsters Endorse Barack Obama
Hoffa Makes Announcement Following Texas Meeting With Obama

You are correct in addressing law enforcment corruption, I hope that you might be as vigilant and aggressive in calling for an overhaul of the apparent legal corruption that exists between politicians and special interest endorsements and money contributions.

Otherwise, continue to be dismayed.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see better interdiction and suppression regarding our on prison gangs who are, to some extent, cooperating with the cartels. The cartels don't get a free pass to smuggle their loot into this country without some monitoring by U.S. prison gangs. Rest assured that the Texas Syndicate, HPL, MM, and the Barrio Aztecas are getting their cut and controlling the imports. They're going to protect their turf. You can also rest assured that they too, will use violence to protect that turf. Therefore, the feds need to be sure they're addressing the real needs in our own country.


TxBluesMan said...

Anon 10:26,

"Who are you going to use the Black Hawks on, the local police station in Juarez?

I hope that both you and Grits do realize that the UH-60A Blackhawk is not an attack helicopter, right? It is used primarily to transport personnel...

Anonymous said...

Can you say lier lier, pants on fire.

Seriously, The President has a web site where he is taking questions from the public. I heard this morning that over 50 percent were about him legalizing Marijuana.

I can see it now vast fields of industrial hemp, having in the Texas sum. Replacing trees as a source of fiber.

I also see the Texas Alcohol commission sending under age buyers into a Package store to try to by some weed and being turned into the police.

The cartels and gangs loosing a source of revenue.


Anonymous said...


Grits did not say anything about the UH-60A Blackhawk and neither did the news article he referenced, or did I miss something?

Personnel carrier or attack helo, I don't care. The point I was trying to make is the army type weapons the cartels are reportedly armed with and that you don't try to overcome them with conventional weapons.

Helos were already allocated in Merida Initiative so what's another 80 million for more of them?

Anonymous said...

12:35 I heard is a source of a lot of false information.

Obama had some fun with at least one question, saying he doesn't think legalizing marijuana is a good strategy for turning around the economy.

Obama told the audience that one of the most popular questions was whether legalization of the illicit drug would help pull the nation out of the recession. The president jokingly said: "I don't know what this says about the online audience."

In a serious response, he said he didn't think that was a good economic policy.

Anonymous said...


While not equipped with any dedicated weapon systems, the UH-60A is equipped with two pintle mounts (one each located on either side of the airframe aft of the flight deck.) These pintles are capable of accepting a variety of weapons, to include the M-60 GP 7.62mm machine gun, the M-240 7.62mm machine gun, the .50 caliber GAU-19/A machine gun, as well as the General Electric M134 7.62mm 6-barreled minigun. Utilizing the ESSS system, the UH-60A can equip up to 16 Hellfire missiles, as well as 2.75" FFAR (folding fin aerial rocket) rocket pods, FIM-92 Stinger anti-air missiles, as well as aerial mine delivery systems, such as the volcano and the M56 mine delivery system.

Sounds like it can take out a village of poorly armed farmers.
Unless it gets sold to the cartel,If so they will just blame Texas gunshows.


TxBluesMan said...

Anon 12:49,

Grits did not say anything about the UH-60A Blackhawk and neither did the news article he referenced, or did I miss something?

Look at the 3rd paragraph, especially the last sentence. Anon 10:26 was quoting Grits... The Blackhawk typically used is the UH-60A, especially in drug interdiction roles. There is a significant difference between a personnel carrying chopper and an attack chopper.

Your statement on the pylons is disingenuous. Do you have any examples of attack choppers being used for drug interdiction? If so, why wouldn't the Mexican Army use the ones they already own?

Besides that, if that is what it takes to combat the cartels, what's the problem? If their armaments are as good as you indicate, then maybe they do need attack choppers...

Anonymous said...

Surprise, Surprise! The Freud in Chief Obama backs out of a campaign promise again, except the pot issue. I'm sure he's laid back with Rom, Axelrod and Eric with a rolled up big one. Puffin away talkin how they fooled um again. And they said Bush was a liar!! When this guy gets though, hell we'll wish for even Jimmy Carter again!!! Remember we could have voted for Ron Paul. At least we would not be the New Socialist State, Right Comrade.

Anonymous said...

Don't be dismayed Grits by the Presidents Mexico policy.

And why should we not do more for our neighbors to the south.

After all, Hillary Clinton said yesterday that the United State shares the blame for the drug war in Mexico. She as much admitted the border is unsecure when she said that traffickers "are motivated by the demand for illegal drugs in the United States and are armed by the transfer of weapons from the United States."

We should consider reparations and make monetary payments for the mistreatment of illegal aliens in our country.

Asked by a Mexican reporter about the "mistreatment" of Mexican workers in the United States, she said, "We are certainly sensitive to and understanding of the great concern for your co-nationals in the United States."

She added: "We believe there have to be changes made, and we hope to pursue these in the coming months," without going into detail.

And finally, Foreign Minister Espinosa was asked whether there were any areas of Mexico where she would not take Clinton. She replied that there were.

"I would like Secretary Clinton to come very often to Mexico and I would like to take her to many, many very beautiful places that we can share in our country," Espinosa said. "Of course, there are some places where I would not take her, and I believe she would not take me to some places in her country."

To which Clinton replied: "Well said."

I wonder where those places are in America?

Anonymous said...

Former Air Force Intelligence Officer Terry Reed Exposes CIA Drug Running

Anonymous said...

You and I Can't Buy the Guns Mexican Cartels Own
The Administration is Not Dealing Straight With Us on Mexico's Gun Problem

Anonymous said...

I just hope that the relationship with Canada won't go as bad as with Mexico so far. The Mexico policies are just full of mistakes and just create more problems. So what if you place helicopters at the border, it won't solve anything. The drug cartel will find a way around it anyways.

Take care, Lorne

Anonymous said...

"I hope that both you and Grits do realize that the UH-60A Blackhawk is not an attack helicopter, right? It is used primarily to transport personnel..."

You might be interested to know there are MANY versions of the Blackhawk Helicopter used for many separate mission objectives and platforms. The Blackhawk I think about is the MH60L DAP, The K variant, and the EH60 variants. Everyone calls all of them Blackhawks, When in essence each is very specialized. The MH variants could give a Cobra a run for its money...

Anonymous said...

"Do you have any examples of attack choppers being used for drug interdiction?"

Yes Bluesman. During the 1980's US forces backing up Columbian drug enforcement teams began using Apache, Cobra, and Blackhawk gun ships in unison with Blackhawk personnel platforms to eradicate the Cocoa fields in Columbia. Although they were not successful, the choppers were used in attack situations.

The adding or taking away of the wing stubs is trivial with all but the oldest platforms having the ability to add them within an hour. ALL except medical variants carry side mounted M60, M240, or M2 "Ma Duece" 50 Cal machine guns for directfire options. Special Ops (MH series) can also be fitted with miniguns and rocket launchers. Here's a cool link from a Netherlands site showing some basic capabilities.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any examples of attack choppers being used for drug interdiction?

Here's one.

TxBluesMan said...

Anon 3:53,

I guess that you failed to notice that the article you linked to stated that they were "unarmed" - meaning no weapons.

The use of those platforms for the FLIR/Thermal Sights to pinpoint drug smugglers isn't using them in an attack role.

Nice try though.

Anonymous said...

Texas youth can drive and get married at 16 with parental consent, but can't legally have sex outside of marriage until they're 17.

So are you saying that if two 16 year olds decide to get it on that it's illegal and they can be charged with a crime? If the can't be charged with a crime, it looks perfectly legal, huh?

Lindsay Beyerstein said...

If helicopters were the answer, we would have won the drug war by now. For the last 10-15 years, our drug policy towards Mexico has consisted of throwing more helicopters at them.

The last time we gave Mexico helicopters, Mexico gave them all back because either (a) Mexico was tired of human rights groups freaking out every time a U.S.-backed helicopter turned up in Chiapas suppressing dissidents, or (b) the helicopters were old wrecks that were no good above 5000 feet and therefore useless, or (c) Both! The old Hueys were perfectly good for suppressing dissidents even if they were useless for drug interdiction in the Sierra Madre, but it was just too much of a hassle once human rights groups figured out what the copters were really for. Human rights groups 1, helicopters 0.