The “peace president” is at it again:
Now a candidate, Trump is reviving his hawkish instincts toward the drug lords. He has already vowed to deploy US special forces to take on drug cartels, “just as we took down ISIS and the ISIS caliphate.”
In one policy video released by his campaign, Trump said that if reelected, he would “order the Department of Defense to make appropriate use of special forces, cyber warfare, and other overt and covert actions to inflict maximum damage on cartel leadership, infrastructure and operations.”
As I have said before, attacking the cartels would achieve nothing. Anyone that calls for military action as a “solution” in this case automatically discredits himself. It is telling that Trump and many other Republican hawks have latched on to one of the stupidest policy ideas available. Some of the cheerleaders for a cartel war are the usual reflexive hawks , and some cosplay as antiwar politicians, but they are united behind the absurd belief that the drug war needs even more militarism. Even if you knew nothing else about their foreign policy views, this would be enough to confirm that their judgment is abysmal.
Trump likens a cartel war to fighting terrorists, but this ignores how terrorist groups have often flourished and spread during the “war on terror.” Look at the Sahel to seehow militarized “solutions” have contributed to making the region much less stable and much more violent. Countries that used to have Military action can weaken and even destroy a certain group, but it does nothing to address the conditions that cause people to join radical armed groups. It would be even less effective in stopping the supply of illegal narcotics, since it can’t do anything about the demand that drives the drug trade. The drug war is already an endless failure, and the introduction of US forces into Mexico would just make it more destructive.
When otherwise hawkish politicians feign skepticism about US involvement in a war somewhere, it seems as if they have to compensate for this by jumping on the bandwagon for even more reckless and indefensible interventionism. We saw a lot of this in the ‘90s when Republicans that were generally a lot more hawkish than Clinton used the Balkan interventions as occasions to complain that he was ignoring the “real” threats, by which they usually meant Iraq or Iran. We see some of it again today when quasi-skeptics of US policy in Ukraine are quick to remind us that they want the US to gear up for a much bigger direct conflict with China. They are deeply concerned about being in the frying pan because it will prevent the US from jumping straight into the fire.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.