Drugs have been identified as an issue in American society for over 30 years in which time countless thousands of men and women have been sent to prison for drug related offenses, major cities have been brought to ruin by violence associated with drug use and drug sales.
To end the grip drugs, have on US society former US First Lady Nancy Regan took on the issue of drugs with the slogan “Just Say No”! Including the first lady, a group of advertising professionals came together The Partnership for a Drug Free America “in the mid-1980s, when the nation was in the throes of the crack/cocaine epidemic, a small group of advertising professionals discussed how to best use their talents to turn the tide on this issue.” (About – partnership for drug-free kids, 2017) The idea was to air commercials that made drugs and drug use unappealing. Much like the just say no campaign from the white house, the partnership for a drug free America was an abject failure American society continued to use drugs at the same levels, just for the sake of not getting bored with the same old drugs, a few new drugs were created along the way (MDMA (Ecstasy), Methamphetamines).
Now as in the 1980s drugs in the United States comes from South/Central/Latin America. However early on operations to bring drugs to America were small, there were some small and loosely organized groups that were moving drugs across the border. Oddly enough attempts at eradicating the drug trade did more to enhance the trade than it ever did to end the pipeline to America.
Initially “war” on drugs was too successful, the United States and its allies made great headway in eliminating smaller growing operations. However, criminals did what criminals do, they adapted. Instead of remaining a loose group of independent growers, drug growers began to work together in what became as cartels.
Potential Congressional Concerns:
Concerns at this point should be obvious. IF left unassisted there is potential that Mexico may become a failed state allowing for a government that is not functional and rum in part or in whole by the cartels. A narcostate in such proximity to the US would bring in a host of other problems including increased drug trafficking into the United states and higher rates of crime.
For example, an issue known as spill-over violence. While spill over violence is a problem it is difficult to define just how much spill over violence. “The challenge is how to define spillover violence. The federal government says spillover must be drug-related violence that targets innocent civilians or law enforcement on U.S. soil. But others think that's too narrow. They think spillover should include any trafficker-on-trafficker violence in the U.S. that originates with Mexican organized crime.” (Burnett, 2011) Both are examples of spill-over violence, cartel violence that occurs in the United States or violence on the Mexican side of the border that impacts the US, violence is violence, no matter where it originated and again, allowing Mexico to become a failed state will only allow for more violence. Examples of the rising violence in Mexico can be found in the following “At the current pace, 2016 will be most violent year in Juárez since 2012, per Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope, who also noted that violence is not confined to Juárez, and that murders have been on the rise around the state of Chihuahua. The level of brutality and style of the killings, notes Hope, are reminiscent of those seen during the 2008 to 2012 war between the Juárez and Sinaloa Cartels.” (Alonsa, 2016) all of this impacts the United States due to the fact that cartel violence does not stay on the Southern side of the border. “The former head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, General Barry McCaffrey said after a visit to Mexico in late 2008, “Mexico is not confronting dangerous criminality, it is fighting for survival against narco-terrorism.” Hal Brands, an Assistant Professor of Public Policy, and History at Stanford University, agrees with General McCaffrey, and goes a step further saying, “Well-financed cartels are doing battle with government and one another for control of drug corridors into the United States, significantly destabilizing internal order in Mexico.” Former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton described Mexico as “looking more and more like Colombia looked twenty years ago.” (Mexican Cartels: The Threat of Spillover Violence & the Rule of Law, 2015) as the situation in Mexico continues to destabilize Mexican related violence in the United States continues to rise. “So far, the United States has not experienced the same level of high intensity violent crime occurring in Mexico. However, the violent actions of the Mexican Cartels are affecting the United States nonetheless. The pernicious nature of the highly competitive illegal drug market and the violent actions of the cartels present several challenges for the United States. The close geographic proximity of the two countries makes it almost impossible to avoid.” (Mexican Cartels: The Threat of Spillover Violence & the Rule of Law, 2015) If Mexico continues down the path toward failed state status violence in both nations will continue to rise.
Illegal Activities and Transnational Threats:
It would be simple to address the threat that drug cartels pose to the safety and security of the United States if they are/were only involved in the drug trade. However, this is far from the case, drug cartels are engaged in as many different types of crime as there are criminals.
Other types of criminal activity include:
- Illegal immigration ““Not all illegal aliens are crossing into the United States to find work. Law enforcement officials indicate that there are individuals coming across the border who are forced to leave their home countries because of criminal activities. These dangerous criminals are fleeing the law in other countries and seeking refuge in the United States.” --Majority Staff Report of the House Committee on Homeland Security (Schwertman & Taylor, 2007) The same routes that are being used by drug cartels to move drugs can also be used to traffic individuals and some of these individuals are criminals in their home nation and therefore would not be allowed legal immigration and therefore seek alternate means of entry into the United States.
- As indicated the Southwest border is a location where thousands of illegal immigrants cross the border every day. “One of the clearest indicators the United States has lost control of its southwest border is the ease with which thousands of tons of drugs and millions of illegal aliens are crossing the U.S. border on an annual basis. This open borders policy has opened the door to more than just cheap labor. The presence of millions of undocumented persons in our country has provided a perfect cover for various forms of criminal activity, ranging from drug trafficking to prostitution to identity theft.” (Schwertman & Taylor, 2007)
- Drugs, narcotics that enter the United States primarily from South and Latin America meaning that Mexico is top on the list for transportation of illegal narcotics. “Federal investigators believe that as much as 2.2 million kilograms of cocaine and 11.6 kilograms of marijuana were smuggled into the United States via the Mexican border in 2005.1 With the decline of the Medellin and Cali cartels of Colombia, two Mexican drug cartels – the Sinaloa cartel and the Gulf cartel – are battling over the billion-dollar drug trade between Mexico and the United States” (Schwertman & Taylor, 2007) Drug smuggling is only part of the illicit activities that take place as a result of Mexican influence. Another criminal enterprise where Mexican influence can be found is in gang activity. “transnational gangs, such as Surenos-13 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), are responsible for much of the low-level drug trade in North Carolina. Over the past several years, North Carolina has experienced a disturbing surge in gang activity. Between 1999 and 2004, Wake County saw a 5,743.3 percent increase in gang membership. During the same period, the city of Durham saw a 333.3 percent increase.7 A 2005 report by the Governor’s Crime Commission estimated that 22.2 percent of all gang members in North Carolina are Hispanic (with ethnicity unknown for another 19.4 percent).8 By contrast, Hispanics accounted for only 7 percent of total state population in 2004.” (Schwertman & Taylor, 2007) Gangs are involved in the trafficking of drugs, the more gangs operating in an area the more drugs that can be trafficked and sold. As such the more Spanish speaking illegal immigrants that enter the United States the more they are drawn to Spanish speaking street gangs.
Intelligence Agencies Support Law Enforcement:
Since 9/11 law enforcement organizations and intelligence organizations have been taking more steps toward working together in the attempt at working with one another includes the sharing of intelligence information.
In terms of drug trafficking in Central and South America the intelligence being shared are based on the cartel groups operating in certain areas and the methods being used to transfer narcotics. The CIA has the following to say about the support and assistance between the intelligence community and law enforcement. “The Intelligence Community provided the law enforcement community, especially the Department of Justice, FBI, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, with actionable intelligence on terrorist groups, transnational organized crime groups, and their activities, such as narco-trafficking.” (Support to law enforcement – central intelligence agency, 2012) With this information law enforcement organizations that are responsible for the investigation of drug trafficking will not have a starting point in an investigation instead of having to work from square one when investigating organizations.
While 9/11 was the linchpin that caused changed in the way that intelligence organizations and law enforcement share information, changes were already in the works prior to 9/11 to do just this as it was recognized that lack of communication between the intelligence community and law enforcement and the lack of communication between law enforcement agencies was a determined to the national security of the United States. “Recognizing the need for a more formalized strategy to support law enforcement customers, the DCI had initiated the development of a Strategic Plan for IC Support to Law Enforcement prior to the attacks of 11 September. The plan was developed as a collaborative effort among IC representatives and with full participation from law enforcement agencies.” (Support to law enforcement – central intelligence agency, 2012)
Intelligence organizations have taken steps to gather intelligence and disseminate information related to narcotics specifically for law enforcement and investigations:
“DIA focused intelligence support on Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) efforts in Mexico. A special study on the Quintana Roo region played a major role in positioning operational forces to interdict the movement of illegal drugs into the US and directly contributed to the arrests of two major drug traffickers.
- CIA supported a reevaluation of US antidrug priorities by the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy by publishing a paper that addressed the strategic vulnerabilities of the global drug trade. The paper addressed the exploitable operational, logistical, financial, and geographic weakness of the many criminal enterprises that supply narcotics to the United States and other markets. The Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy well received the paper, and he instructed the law enforcement community to use it as a template to design a companion product addressing the vulnerabilities of the US domestic drug trade.
- NSA provided US policymakers and law enforcement agencies, including the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Counter Drug Executive Secretariat, Coast Guard, FBI, Customs, and DEA, with foreign intelligence that contributed to the disruption or dismantlement of major foreign narco-trafficking organizations. This was accomplished by full integration into the counternarcotics community under the leadership of the DCI's Crime and Narcotics Center and was based on the robust exchange of lead information between the Intelligence Community and law enforcement agencies.” (Support to law enforcement – central intelligence agency, 2012)
These are just a few examples of how intelligence and law enforcement are working together to intercept drug trafficking, Part of the reason that the intelligence community is so willing to assist US law enforcement and drug trafficking is the fact that the proceeds from drug trafficking have been used to support terrorism and terrorists.
“It is important to understand that prior to U.S. engagement in the so-called drug war beginning in the 1980s, the primary drug-trafficking route into the United States was from Colombia, through the Caribbean and into Florida. As we closed off these avenues and failed to lower user demand in our country, Mexico became the primary conduit for the drug pipeline. As criminal elements exacted their “fee” for moving the product through the country, we witnessed the rise of alliances, or cartels. In addition to moving Colombian drugs, cartels now oversee the cultivation of marijuana and large labs producing methamphetamines. The money at stake is exorbitant; a Justice Department report estimates that Mexican and Colombian DTOs generate, remove, and launder between $18 and $39 billion in wholesale drug proceeds annually” (Drug-trafficking organizations go global, 2013)
The one thing for certain when discussing drug trafficking is that drug trafficking produces huge profits. Profits that are enough to support all sorts of activity. Including terrorist actions and maintaining states.
It is becoming common to see drug trafficking organizations to either function as a government or act in support of government in states that are failed and/or failing, “Although some failed states have only themselves - or rather, their corrupt or brutal political elites - to blame, others never had a chance to start with. Here we face a problem of nomenclature. The very expression "failed" faithlessly implies a prior state of success. In fact, many countries in the upper tiers of the Failed States Index never emerged into full statehood. Fourteen of the 20 highest-scoring states are African, and many of them, including Nigeria, Guinea, and, of course, Congo, consisted at birth of tribes or ethnic groups with little sense of common identity and absolutely no experience of modern government. (Perhaps in this more limited sense one can blame colonialism, because it was the European powers that drew the dubious borders.) They are, in novelist V.S. Naipaul's expression, "half-made societies," trapped between a no-longer-usable past and a not-yet-accessible future. They "failed" when modernity awakened new hopes and appetites (and rivalries) that overwhelmed the state's feeble institutions or that leaders sought to master and exploit” (Traub, 2011) Simply put, failed states are unable to care for its citizenry or its borders so it is open to attack by other more powerful nations and organized crime groups have the ability to run a government. An example of this is Mexico, while Mexico is not a completely failing state it has failed to the point where drug cartels can operate openly, regardless of the level of violence.
Law Enforcement Agencies Acquire International Missions:
The United States have been involved in the international drug trade since the 1970s. The only impact that the US has managed to have is the creation of violent drug cartels operating in Mexico and Mexico becoming the prime point from which drugs are smuggled into the US.
Several examples of the US government working with the Mexican government exist. The following is a short list:
- “In 1969 President Richard Nixon reacted to the northward tidal wave of drugs with Operation Intercept in which agents searched every vehicle or pedestrian coming across the southern border while the set up mobile radar units between posts.” (Kirkland, 2014, p. 5)
The same attempt to militarize the almost 2,000-mile border between Mexico and the United States, this led to the same results. Pedestrians and vehicle traffic were backed up for hours, if not days in the case of movement of commercial goods. US intervention with drug trafficking has been unsuccessful to say the least. Even military intervention with Mexico has been unsuccessful.
- Operation Condor from 1978 to 1978. The United States supplied Mexico with hardware 39 Bell Helicopters, 22 small aircraft and an executive jet forming one of the largest police fleets in Latin America. Mexico sprayed crops up in the Sierra Madre while soldiers stormed Sinaloan villages and arrested or shot dead many alleged traffickers.” (Kirkland, 2014, p. 5)
Again, this proved to be unsuccessful. Instead of ending drug trafficking from Mexico, US involvement simply displaced the regions where the drug cartels are operating. Instead of operating in Mexico City, cartels moved to Guadalajara.
The issue with ending drug trafficking in Mexico is the fact that the government is corrupt and either actively involved in the drug trafficking and/or paid to look the other why when it comes to drugs.
Since the United States has found no good way to end drug use in America, it is difficult for the government to end drug trafficking across international borders.
Beyond Information Exchanges: Using Intelligence Agencies in Enforcing Laws:
The United States uses intelligence to identify where cartels are operating and how to identify when/where/and how drugs will be trafficked into the United States. For example, drones that were developed and used for the war on terror are now being used to patrol the US border with Mexico.
“Over the past few years, the United States has sent unarmed drones to collect intelligence on traffickers, and has also sent CIA operatives and retired military personnel to a Mexican military base, while training Mexican federal police agents to assist in wiretaps, interrogations, and running informants. The United States has also ramped up security on its own side of the border, spending approximately $3 billion annually on patrolling the border. More than twenty thousand border patrol agents have been deployed, double the number from a decade earlier. U.S.-Mexico cooperation has also been effective in targeting drug kingpins: In a 2013 Congressional testimony, O'Neil said that many of the Mexican government's high-profile arrests or killings of top-level drug lords "resulted from bilateral intelligence and operational cooperation." (Zenko, 2017) The best way to understand what drug cartels are doing and how they are going to traffic drugs is to gather intelligence. The United States has the unpresented ability to collect intelligence. That intelligence is passed along to the government and law enforcement (the Drug Enforcement Administration) can plan how to go about disrupting trafficking routes.
Modern researchers are calling drug cartels 5th generation warfare, which “5GW is typically described as “unrestricted warfare” and it may include cyber war, “financial jihad” to attack world financial markets, and attacks against the power grid.” (Sharing tactics, 2013) 5th generation warfare is interesting because it includes almost any kind of war, either directed at another nation, among insurgents, using only cyber-attack, ““Unrestricted warfare is warfare that uses all means whatsoever; means that involve force or arms and means that do not involve force or arms; means that involve military power and means that do not involve military power; means that entail casualties and means that do not entail casualties; all to force an enemy to serve one’s own interest.” (Sharing tactics, 2013) Mexican drug cartels are now being viewed as insurgent groups “Mexican drug cartels meet the U.S. military's definition of insurgents. There are multiple publications that define an insurgency, and while all their definitions are similar, there are two that are most often referenced. The Counterinsurgency Field Manual, written to guide Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency operations and recently endorsed by GEN David Patraeus and Gen James F. Amos, describes an insurgency as an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government and as a politico-military struggle designed to weaken that government's legitimacy and control.2 The U.S. Army training manual, Military Operations in Low-Intensity Conflict, is another often-used publication. It states: An insurgency is an organized, armed political struggle whose goal may be the seizure of power through revolutionary takeover and replacement of the existing government. In some cases, however, an insurgency's goals may be more limited. . .. The insurgency may also only intend to extract limited political concessions unattainable through less violent means” (Blaine, 2012) As this indicates, US law enforcement is unable to slow the amount of drugs entering the US from Mexico, intelligence on the types of groups and the amount of drugs that are being cultivated have done nothing to end of slow down the amount of drugs crossing the border. It seems like every step that is taken to end drug trafficking from Mexico. Now modern groups are meeting the definition of insurgent/terrorist group. As always, the question is what can be done?
Mexican drug cartels have evolved to become this strange mixture of criminal enterprise, transnational organized crime group and more recently insurgent group. The United States have been working for decades to end the transfer of narcotics from Mexico into the United States, but every step that the US takes ends in failure.
The one thing that can be said with absolute certainty is that the Mexican cartels are brutally violent. They will kill, dismember, decapitate, cut off body parts, engage in shoot outs in the middle of crowded streets, all of this so that society and the government (to an extent) learn to fear the drug cartels.
The Drug Enforcement Administration finds itself in charge or enforcing drug laws, both foreign and domestic. They have worked In Mexico and in the United States. The DEA has failed in its mission to eradicate drugs. The question is, what are they doing wrong? The DEA makes arrests both foreign and domestic, but it seems like no matter how many drugs are seized and individuals arrested, drug crime just doesn’t end. Perhaps we have researched a time where intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies work together to end the trafficking of drugs and the violence associated with it.
About - partnership for drug-free kids. (2017). Retrieved January 21, 2017, from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, http://www.drugfree.org/about/
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Blaine, B. B. (2012). Mexican Drug Cartels. Marine Corps Gazette
Burnett, J. (2011, July 6). ’Spillover’ violence from Mexico: Trickle or flood? Retrieved January 21, 2017, from South Carolina Public Radio, http://www.npr.org/2011/07/06/137445310/spillover-violence-from-mexico-a-trickle-or-flood
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Mexican Cartels: The Threat of Spillover Violence & the Rule of Law. (2015). Retrieved January 21, 2017, from Borderland Beat, http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2015/08/mexican-cartels-threat-of-spillover.html
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Sharing tactics (2013). In The Terrorist-Criminal Nexus (pp. 273–294). doi:10.1201/b14565-10
Support to law enforcement — central intelligence agency. (2012, January 3). Retrieved January 21, 2017, from Central Intelligence Agency, https://www.cia.gov/library/reports/archived-reports-1/Ann_Rpt_2002/sle.html
Traub, J. (2011). Think again: failed states. Foreign Policy, 187, 51–54.
Zenko, M. (2017). Mexico’s drug war. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from Council on Foreign Relations, http://www.cfr.org/mexico/mexicos-drug-war/p13689