By: Quinn Daly
Former President Nixon declared the infamous “War on Drugs” on June 17, 1971. Forty years and billions of dollars later, the United States is still fighting in both Colombia and Mexico. Recent news has only underscored the failings of the war effort to halt the flow of harmful narcotics into the United States. Mexican President Felipe Calderón asserts that drug violence will not subside until demand recedes within the United States as well as the flow of arms into Mexico. Like many problems facing Washington, Nixon and his successors have built a bureaucracy surrounding the drug war and have continued to throw money at the problem. Their solution has failed.
This debate was rekindled when Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry suggested that the United States send troops south of the border to fix the problem. Gov. Perry responded to the recent dumping of 35 tortured bodies last week in the state of Veracruz on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Despite the violence, it is hard to see many Mexican citizens approving the advancement of American troops into their homeland. The combination of National Guard troops stationed at our southwestern border and many Mexican citizens see the United States as partially to blame for the problem do not bode well for Perry’s solution. In light of this situation, there are alternatives to fix the problem that don’t involve intervention or even additional funding.
In the fiscal years of 2010 and 2011, the Obama administration allocated more than $15 billion to fight the “War on Drugs.” Despite this significant amount of federal dollars, studies have found that drug availability is increasing, usage is significantly increasing, and there is a little end in sight. Over the years, drug cartels have continually adapted to American initiatives within Mexico by finding new ways to ship illicit drugs across the border. Traffickers are able to alter production levels and adjust their trafficking routes and methods as quickly as American strategies change. This is the crux of the problem for American policy makers in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
The Obama administration has responded by increasing security at Points of Entry across the southwestern border with Mexico. While increased security is a positive step, security personnel have focused on marijuana, instead of more harmful drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines. According to Tom Barry of the TransBorder Project at the Center for International Policy, “more than 99 percent of illegal drug seizures made between POEs in Arizona and New Mexico involve marijuana.” Marijuana poses the least harm to the public and is the least profitable for drug cartels. Yet administrations, past and present, have focused on stopping its shipment. It is essential for policymakers to focus on drugs that are more harmful to the public and also prove the most lucrative to the drug cartels.
If American efforts are to succeed in Mexico, it is essential for our leaders to review and change their stance. Gov. Perry’s solution to send American troops to Mexico will only inflame the region. In order to succeed American leaders need to revise their strategy. It is essential to cut the list of agencies dealing with the problem (currently there is the DEA, NDIC, Homeland Security, Justice, and Defense only to name a few). The President and Congress could save Americans billions by revising our strategy to focus on more profitable drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines. Sensible and effective solutions are what is needed to fix the drug issue, not more money, troops or bureaucracy.