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by Peter Moskos

May 29, 2008

Take your $1.4 billion and stuff it!

That's what Mexico may tell the U.S. So reports Laurence Iliff in the Dallas Morning News. Good for them.

Here's the backstory: The U.S. offers money to other countries so they can join our glorious war on drugs. To get the money--and here's the catch--other countries had to pass a formal (now less formal) "certification" process where we tell them if they're doing enough to fight the war on drugs, if their judicial system is good, and if their human rights record passes our test. We obviously can judge these things, you know, because our record in the war on drugs has been nothing but success after success in what is now a drug-free America!

Mexico considered certification a violation of its sovereignty. "Why don't we tell the Americans to use those [funds] for their own interdiction forces or interception forces ... and stop the flow of weapons," [Mexican assistant attorney general for international affairs] Santiago Vasconcelos said in a radio interview. "Rather than giving them to Mexico, they can be used by the Americans to reinforce their Customs service, their Border Patrol, and stop the arms trafficking to our country."
Oh, snap!

I'm always amazed how arrogant the war on drugs makes us. Mexican police are getting killed in battle right and left, but we'll tell them if they're doing enough to fight drugs. Can you imagine our reaction if, after September 11, 2001, other countries offered us big bucks but only if we could certify to their standards that we were really serious about fighting terrorists?

What if Mexico offered us billions of pesos to protect New Orleans from hurricane damage, but only if we let their army corp of engineers certify the quality of our levies? (I mention this example because time and time again, Mexico proves very able at hurricane disaster relief. Kudos to them.)

Can you imagine how insulted we would be if Cuba offered us billions of dollars, but only if we, say, ended the practice of electing judges, abolished the death penalty, found a way to cut our prison population by 80%, and agreed to end our Cuban embargo?

As soon as New Orleans was destroyed by hurricane Katrina, Cuba offered us 1,500 doctors and 26 tones of medicine and aid. No strings attached (except political embarrassment)! We turned them down. Seems we were already doing a heck of a job. About 2,000 people died (we don’t even know for sure) and we couldn't get clean water in for days.

Anyway, I hope Mexico does tell the U.S. to stuff it. Often these countries know the war on the drugs is stupid and hurts them, but $1.4 billion sure is tough to turn down. That’s a lot of change to fill a lot of pockets. If we bribe enough people, they'll poison their fields or arm militias or whatever else we tell them to do. I've been to both Mexico and Egypt, and let me tell you, they sure have nice police cars… thanks to our money. Too bad none of this money is going to the Baltimore P.D.


LibFree said...

I think you're examples are off point. Hurricane Katrina's damage had no relation to Cuba, but Mexico is a pathway for drugs coming into this country. I'm completely against using the Mexicans to fight our war but your examples cites problems in this country and compares them with charitable donations. You might use those examples if you we're comparing them with US AIDS relief or food donations ect.. Nation "A" has a problem that originates in nation "B". If nation "B" meets certain standards of action against those problems, nation "A" agrees to pay nation "B" a compensation. In your examples, Nation "A" has an internal problem and nation "B" agrees to pay nation "A" if nation "A" meets certain guidelines. Completely different.

A more apt example would be a sovereign state like Ohio surrendering its sovereignty by excepting funds from the Federal government for reaching academic standards in public schools. Ohhh wait, we do that every day.

I still agree that Mexico would be better off turning down the money and ending the war on drugs. I also believe that they would be better off instituting free market reforms, a liberal government, and ending corruption. Then again, so would we.

PCM said...

libfree, thanks for you comment and I do see your point. But my point may be even simpler than you think. We impose "aid" on other sovereign states. And yet we can’t seem to understand why another country may resent this.

When the situation is reversed, when other countries officer us aid. Real aid. Even without strings attached. We refuse.

And I just find it interesting that Mexico (the Yucatan in particular) handles hurricane-related domestic crises better than we do. Especially since we love telling Mexico how to handle their problems. There real are some things we could learn from other countries.

I mention Cuba not because I like Castro or want us to more like them. But they did offer to help when we needed it and we said no. And Cuba has something in common with the war on drugs. If it weren’t for our failed policy, in Cuba’s case the embargo, Castro would have been gone decades ago, just like every other cold-war dictator.

Clearly, in Cuba’s case, if the purpose of the embargo was to get rid of Castro, it failed. With Cuba, the argument went that since Castro is bad, then the embargo must be good. With drugs, the argument is that since drugs are bad, then prohibition must be good. It just doesn’t work. It would be nice if, say, after 50 or 100 years of failure, we could reassess a situation and try something new. Why can’t we as a country ever admit something isn’t working? (And yes, Iraq does come to mind) Saying something doesn’t work is not admitting failure. It’s a way to adopt and improve and achieve success.

Americans who don’t have passports may not realize that while (much of) the rest of the world is improving, we’re treading water and even falling back. As an American, I don’t like having to apologize to my friends from other countries. Sorry for our trains. Sorry for our airlines. Sorry for our run down airports bumpy roads. Sorry for our ghettos. (And of course sorry for George Bush.) Not to mention our currency is collapsing.

I travel a lot to other countries. And I worry that we’re becoming more and more third-world. Mindless flag waving and chants of “YOU-ESS-AAY!” aren’t the answer.

Safreti said...

I think that if Mexico DID offer us that money based on certification, then hell, let their army corp of engineers come take a look. New Orleans could def use the money, and I fully understand them wanting to make sure their money isn't wasted.