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11 May 2011


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William R. Cumming

Does anyone reading this blog think there is a real option other than COIN?

Michael Brenner


Washington is abuzz with talk that drastic steps may be in the offing to deal with the ‘narco-state’ across the Rio Grande. Heady with the dramatic success at Abbottabad, our warrior monks are casting their eyes on new threats and new glories. Go south = young heroes. Spiraling violence threatens to spill across the border. A government whose writ doesn’t run across whole provinces. Drug traffickers run amuck. The spectre of alliances with Islamic terrorists. Intervention could be necessary.

Before embarking on another adventure abroad, it is prudent to reflect for a moment. Here is one huge but hidden piece of information. WE are the source of Mexico's violent narco-culture. It is the addictions of millions that create a craving demand that indisputably is going to be met by someone - whatever the risks, whatever the consequences. Mexico used to be the toll gate through which cocaine and marijuana passed into the U.S. from South America. Decline of the Medellin and Cali clans opened new opportunities for the middle men to expand operations and to get their hands on riches previously only imaginable by Wall Street racketeers.

For a long time, the Mexican government's attitude was benign neglect. Recall the scene in the Godfather - "selling it across the border doesn't bother me; they're just gringos over there anyway."

Then there is a falling out among drug families. Break-up of the Guzman/Sinaloa cartel leads to the eruption of violent turf battles and rampant corruption spreads as police and even military units are bought off wholesale. Greedy crime families started planting and processing their own stuff in Mexico. Then they add custom designed drugs to their inventory. They put on the payroll every sociopath and psycho they can lay hands on. They start hitting on Mexican kids to boost the home market. Washington imposes the Merida Accord on President Felipe Calderon in 2006 and the newly anxious Mexican authorities accede. We welcome Mexico as a co-belligerent in the 'war on drugs' - you're either with us or against us. They try their best but find themselves outgunned politically, ethically and literally by the narco gangs. So for now they help; but the costs mount. Tomorrow they equivocate. Criminality mounts. Border cities like Juarez and Laredo become fiefs of the Zetas cartel. So, the Panetta/Petraeus team readies plans to send in the drones and Special

Before we start the hunt for our next Moby Dick, we may find it prudent to consider alternatives. One alternative: invite the Mexicans to send special teams (Spanish speaking only) schooled in detoxification/rehabilitation techniques to transform American drug addicts into responsible citizens who are adapted to a slower paced, more family oriented, caring America that the enlightened Mexicans promote. We are a failed state in this respect. Lack of social cohesion, a cult of hedonism, unaccountable leadership, educational lapses – all point to the need for external assistance from the world community with Mexico as its lead altruistic agent. On strictly humanitarian grounds.

Yes, there are the sensitivities of a highly independent minded American people who have never taken to foreign rule. But we probably could count on the Mexicans leaving once the job is done and the danger eliminated. Perhaps they will want to keep a few large bases for social activism to deal with any recrudescence of the drug plague. They would be restricted to the outskirts of our major cities, though.

Don't like those foreigners taking over American towns and cities? Here’s alternative two. Legalize drugs, cut the ground from under the drug cartels and use the tax revenue to hire a few hundred thousand laid-off teachers. If your preference does not incline in that direction, the money could be used to underwrite the next "War on something or other."


One word NAFTA. North American Free Trade Agreement was purported to bring an economic tide that raised all boats on both sides of the Border. If the success of NAFTA is measured by the spreading northward of the Mexican Diaspora, NAFTA is a failure. If market economics can’t keep natives placated, how can a U.S. Military COIN work in Mexico?

The longest undeclared war running is the War On Drugs. Big success, the Mexican Cartels are richer, well armed, controlling more illicit market share day by day, and a political fore to be reckoned with in Mexico. The flows of product north and greenbacks southward are truly unknown, but spectacular. Cartels have the ability to move any amount they desire northwards undetected. There are too many routes and methods available to truly put a stop to the movement north. Too many hungry customers in the U.S. to stop demand, water will seek is own level.

The Patriot Act and several other Acts put into place give the tools to monitor, obtain, arrest hold interrogate, anyone deemed a threat by an official of the U.S. Government. New Banking laws and regulations make the ability to follow the flow of currency efficient and only limited to the imagination of the investigator. With the legal tools in place, with armed agents at all levels, local, County, State, and Federal using the new tools and tried and true HUMIT methods employed by all the aforementioned, the availably of dope remains.

There has been a type of Counterinsergency taking place for years already. I don’t see any COIN taking place in Mexico, the U.S. charge card is done.

clifford kiracofe

COIN??? Is the suggestion that the US will magically "remake" Mexico say like it has in Afghanistan? COIN being the magic doctrine???

First order of business to is secure our own borders.

Next up is the extermination of the ZETA narco-terrorist organization in Mexico. I do not mean arrest and prison because they will bribe their way through the courts and escape from prisons. This is CT, IMO.

After the ZETAs are exterminated we can assess the situation.

The Zetas were trained by the US military, a very stupid and naive policy move by Washington for which we now have blowback.

Mexico is all but a failed narco-state at the moment and the plutocratic oligarchy is in bed with the narcos, some would argue. After all the PRI "dinosaurs" cut the early deals with the cocaleros, didn't they?

Many of us who have worked Mexican issues do not see Mexico through rose colored glasses.

"Los Zetas have expanded their operations to Italy with the 'Ndrangheta..."
Wiki above.

Perhaps in the long run there is not much to be done as the United States becomes demographically an offshoot of Mexico. No doubt the Mexican oligarchy will find ways to manipulate "domestic" US politics.

Oligarchical elements in the US might simply decide to cut deals with the Mexican oligarchy and narcos and bank the profits (offshore). One can note the largest Spanish language TV empire, UNIVISION, is owned by an Israeli-American Zionist, Haim Saban....wonder why?



Unlike the Afghan War, the unrest in Northern Mexico will affect the future of America. For a primer of the earlier unrest on the border watch “The Wild Bunch”.

The reports from Monterrey Mexico may be overblown but if the rail lines (affiliated with an American Company KCS) and roads north from Mexico City are cut, America is going in.

Politically more important is the growing Hispanic population. California's population will turn to 51% Hispanic in 50 years. I live in a county that went from majority white to majority black. When the blacks became 51% of the population, all of the elected county executives since have been black. It will not be any different in the Southwest when Hispanics become the majority and if the USA is still a democracy.

When one of the two parties is intent on screwing public workers so the wealthy can have tax cuts, a full blown COIN operation to pacify Northern Mexico is guaranteed in order for the Defenses Corporation CEOs to make millions. America of our Great Grandchildren will a complete different world than America of the 1950’s that I grew up in.

An alternative to another endless war is to open up the borders to Canada and Mexico. Legalize drugs. Tax the wealthy. Use the money to provide security jobs so young males can raise families, not fight gang wars. Finally, educate women so they can afford to have small families.

William R. Cumming

One factoid not to be overlooked. NAFTA and MEXICO were undercut by the Chinese and their ridiculously low wages probably 10% of Mexican minimum wages. Hey USA went wherever it was cheaper to manufacture goods to import. Now WALMART gets 16% of total Chinese manufacturing GDP! Mexico less than 2% of GDP for Walmart.


How about something along these lines instead:
1. Completely legalize the consumption, sale, and production of marijuana (which is about 60% of the US narco trade), and regulate/tax like alcohol.
2. Decriminalize consumption of hard drugs, but leave selling/production illegal; and sentence all drug users to treatment not prison (traffickers still do hard time)
3. Give Mexico, Colombia, and the Central American countries a large amount of money via USAID for programs to "de-narcofy" the thousands and thousands of young men who currently work for cartels
4. Consider using special mission units to kill any remaining major kingpins, not just to get rid of them but to convince those aspiring to it that there are other, less dangerous ways to make a buck (like becoming a prime minister, for example).

Patrick Lang

clifford kiracofe

Some of the people here appear to be weak on definitions. COIN is nation building wthin the context of an environment made secure by local nation forces, our forces or some combination of the two. CT is targeting of our enemies as in the elimination of AQ and Taliban cadres over the last ten years. This kind of focus culminated in the operation against Bin Laden in Pakistn. COIN includes "counter-guerrilla" operations as in Fall's equation, but also by definition (read the manual) includes building the country to "drain the swamp." Is COIN, so defined, something that the US should do or want to do in Mexico? I think not. One would have to fight the "Zetas" et all AND the Mexican armed forces to do anything like that. pl

PS There will not be "legalization" in the US. City Americans want their imported hard drugs. There are not enough of them to pass that kind of legislation. Rural Americans grow marijuana, drink and have meth labls. pl

Patrick Lang


I like the "Director's Cut." pl

Michael Brenner

Mexico's drug cartels get 80% of their revenue from the marijuana trade. Legalizie pot and their influence is cut by a corresponding 80%. There is no medical case for treating marijuana as more dangerous than alcohol. There is a ton of medical evidence that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana - in the short-term and over a lifetime. The social consequences of alcohol are even more pernicious.

It is the potent combination of studied ignorance and latent Puritan attitudes that prevent us from acting accordingly. It's little different than the 1920s when the blue stockings and evangelicals denounced the jazz saxophone as the devil's instrument that led innocent young women into a life of sin and eternal damnation. As someone who is around today's liberated young women, I call for a restrospective celebration of the jazz saxophone - and would feel the same way about legalized marijuana and the sharp reduction in alcohol related deaths among the young that would result.

Patrick Lang

michael brenner

"There is no medical case for treating marijuana as more dangerous than alcohol."

That is merely logical. We are talking about politifcs in a democracy not in Plato's Republic. pl

Cloned Poster

VV amen, but then the profits would be going to the State and not the myriad of wall street/south americans/respected funeral managers/prostitute parlours/and the millions of cocaine users that deals with bodies from everywhere.

PS: Interesting that PL chose the Aer Lingus logo in his fund raising effort, I have no paypal (chosen) access due to spaming and a loss of euro some months ago.

Aer Lingus's CEO is German. Much like the CEO of Ireland..... ECB


They are not warrior monks but Warrior Welfare Queens desperately trying to keep from having to find a real job in the non-warrior sector the rest of us live in.

The richest man on Earth, Carlos Slim, didn't get that rich off drugs, he got that rich by not having to support the Mexican people by good wagers or reasonable taxation at any level to support the Mexican government. Mexico solved, in the short term, the societal pressure for government action by exporting their capable but under-paid population to the USA.

Nation building in Mexico? Let Carlos Slim pay for it, not me and mine.


"PS There will not be "legalization" in the US. City Americans want their imported hard drugs. There are not enough of them to pass that kind of legislation. Rural Americans grow marijuana, drink and have meth labls. pl"

I always suspected that you ghost wrote the screenplay to "Winter Bone."


I agree with Mr. Brenner’s analysis. The American drug addiction is the source of Mexico's violent narco-culture; not NAFTA. A COIN strategy would only work if we simultaneously address that problem. I think our drug problem should be addressed with both a major commitment to drug rehabilitation AND limited, highly regulated, partial decriminalization for those who are beyond rehabilitation. I take his suggestion of asking Mexico for the aid of special detox/rehab teams to be a bit tongue in cheek. I doubt that Mexico has the necessary resources and the xenophobic yahoos in this country would raise too much of a ruckus. But he makes an excellent point.

If we did make a real effort to treat drug addicts and remove the “black market” profitability of drugs, Mexico may be strong enough to solve the residual criminal problems on their own. Even if our military help in the form of COIN assistance could be useful, we cannot impose ANY military related solution on our sovereign neighbor unless they request it and we made the contribution in a spirit of humility (NOT an American strength).


I am reading the history of the French Revolution. The parallels are extraordinary with the current state of the United States.

No King? Well, we have people in the US who believe it is their divine right to spend taxpayer money as they wish and control the government. That's pretty Louis XVI-like to me.

The rest is easier. Huge public debts brought on by foreign wars. Etc.

Drugs must remain illegal. If you want legal drugs, go to Amsterdam. I hope you like it.

You have to police the border. If you can send a stealth helicopter next to Pakistan's West Point and spend 40 minutes doing what you like, you can police the borders.

Is marijuana a dangerous drug? Smoke it for awhile and report back. Hell, smoke some cigarettes too. Do a comparison test. Chug a sixpack. Knock yourself out. Make a video and show it to your children.


Supplementary material:


clifford kiracofe


As you know, the issue is not just drugs and narco-terrorists which are just a part of the overall picture.

The Mexican oligarchy since the 1980s has used the US as a dumping ground for their unemployed. We are a political safety valve for the Mexican oligarchy. On the other hand, cynical American interests are all too happy and eager to exploit the illegal immigrants coming northward.

The US had no substantial illegal immigration problem from Mexico until the 1980s. The "Bracero Program" and other cooperative US-Mexican efforts handled the seasonal-migrant labor situation back in the 1950s-60s. US-Mexican relations were actually quite good during the WWII era down through the mid-1970s.

Then came the socialist Echevarria regime which pushed the Mexican economy downward, increasing unemployment, thus spurring illegal immigration northward by the early 1980s. Then there were more complicating factors with the border sweat shops, the immiseration of the Mexican rural farmers, and on and on.

The present crisis with Mexico has been underway since the early 1980s...it is nothing new to politicians and policymakers in DC. Nor is the gross incompetence and mismanagement of the issue.

Michael Brenner

It strikes me that there is a correlation between attitudes toward marijuana and attitudes toward CT. We Americans are a 'can do' and 'pro-active' people. Pot is a 'why bother' and 'pro-passive' substance. Hence the apprehension that marijuana's supplanting of alcohol as the national intoxicant carries risk of jeopardizing our ability to hit and fast and hard when necessary. The image of mellowed-out citizens recumbent on cushions as opposed to the vibrant image of raucous inebriates jumping into their cars to head down the turnpike at 120mph makes us shudder at the implications. Casualties from the 'pro-active' speed-fiends? Unavoidable collateral damage incurred in protecting the United States from foreign enemies.

This goes back to the 1960s. Peaceniks were in the vanguard of the pot culture. Alcoholics were gung-ho for the war. As our Maximum Leader says: "it is time to put behind us the stale debates of that bygone era; to reject the harsh language of the culture wars. Let us together learn to inhale and shoot straight at the same time - going forward."


Like Fred said previously, America acts as a pressure release valve for Mexican elites. Mexican workers, many of them ethnic Indians/native Americans are pushed north so that the Euro/Penisulare class like Vicente Fox can avoid political reforms.

Our elites welcome the cheap labor from Mexico. In addition, these new arrivals are also less violent than our native underclass making them more attractive as domestic workers for our rich young couples with children.

William R. Cumming

Cloned Poster! And always remember the English royalty is GERMAN with name change in WWI!

Jim Ticehurst

How about a Ross Perot and Ron Paul Ticket...? I wondered why all My Guatamala and Mexican nieghbors keep yelling "viva La revolution" during thier summer Yard BBQ partys..Like Trini Lopez sang.."Life is Great in America..Everything is Free in America.."..any of you seen that Ray Stevens UTUBE video..about Our Open Borders..? I Love it.. At least none of the local Medical MJ Clinics appear to be run by Cartels yet..There is no solution to Pats question..Flip a COIN..same results..There are Banditos on Both sides.. God help Us All...

Medicine Man

I should preface any comments I make on this topic with the obvious caveat: I understand that US policies (especially the domestic ones) are things that should be shaped by Americans, not Canadian guests on American blogs.

That said: COIN in Mexico? God, I hope not.

Maybe there is a case to be made for massive, big-footed, US intervention in Mexico—indeed there is perhaps more cause for it across the southern US border than in any country the US has recently attempted COIN—but my first reaction was one of incredulity. What could be more absurd than an extended campaign of counterinsurgency-economic development-political reform in a neighboring country when the US government seems too disfunctional to do 2 of those 3 things in mainland America?

This is not to say that it won't happen. Perhaps I'm merely a cynical fantasist but I can easily imagine an extensive COIN campaign down south rubbing enough of the right people the right way. Big government expenditures going to industries with powerful lobbies. A genuine national security imperitive right on the border to be endlessly demagouged. Profitable and a grand purpose; pitch perfect. Nevermind if COIN is the right course of action. Something must be done. COIN is something. QED.

My opinion, for what it's worth, is a full COIN campaign in Mexico could set the bar for foreign policy disasters that blowback on the US. After the last decade, that's saying something.


COIN al sur de la frontera? Como que no?
If the Mexican military is withdrawn from the war on drugs--as many Mexicans wish--watch for great pressure from those in the United States who would profit, to fill the vacuum. Here's one of the potential targets: http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2011/05/el-monstruo-2011.html

Richard K. Armstrong

Boy howdy, SST sure has a knack for bringing up hot topics that tickle the amygdala a bit too much to allow for reasoned discussion. Any discussion of the War Between the States or of legalizing narcotics is immediately littered with absolutely thoughtless statements.

While some individuals may have a "drug problem" this nation as a whole does not. The two most widely used drugs, alcohol and nicotine, are legal, widely available, regulated and taxed. Illicit drugs are illegal, widely available, unregulated and untaxed. Folks that desire these substances have them at their fingertips. Folks that profit from these substances are making great profits. Folks that gain power and wealth by promoting the prohibition of these substances are making equally grotesque profits.

The United States now has two very powerful and wealthy special interest groups - the Warriors on Terror and the Drug Warriors. Because of their influence the GWOT and the Drug War will never end. (See Orwell.)

VV is correct that COIN operations in Northern Mexico are inevitable.

With 35 million persons of Hispanic or Latino heritage wandering around behind the Forward Edge of the Battle Area (the Red River) there will be a concomitant need for increased surveillance and detention. This will suit the private prison and security corporations very nicely.

End Prohibition.
Tax the wealthy.
Cut the Defense budget in half.

Combined these three suggestions would go a long way to righting the government's balance sheets.

None of them will happen because of the entrenched interests of corporations and politicians.

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