For all the nonsense that was spouted at the first Republican Party presidential debate on August 23, the gold medal for cheap populism should go to frontrunner Ron DeSantis for promising a military invasion in Mexico to crack down on the drug cartels.
DeSantis, the Florida governor and second in Republican polls to former President Donald Trump, who did not participate in the debate, said he would send troops to Mexico on the “first day” of his term.
According to him, that idea, which had been suggested before by Trump himself, would help to stop the flow of fentanyl, the synthetic opium that is causing tens of thousands of deaths in the United States.
However, there is every reason to believe that a US military attack without Mexican consent would be counterproductive, for reasons that go far beyond the collective memory of Mexicans of the 1916 US invasion.
First, it is most likely that Mexico would respond to a military attack by expelling the DEA and other US agencies currently operating on its territory. That would result in increased production and smuggling of fentanyl.
Secondly, Mexico would also cut its cooperation programs with Washington on immigration matters. Under current bilateral agreements, Mexico uses its National Guard to stop migrants from Central America and other countries before they cross the border into the United States and allows asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their immigration papers are processed in the United States.
Third, a US military attack would affect border trade and hurt the US economy. Although many do not know it, Mexico in July overtook China as the United States’ largest trading partner.
If trade along the border is paralyzed by a conflict between the two countries, car prices in the United States would skyrocket, because many vehicles and parts are imported from Mexico.
Fourth, a US invasion of Mexico would make a mockery of Washington’s criticism of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
“Any Mexican president, be it the current one or any of his predecessors, would react by ending the cooperation agreements,” former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda told me.
Rebecca Bill Chávez, president of the Inter-American Dialogue thinks and former US Defense Department official, agrees. “Mexico, among other things, would stop doing our dirty work on migration,” she told me.
But as crazy as it sounds, the idea of an invasion of Mexico is becoming an increasingly loud rallying cry of the Republican campaign.
During his tenure, Trump suggested more than once bombing Mexican drug cartels with missiles, according to a book by his former defense secretary, Mark Esper, who says he rejected the idea.
Earlier this year, Trump discussed with his advisers sending in “special forces” and using “cyber warfare” to attack cartels if he is re-elected, Politico.com reported.
Ironically, bombing Mexico’s fentanyl labs would be next to pointless, say most security experts.
Fentanyl smuggling will continue as long as demand in the United States continues to rise. Also, bombing border crossings would be futile, because most fentanyl enters the United States through ports and airports.
One of the few Republican hopefuls to speak like an adult in the presidential debate was former Vice President Mike Pence.
Distancing himself from the idea of invading Mexico, he suggested that the United States should apply “economic pressure” to Mexico and increase cooperation with the Mexican military to destroy drug cartels.
I am under no illusions that Trump, DeSantis and other Republican demagogues will abandon their “macho-populism” any time soon. The calls to invade Mexico militarily are easier to understand and generate more votes than the brainy studies that propose greater bilateral cooperation.
But the danger is that if the Republican hopefuls’ populist anti-Mexico demagogy continues to escalate, more and more people will buy the story.
The idea of an invasion of Mexico must be denounced before this Trump/DeSantis nonsense becomes official Republican campaign policy.
Op-ed by : Andres Oppenheimer/Miami Herald
Source: LA Times