The below commentary came from the Boston Globe (10 February 09), and points to an potentially more serious issue in light of strongly suspected “narco-terrorism” connections between South American and Mexican cartels, Latin street gangs, and Al Qaeda. There has long been concern that the flow of drugs across our borders includes terrorist cells, weapons, fissile material, and possibly chem/bio agents.
US authorities are reporting a spike in killings, kidnappings, and home invasions connected to Mexico’s murderous cartels. And to some policymakers’ surprise, much of the violence is happening not in towns along the border, where it was assumed the bloodshed would spread, but a considerable distance away, in places such as Phoenix and Atlanta.
Investigators fear the violence could erupt elsewhere around the country because the Mexican cartels are believed to have set up drug-dealing operations all over the United States, in such far-flung places as Anchorage; Boston; and Sioux Falls, S.D.
“The violence follows the drugs,” said David Cuthbertson, agent in charge of El Paso’s FBI office. State and federal governments have sent millions of dollars to local law enforcement along the Mexican border to help fend off spillover drug crime. But investigators believe Arizona and Atlanta are seeing the worst of the violence because they are major drug distribution hubs thanks to their webs of interstate highways.
With an opportunistic, adaptive enemy (AQ) who does not need to share ideological goals with its criminal associates, is America facing a merging of the Global War on Terror (or whatever name it will be given in the new administration) and the decades-long War on Drugs? If so, America will be required to fight a fight firmly in that middle ground between national defense and law enforcement that we are so uncomfortable in.
The approach that terrorist suspects are a law enforcement matter has been proven entirely inadequate time and again. Yet, the universal treatment of those same suspects as wartime combatants, and illegal ones at that, is anathema to many who fear a precedent of impingement of civil rights.
What will be the role of our Armed Forces? We have maintained a strict prohibition against use of Title X forces in a police role since the end of Reconstruction. Is that about to change? If not, do police, as some fear, begin to take on paramilitary characteristics that go well beyond the traditional mantra of “Protect and Serve”?
For the purposes of this blog, we can also examine US Navy capabilities to influence the action in our own hemisphere. What are we equipped, trained, and allowed to do? I invite your comments.