Saturday, July 24, 2010

Time for a punitive expedition into Mexico?

Phone call for General Pershing (and young Lt. Patton). You may be needed. Saddle up boys.

In 1917 Pershing led a military incursion into Mexico, hunting Pancho Villa, who had crossed into U.S. territory on multiple occasions, killed robbed and terrorized, and indeed attacked a U.S. Army installation killing 18.

IF this story from Laredo Texas is true, we seem to have a repeat of events down there, but on a reduced scale. Members of a notorious and dangerous drug cartel have taken possession of two ranches. The owners were able to escape, but the thugs hold the estates.

An interesting fact, IF true, from the linked story: The culprit drug cartel, Los Zetas, allegedly consists of corrupt Mexican military folks trained in special operation:

The Los Zetas drug cartel is an offshoot of the elite Mexican military trained in special ops. The mercenary organization is said to include members of corrupt Mexican Federales, politicians as well as drug traffickers. The group was once part of the Gulf cartel, but has since splintered and now directly competes with the Gulf cartel for premium drug smuggling routes in the Texas region.

The Mexican government has long since been unable to control the border, and raging drug related warfare, violence, kidnappings, etc.. go on incessantly. The U.S. has quietly upped its FBI presence in the area, and National Guardsman are either on the way, or already there.

Now, the fact that this, along with an unceasing flow of illegal immigration, has been going on for years would seem to qualify Mexico as a failed state, at least in the region bordering our country. A look at the longer term history of the Mexican government shows plainly, that it has more often than not, been unable or unwilling to control its border. There are a complex of reasons for this; endemic corruption, as the tale of this drug cartel plainly illustrates, and a desire on its part, to reduce its population, even going so far as to publish how-to guides for illegal immigrants. So, a strong case can be made, as was made in 1917, that we can take military action in the interests of securing our border with that dysfunctional state. We can make a case for crossing into Mexico, and hunting the criminal element.

Almost one hundred years ago, President Wilson, for similar reasons, ordered the 'expedition' which, in the end, did not succeed in capturing or killing Villa. It did, interestingly, result in clashes between U.S. and Mexican Federal forces, and ultimately did force the Mexicans to grudgingly put more cooperative effort toward law enforcement, which put the squeeze on the criminal element, eventually curtailing cross border attacks from Villaistas. The expedition was also valuable experience for Pershing, and for the Army's utilization of what was then emerging military technology, motorized columns, and them flyin' newfangled things, coordinating it all with the not quite so newfangled wonder, the wire telegraph.

If we were to undertake something like this today, it would probably not involve the Army, and certainly not consist of a traditional 'invasion' as was the case in Pershing's day, complete with supply lines, etc., but it would perhaps involve FBI and CIA personnel instead, and planners would obviously have to take into consideration the fact that the border areas are more heavily populated now than in 1917. So, no doubt, there would be some restrictive ROE, and a more Spec-ops approach to the 'invasion'. Would we hear grumbling from those tasked with the mission? But, guess what? Even given permission for a conventional invasion, albeit small, and festooned with technological bells and whistles, Pershing too complained of restrictive rules of engagement even in his day. From the always reliable Wikipedia:

The bulk of American forces were withdrawn in January 1917. Pershing publicly claimed the expedition was a success, although privately he complained to family that President Wilson had imposed too many restrictions, which made it impossible for him to fulfill his mission.[citation needed] He admitted to having been "outwitted and out-bluffed at every turn," and wrote "when the true history is written, it will not be a very inspiring chapter for school children, or even grownups to contemplate. Having dashed into Mexico with the intention of eating the Mexicans raw, we turned back at the first repulse and are now sneaking home under cover, like a whipped curr with its tail between its legs."

Another interesting question. Would the Mexican government react today as it did in 1917? Would it make efforts to nab the 'invaders'? Suppose we did undertake a more conventional and visible incursion ala Pershing's expedition. Would they dare to engage our forces, as they did in 1917? Would we be wiser in talking them into a cooperative military operation within Mexican territory to root out the drug cartels? If so, this would be a long term project, requiring we base in situ. Are we up for this, and would the Mexicans really agree to something that adds to its deserved reputation of ineptitude? If things really get out of hand, would we indeed have a choice in this. Wouldn't we have to move into the territories adjacent to ours, and impose order? Just how extensive are the networks of these non-state actors, and what connections do they have with other enemies of ours? Lastly, what kind of lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan could be applied in this worst case scenario?

UPDATE 7-25: The "IF true" caveats included above very much hold for this story. I'm doubting its authenticity, but still the questions raised by the hypothetical are worth considering. No major news organizations seem to be covering. This would be a Wacoesque gold mine for television news, but nada.

More cowbell!

In Afghanistan?

I'm with Roy Peter Clark: Palin's "Refudiate" is an unintentional malapropism, and a stroke of genius

She has minted a great new word, an amalgam of two words:




A refutation is a falsification. There is no moral consonance associated with the term.

A repudiation is more of a moral condemnation.


A Refudiation is a demonstration or proof of the falsity of the premises of an action or of a proposition as well as a demonstration or proof that the action or proposition is morally wrong or inadvisable.

Bam. Add it to the Webster's man.

Mark Shields was a Marine. Who knew?

And he thinks we could learn a thing or two from the Corps about the relation of self to society, service, and moral duty.

Mr. Shields has, over the years, been the affable liberal voice in the political commentary portion of the PBS's News Hour, opposite various slightly right of center folks, Paul Gigot, David Gergen, and now David Brooks. Always of good humor and civil.

The Marine ethic emphasizes responsibility to duty and responsibility to others before self. This is the very opposite of the unbridled individualism that elevates profit and personal comfort to high virtues. The selfish and self-centered CEO or senator who disregards and discards his loyal "troops" would be shunned in the Corps.

Civilian Americans must understand that the greatest civil rights victories have been won by the Marines and the U.S. military, the most successfully integrated sector of our national life. Why? No racial reference and no racial discrimination. The first time I ever slept in the same quarters with African-Americans or Latinos — or took orders from them — was as a private in the Marines Corps.

Yes, America really does need more Marine values and influence.

Kudos to you Mr. Shields.