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25 December 2009


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Where do you draw the line between commandos and death squads? Counter-terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism?
Kiling Mexican drug lords is fair enough, but useless if the domestic drug lords aren't eliminated as well. Them,their gangs and their families.


I'd say go for it, but two big problems arise:

1) Mexican sovereignty. We'd need their permission and even with deniability I doubt they'd go for it. Without this, and probably even with it, we could look forward to all the rising leftist politicians of Latin/South America to go into a conniption.

2) Those bastards fight back. And it would really fucking suck if they decide to go asymmetric on our turf.

So, nice idea. In a world devoid of political/social considerations I'm sure the "operators" could make relatively quick work of them. But their persistence thus far isn't simply a matter of a lack of will/capability on the part of the security services.

Plus, an administration like Obama's where secondary effects are given top consideration those two points above make this a non-starter. In one like Bush's where the force of willpower was eminent those would be mere challenges to ignore.

All that said, I'm sure there are highly targeted operations where these guys can be (and have been) employed in ways that'll make everyone happy.

Patrick Lang


you can't make omelets without breaking eggs. (Quotation from von Rumsfeld)


Don't go hypocritical on me. What have we been doing in all these other places?

Simple rule. Inside the US we do "due process." Outside the US we do JSOC. pl


Call me crazy, but I'd bet the most effective way to bring the cartels to their knees is to legalize the stuff. It wouldn't cost a dime, nobody gets killed and you'll see results in a day. After all, I don't see anybody smuggling avocados.

As for users it's pretty easy to get crack now if you want it. If it's legal, no one has a reason to push it on you.

Merry Christmass to all

Cato the Censor

I once had an extensive conversation with a Hispanic man from Panama with a long history of service in the U.S. Army (among other operations, he participated in the invasion of Panama to remove Noriega). Based on what he told me without giving away any compromising details, he spent a good chunk of his Army career doing just what you recommend, Colonel, only in South Americam not Mexico. This leads to two points: 1) how do you know JSOC isn't already doing something along the lines of what you suggest; and 2) given that your recommendation has probably been tried before, why do you think it will work this time to stop people from taking drugs in the U.S.?

Duncan Kinder

This is an intriguing idea just so long as we don't overstate what could be accomplished by deploying the JSOC.

The drug phenomenon is tremendously resilient. Destroying drug cartels does not destroy that trade but rather results in other organizations filling the void. Indeed, the Mexican cartels emerged following the decline of the Columbian cartels.

Accordingly, some organization like MS-13 will take over the trade.

While it would take time for them to do so, I am sufficiently pessimistic about American drug policy so that I doubt we would actually put that time to good use.

Somebody above stated that the Mexican gangs would fight back. Indeed they would. They will go after wives and children. That's what they do.


"Simple rule. Inside the US we do "due process." Outside the US we do JSOC. "

And next you ask "Why do they hate us?"?

If the U.S. really wants a failed state on its southern border using JSOC is certainly a way to achieve that. Fine with me as a European.

There are of course other ways to end the "drug war". Decriminalize and regulate the use of marijuana and cocaine and the potential profits in the drug trade will come down to a level where it is not worthwhile to fight a war over it.

That would be the smart solution.

But as Churchill noted, the U.S. is always doing the right thing - but only after it tried all alternatives.


I detest the perpetrators of the violence in Mexico, but it's clear enough that simply killing a few people at the top will only speed up the process of consolidation that's already under way.

Doing what you suggest, Colonel, would be playing right into the hands of some unidentified kingpin -- nothing more. Your suggested course of action would do nothing more than create a more resilient and ordered criminal syndicate.

The drug war is already the dumbest, most expensive, and most ineffective, (not to mention, among the most inhumane) policies on the planet.

Escalating it in such a manner would only make increasingly bad things happen increasingly often. In fact, hearing you suggest this, Colonel, makes me wonder if you wouldn't simply prefer to replace our government with a military dictatorship.

The Moar You Know

This here former peacenik hippie is not a fan of dealing with problematic people in the manner described, but after seeing firsthand what the druglords have unleashed south (and north) of the border I'm ready to make an exception to my normal values and say "turn 'em loose."

My problem is, of course, that it is no longer solely Mexican citizens who are dealing with the consequences of their government's alliance with these folks; I live in San Diego, and these murderers and their minions seem to have the ability to come and go here as they please. I'm not talking about your average, American-born/raised Mexican gangbanger - I've known plenty of them over the years. As long as you know the rules in dealing with them, at their worst they are largely nothing more than a nuisance. This new breed of traffickers are a different, wholly amoral breed of criminal, and put plainly, they scare the shit out of me.

Bubba speaks of a fear of these guys going "asymmetric on our turf." Bubba, too late. They already are. They kidnap and murder here, not as often as they do in TJ and Rosarita but close enough. There are now huge swaths of San Diego (south of the 94 and east of 5) that are flat-out no-go zones, even for guys like me who could pass for Hispanic and can speak the language.

It's a damn shame. I like Mexicans. I like Tijuana. And there are a lot of nice people who live there, and a lot of nice people who live in Mexico, period. But it is too dangerous to go anymore, the government (and that includes the entirety of their armed forces, don't fall for Calderon's recent kabuki here) has been bought and is outright owned by these people, and frankly the citizenry don't care enough to try and change the situation. I don't particularly want to spend more American money and lives to fix it for them, but it is starting to have some real effects on this side of the border and something fairly extreme is going to need to be done to stop it - these are some pretty extreme people at the root of the problem.



Didn't Tom Clancy write something like this? Hmmm... I believe it was called A Clear and Present Danger.

IIRC, major themes of the novel revolved around willful failure of the Administration to submit to proper Congressional oversight, abandonment of the so-called "assassination ban," simple revenge-taking for the murder of a political ally, the sell-out of engaged forces to cover-up White House directed misdeeds, and of course, plenty of Clancy's he-man Jack!

Amazing today how many of these themes are now mainstreamed, even approved US government policies (!), since 2001. Even the "he-man" of the TV crowd is named Jack (Bauer).

Too bad Clancy's fantasy has become, in many ways, our reality.

There is no question that highly empowered non-state actors (like drug lords or Islamist jihadis) can wreak havoc in the more "civilized" places of the world. One reason they become so successful at this is because they grow out of areas of weak or non-existent state control, places where the state is so corrupted and unable to deliver basic security that drug lords become defacto state leaders themselves. Is the use of JSOC SMUs the best way to guard the US from these menaces? Perhaps. So to is supporting efforts by the existing states to actually control their own territories, meet the needs of their populations and take responsibility for those highly-empower destructive forces that take up residence in their lands. Experience over the past 8 years tells me we are not very good at anything other than the JSOC approach. And that this one method alone make be creating significant future blowback -- not the least of which is when a comparable world power (eg China) develops their own JSOC and decides to use it in US-friendly locales to protect themselves. Maybe we should spend to time exploring and learning some other approaches?? Or going back to using established rules of law to combat crime.


R Whitman

The parallel in Mexico is the lawlessness in the US during Prohibition. Governments, both the US and Mexico, have had no impact on the demand.

As with Prohibition, the only solution is legalization of drugs and government control thru taxation.

Killing drug dealers does not stop drugs. It only makes new drug dealers. If you want to stop drugs without legalization you have to kill the drug users.


Sounds like a job for the Texas Rangers.


This is the caption for the photograph linked to above.

"Texas Rangers with dead Mexican bandits, after the Las Norias Bandit Raid, October 8, 1915."


Over the last seven years these very specialized "operators" have killed or captured their way through most of the high value Islamic terrorist targets in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The "most" qualifier refers to bin Laden and his #2, that insane former Egyptian doctor, I suppose.

I assume these are NOT the people who worked with the Colombian military/police on the Killing Pablo mission. Wouldn't that be the model for working with the Mexican government, assuming they can handle the "infringement" on their sovereignty?


But, Colonel, if the 'operators' went after drug lords, where would politically protected drug merchants in the US get their supply? From the CIA? Could happen. But it would be called eliminating the competition, not fighting drugs.

John Minnerath

OK, sounds good, but could it be done?
It sounds more and more like the Mexican Police and Military are corrupt at the core. Could JSOC operate effectively under the circumstances, even if the Mexican government could somehow reach an agreement to allow such a joint US/Mexican operation to take place in the first place?
We must certainly be providing intel to their government, perhaps especially since President Calderon has been trying to beef up tougher actions against the drug cartels. But, corruption in the ranks at all levels has led to some disastrous results.
Do we send in advance teams with bags of money to try and buy back the scum to our side?
There’s also the problem of adding more fuel to the very real racist anti Mexican feeling among certain groups of Anglos especially along the border; catching up more innocent Hispanics.
I know our “Operatives”, if you want to use the term, could drop the hammer and drop it hard on the drug cartels. But, could they do it effectively under the circumstances now?
There’s already enough of the “build a higher wall along the border” mentality.
The drug cartels operating in Mexico are a real and serious danger to us. The “goody goody” reduce the demand for the drugs ideas and plans don’t work.
Some people way smarter than me have to sit down and develop a real and workable hardnosed plan to deal with this.

Patrick Lang


A lot of you people do not understand the deterrent effect of a fear of certain death as a consequence of particular behaviors. "A FEW" eliminations?" You misunderstand me.

China Hand

"makes me wonder if you wouldn't simply prefer to replace our government with a military dictatorship." You are no longer welcome here and your comments will not be published.


A lot of you people have no real talent for violence on the scale that I am talking about. You fear the drug gangs? Dead men have no teeth.

We might cause Mexico to become a failed state? Mexico IS a failed state.

A lot of cowardly talk. pl


I think it would be a good idea to send in our operatives to Mexico to deal with the drug cartels. The Mexican Mafia is a greater threat to our national security than al Qiada, proximity and a porous border being the main difference. The Meican gang-bangers aren't as brazen in the U.S. as they are in Mexico, most of their terror is aimed at illegals and other druggies, though there is spill-over and more familiarity will breed more contempt on their part.

Portland, OR, being a sanctuary city, will not allow the police to check a person's legal status unless a felony has been committed, allowing known gang-bangers, of which many are illegal, to ply their trade without fear of being deported. It's an insane policy fueling the rise here of hispanic gangs.

Targeting as much of the drug cartel as you can root out is a better idea than limiting efforts to killing or capturing the drug kingpin. William Burroughs noted that drug cartels are a pyramid, there are a thousand people ready to fill a vacancy at the top, and the only way to stop illegal drugs is to execute the user. Of course most people don't want to go that far and neither do I, and think targeting lower level cartel members is important.

I feel sorry for the average person living in the drug cartel controlled areas of Mexico and for those living in U.S. ghettoes. Civlization's core value is the safety of its people.

Clifford knows a lot about this problem and am interested to see what he says.

John Hammer

The cartels are creating the failed state as Capone did to the city of Chicago. So let me get this straight people, don't go after them because they might retaliate, wow!?!

Down in Texas, some people have offered an interesting defense at their murder trials. "So Mr. Smith why did you kill Mr. Jones?" "Cause he needed killin".


"A lot of holes in the desert, and a lot of problems are buried in those holes. But you gotta do it right. I mean, you gotta have the hole already dug before you show up with a package in the trunk. Otherwise, you're talking about a half-hour to forty-five minutes worth of digging. And who knows who's gonna come along in that time? Pretty soon, you gotta dig a few more holes. You could be there all f*ck*n' night." - Nicky Santoro (Joe Posci)

I agree with you, unleash hell upon the demons, but do it right.

If you go after the Drug Lords don't stop till you hit the corrupt police officers, military personnel, and even government officials (Regime Change part II?).

Just have enough holes to do the job right...


Go to Houston for a weekend and see what happens...



I agree with you on taking these extreme criminals out of action. It's time for these evil bastards to be on the receiving end for a change.


" You are no longer welcome here and your comments will not be published."

Your site so your call, but I think China Hand's posts have been insightful and well written. It will be a loss if he's gone, and besides, you have other means of expressing your displeasure.

Fred Strack

"mere 2nd tier Green Berets"
I'm speechless on this one.

I'll have to ponder the strategy you suggest. Does this include the bankers to the drug lords?

Patrick Lang

Fred Strack

That is how SOCOM sees things. pl

Patrick Lang


People are not allowed to make assertions like that about me. I would not allow it in person, much less here. pl


The drug problem like most problems are complex and nuanced.

We have approximately $30 billion in annual demand that many "businesses" would love to supply. There are no long term solutions until the demand side of equation is seriously addressed.

Our "war on drugs" which is running many decades at a cost of many billions have hardened the narco-terrorists and they have made countries like Mexico ungovernable in many aspects.

A viable solution needs an anti-terrorist approach to dealing with the armed and organized narcos as Pat has suggested along with in my opinion a legalization and decriminalization that drives the criminal element out of the trade combined with a larger focus on treatment and prevention that works to reduce demand.

For whatever political reason we seem to be stuck with only the "war" part of the strategy. Although with some states experimenting with medical use of marijuana we may get to the point some time in the future where disrupting the criminal distribution end of the supply chain would only be one element of the overall strategy.

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