It’s surprising how little time I’ve spent talking about the drug war on this channel. It was actually the first topic the MFF addressed, all the way back in 2011. Back then we all thought that Mexico’s drug war had reached a horrific peak, but since then it seems to have only escalated. Today’s video covers a lot, from the reason why half the congress seems to be chomping at the bit to invade Mexico all of a sudden, the true unacknowledged sources of the Mexican catastrophe, and a really, really important data point that everybody is ignoring, and I didn’t even notice until I was halfway through the editing process.
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Video Transcript after the jump…
So I already made a video about how the US military needs to stay the heck out of Mexico, back in November. But this is a bad idea that keeps growing, and we really need to nip it in the bud, so here we go on part 2.
In recent weeks this bad idea has metastasized beyond New York Times militarists and Tom Cotton to include a no hope Republican presidential candidate and Mr. Axis of evil himself David Frum writing in the Atlantic. These clowns aren’t reaching a mass audience yet, but others are. Thankfully for my chances with YouTube’s drama seeking algorithm, on February 3rd the channel Task & Purpose published a video called “Mexican Cartels are Worse Than you think” that has racked up more than 1.5 million views. It’s a video that is very informative, but seems to me to be a barely concealed case for using the US military in Mexico. There’s a lot in this video that is very true, but it can also be used to justify this insanely bad idea.
Before we get into this, let’s do a little throat clearing. Unlike many of the outlets I critique on this channel, I have a lot of respect for Task & Purpose. The organization is a lot more than a YouTube channel. It’s based on the idea that US service people desperately need their own journalistic voice, and I couldn’t agree with that idea more. I was too chickenshit to serve, and I have immense respect for the bravery of those who did. This respect is not undermined in the slightest by my infinite disrespect for what they were asked to do by the morons in charge over the past 22 years. I don’t know much about Chris Cappy, the Task & Purpose YouTube presenter, but I enjoy some of his work, admire his success on this platform, and go forward with this video in the firm knowledge that as a veteran he has sacrificed far more for this country and the issues discussed than I ever will.
Ok, throat cleared. I remember reading about how horrible the fighting in Fallujah in Iraq was, all three or four times we fought to take it. I believe that this Task & Purpose propaganda video is helping to pave the way towards Fallujah level conflicts in the United States.
First let’s talk about why this video exists. As I have mentioned on this channel repeatedly, Vladimir Putin gave us a temporary reprieve from another trillion dollar war in the Middle East. With the end of the war in Afghanistan, the Military Industrial Complex was looking for something to do, and the people of Iraq, Syria and Iran got an incredible gift when Russia invaded Ukraine. The attention of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and their employees in the US Congress shifted north, and it should stay there for a while. The War on Terror was fundamentally about money spinning in Washington DC, and Putin’s invasion has been the biggest bonanza since the Afghanistan surge. First Javelins, then millions of artillery rounds, and now tanks are streaming into Ukraine. It may take a while before we start selling F-35s to Zelensky, but we are already selling those absurdly expensive planes by the bushel to every European country with two pennies to rub together.
Washington, DC is happy. The defense companies and their congressmen are happy. But there is a tremendous War On Terror constituency that has been left out of this bonanza entirely. And that’s the exact constituency that Task & Purpose claims to serve. The US fighting man and woman. Soldiers love peace. But they also love jobs. And the Ukraine war really doesn’t give US soldiers much of anything to do.
Now I assume that most of the veteran enlisted and low level officers of the past few decades are delighted to see fewer of their brothers and sisters being asked to die for defense industry profits. But there are many, many individuals and institutions who don’t have that luxury. Their careers and their mortgages depend on wars that US war fighters are allowed to participate in.
The biggest and dumbest things that the US government has done this century are probably the Iraq and Afghanistan surges. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were mobilized for these spectacularly failed enterprises. But tens of thousands of careers and many of the country’s largest institutions were also warped around idiotic ideas of counter-insurgency. Which explains a lot of the weird definition seeking in the task & purpose video.
“I think we’re finally at the point where these cartels should be defined as a commercial insurgency and major threat to the national security interest”
“It’s been suggested that the United States should officially recognize cartels as a foreign terrorist organization, but I don’t agree, that move would further alienate Mexico… however, on the other hand, the resources that would become available if they were recognized as a terrorist organization could be of great benefit”
Much of the US Army and Marine Corps, as well as the university, think tank and contractor ecosystems that support them are feeling mighty left out by the war in Ukraine. There isn’t much for them to do around China either. Re-defining Mexican Cartels as Commerical insurgencies, or especially terrorist organizations would give these military branches the leeway necessary to move beyond intelligence gathering and border security to direct fighting on Mexican soil.
Of course, the normal Army and Marine Corps wouldn’t start out doing the fighting. It would start with the US special Forces Command, if it isn’t in Mexico already. The past two decades of The War On Terror saw this Unified combatant command given extraordinary resources, shocking and dubiously constitutional independence from oversight by Congress and the other military branches, secret budgets and still largely secret missions. We trained up tens of thousands of the scariest killers in human history, and most of them are still in the middle of their careers. Some of them work for the government, but tens of thousands work in the rapidly metastasizing armed mercenary sector, all around the world.
And there isn’t anything for them to do! There’s no current way for these guys to get paid in our competitions against Russia and China! And that’s where all this agitation for using the US military in Mexico is coming from.
The Special forces lost in Afghanistan and they can no longer operate there. Well as far as we know they are no longer operating there. Africa has probably been the largest playground for US special forces and contractors over the past decade, and as I pointed out at great length in a recent video they have brought nothing but ruin and coups to the continent. I am confident that Socom is doing good work training Ukrainian soldiers in Poland at the moment, but that isn’t going to get any officers any promotions or get them on the cover of Time magazine. Which explains why Task and Purpose is trying to get the US involved in some All American Fallujahs.
“On January 6th, 2023, the Mexican military sent 3,000 soldiers to capture El Chapo’s son Ovidio Guzman, in the city of Culiacan. Gang members set fire to vehicles, and used them as road blocks while shooting 50 caliber rifles at military and civilian aircraft, shutting down the local airport for the entire day. Mexican military helicopters rained down heavy machine gun fire onto the sinaloa cartel gang members.”
Now I am not saying this is a bad video. In fact, I think it’s a pretty great video. It organized information effectively, and provides a mostly accurate picture of the horrifying situation in Mexico. Cartel violence is bad, and it’s not getting better. It’s the main thing standing in the way of Mexico becoming a Poland level developed economy, and becoming the perfect destination for US manufacturing scraped out of China. That’s all very true.
And Chris Cappy and Task and Purpose are a lot more sane than David Frum in the Atlantic, or Bret Stephens in the New York Times, who seem to want to regime change the Mexican President. Cappy knows that its the cartels that are the problem, not President Obrador’s reversing the last Mexican President’s oil privatization. The US and Mexican governments need a better relationship to fight the cartels, not a worse one. And unlike Senator Tom Cotton, or that deranged no hope Republican presidential candidate, Cappy never outright suggests a US invasion of Mexico by special forces. But he doesn’t say it’s a bad idea either. He clearly states that the cartels are a national security threat to the United States. And the whole theme of the video, defining cartels as a “commercial insurgency” seems tailor made to justify stepped up US involvement.
Maybe I’m being unfair, but this task & purpose video strikes me as a clear attempt to lay the groundwork for US military intervention in Mexico. It’s more reasonable and informative than the bloodthirsty nonsense from the chickenhawks in our prestige press, but it’s pushing in the same very bad direction. And I think that direction is fucking nuts.
Do you remember how much worse Iraq was from 2003 to 2011 than it ever was in Afghanistan or all the special forces work in Africa? Twice as many US service people died in a war that was less than half as long. That’s because the US military was trying to operate in urban environments against Iraqis, who were five to ten times richer and better armed than the Afghans or Sahel region Africans ever were. Well the Average Mexican today is 10 times richer and much, much better armed than the Iraqis of 2003 were. In the Middle East the US military fought and lost against a bunch of poor religious fanatics from ancient civilizations whose best ideas for defending their countries was most often blowing themselves up. In Mexico we would be fighting Americans. Heavily, heavily armed North Americans, with a modern hyper-nationalist culture similar to our own, and 200 years of resentment they’re just itching to pay us back for. I can’t fathom why anybody thinks this would be a good idea, or that US forces would somehow add value. What we would add is chaos. And that chaos would not stay in Mexico. Task & Purpose Makes a very good point…
“The Drug Enforcement Agency Themselves Said quote ‘ while direct related violence in Mexico remains a concern, there is minimal spill over violence into the United States as US-based Mexican transnational criminal organizations generally refrain from inter-cartel violence to avoid detection and increased scrutiny by law enforcement.”
So how long do you honestly think that restraint would last, if US Special Forces started attacking cartels on their home turf? We’d get some spectacular cartel reprisals in the United States, and there’s no way we could back down in the face of that kind of terror, so things would escalate, back and forth. The US Army and Marine Corps would get their chance to get into the game. And then very quickly we could have exactly the same kind of nightmarish violence that Mexico has. All over the United States. Sending US soldiers to fight in Mexico could mean deaths in the US homeland that equal 20 years of the War On Terror + 9/11, happening every single year. Oh, and it’s not like the cartels would have to infiltrate the United States to bring us this hell. They’re already here.
“The DEA did Find that the Mexican Cartels are operating in at least 60 different American cities from Florida to Bellingham Washington”
It’s estimated that the Taliban beat the United States military on a budget of about $400 million dollars a year. The most conservative estimates hold that the Mexican cartels have 6 billion dollars a year to deploy, and it’s probably more like 15-30 billion dollars. All that money certainly means more and scarier weapons, but it also means that they can corrupt almost anybody.
“The Mexican Government disbanded the federal police, which was plagued with corruption accusations in 2019”
It’s nice to think that our soldiers would be above that sort of thing, but there’s nothing in the record to indicate that. There’s actually a lot of evidence to the contrary. In Africa’s Sahel region, an infinitely poorer territory than Narcoland, the Navy Seals and others have managed to disgrace themselves quite thoroughly. Truly letting our special forces loose in Mexico would probably turn history’s greatest killing machines into history’s most corrupt killing machines. That’s how republics fall folks. Not a good idea.
Now after all this cynicism I’ve delivered, the appropriate question is what would you do about this terrible problem, Rob? Just leave it alone?!? Well the first thing I would do is define the problem accurately, which Task & Purpose gets tantalizingly close to doing.
“The first official action by the Mexican military against the cartels started on December 11, 2006, when the newly elected Mexican president Felipe Calderon sent 6,500 federal troops into Michoacan to put an end to the drug cartel there. This is where Mexico’s war on drugs really began, and since then thousands of mexican politicians students and journalists have met their untimely end in the conflict each year. In 2007, the United States started to help in Mexico’s war on drugs and the two took a very militaristic approach.
This is a really key thing to notice here. We like to pretend that Calderon, probably Mexico’s worst modern President, decided to start the bloodbath that is Mexico’s ongoing Narco wars all on his own. But he started at the very end of 2006, and by early 2007, the US had a tens of millions of dollars supporting initiative all ready to go? C’mon. We forced, or bribed, or blackmailed or maybe just persuaded these narco wars into existence.
“They started something called the Meridia initiative which assists Mexican security forces and trains them and equips them in ways to fight corruption and criminal organizations. The US has spent about 3 billion dollars since then on the Meridia initiative, but it has only really left the cartels fractured into 150 different organized crime gangs instead of the handful they were before. They did this in order to avoid capture, is the military approach to fighting the war on drugs not a viable solution then?”
Yes! It’s clearly not a viable solution. Maybe the worst omission in this entire video is that Cappy does not mention that Mexico was a much more peaceful, stable, and competently governed country before Bush and Calderon launched this idiotic war. It’s the fracturing of the cartels that has made Mexico so lethal and ungovernable. You can see here, that before Bush and Calderon’s Drug war, there were around 10,000 murders in Mexico a year. Not great, but proportional by population to what we have in the United States today. Numbers vary, but since the drug war started, that number has escalated to at least 30,000 a year, and possibly as high as 40,000 in 2021.
“Since 2006 Mexico has seen more than 300,000 homicides and the rate increases each year.”
So it turns out that Mexico’s Narco wars come from the same source of anarchy as the war in Iraq, and the North Korean nuclear bomb… the presidential administration of George W. Bush, our worst and most violent leader since Woodrow Wilson. The first step to fixing this is admitting how terribly, terribly wrong the military approach was. Igniting the Mexico Narco-war was arguably a worse choice, and certainly a more dangerous one for the United States than the war in Iraq ever was. But nobody in US discourse wants to admit that, least of all Task & Purpose. We’re desperately addicted to the idea that more violence can solve the current violence, even though that’s the exact strategy that created the current situation. Obrador, Mexico’s current president, has tried to move in a different direction, but has faced tremendous push-back in the US and in Mexico. He has never been able to implement the “hugs not bullets” policy that Cappy claims has already failed. Obrador’s made some nice speeches about it, and all he’s gotten for his trouble is articles calling for his head in both the Atlantic and the New York Times.
And that’s too bad, because we need to go back to 2006. Now that we’ve created a narco-war this violent, Mexico’s government is going to have to pick a winner to establish any kind of security. “Hugs Not Bullets” isn’t just the only viable solution here, it’s the one I’m pretty sure we’re going to eventually go with regardless. The only question is how many more hundreds of thousands of people are going to die before we get over ourselves and accept reality.