Best US drug war policy? Do nothing, new book says.

One in a series of excerpts from THE NEXT DECADE by Stratfor CEO George Friedman.

Whether a small incursion by the FBI or a large military occupation of northern Mexico, this is an extraordinarily bad idea. First, it is unlikely to succeed. The United States is unable to police narcotics at home, so the idea that it could police narcotics in a foreign country is far-fetched. As for a large military occupation, the United States has learned that its armed forces are superbly positioned to destroy enemy armies but far less adept at crushing guerrillas resisting occupation on their own terrain.

An American intervention would con?ate the drug cartels with Mexican nationalism, an idea that is already present in some quarters in Mexico, and thus would pose a threat on both sides of the border. Suddenly attacks on U.S. forces, even in the United States, would be not mere banditry but patriotic acts. Given the complexities the United States faces in the rest of the world, the last thing it needs is an out-and-out war on the Mexican border.

The top priority of the president must be to make certain that the violence in northern Mexico and the corruption of law enforcement of?cials do not move into the United States. He must therefore commit substantial forces to the northern borderland in an effort to suppress violence, even though this is a defective strategy. Its ?aws include ?ghting a war that allows the enemy sanctuary on the other side of a border, which, as we learned in Vietnam, is a very bad idea. It is also a purely defensive strategy that does not give the United States control over events in Mexico. But given that gaining control of events in Mexico is extremely unlikely, a defensive posture may be the best available.

The American strategy will continue to be inherently dishonest. It does not intend to stop immigration and it doesn’t expect to stop drugs, but it must pretend to be committed to both. To many Americans, these appear to be critical issues that affect their personal lives. They must not be told that in the greater scheme of things, their sense of what is important doesn’t matter, or that the United States is incapable of achieving goals they see as important.

It is far better for the president to appear to be absolutely committed to these goals, and when they aren’t met, to fall back on the failure of some underlings to act forcefully. On occasion, members of his staff or of the FBI, DEA, CIA, or military should be ?red in disgrace, and major investigations should be held to identify the failures in the system that have permitted drugs and illegal aliens to continue crossing the border. Over the next ten years, the president will be engaged in constant investigations to provide the illusion of activity in a project that cannot succeed.

Stopping the violence from spreading north of the border is alone important enough to topple any president who fails to do so. Fortunately, not allowing violence to spread is in the interests of the cartels as well. They understand that signi?cant violence in the United States would trigger a response that, while ineffective, would still hamper their business interests. In recognizing that the United States would neither move south nor effectively interfere with their trade otherwise, the drug cartels would be irrational to spread violence northward, and smugglers dealing in vast amounts of money are not irrational.