Ciscomani Should Defuse Calls for War with Mexico

This editorial first appeared in the Arizona Daily Star.

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Michael Burgoyne deployed twice to Iraq in command and staff positions and served as the Defense Attaché in Afghanistan.

Winston Churchill warned, “Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter.”

One would think our most recent adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq would give us pause before entering another conflict with no foreseeable end. Yet, U.S. Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Mike Waltz (R-Florida) introduced a joint resolution to authorize the use of force against nine Mexican cartels. Mexican President López Obrador made it clear that his government will not sanction the proposed U.S. military action in Mexico.

Crenshaw has provided mixed statements about cooperation with Mexico, while other legislators have loudly boasted that the United States should act with or without Mexican concurrence. Whatever the rhetoric, the draft resolution mirrors the blank check given to the presidency following 9/11 and contains no requirements for Mexican cooperation.

Proponents of military action in Mexico argue, without merit, that attacking the cartels will reduce drug use by Americans. I’ve worked on counterdrug and counterinsurgency issues in multiple countries in the Western Hemisphere, including Mexico, where I focused on military activities on the U.S-Mexican border. I’ve seen firsthand that there are good reasons to dismantle these criminal groups, especially to reduce raging violence in Mexico.

War won’t reduce drug overdoses

Congressmen Waltz and Crenshaw are making reckless calls for military action in Mexico.

But there is no evidence that suggests a mix of drone strikes, high-value target raids, and military counterinsurgency-style operations will reduce drug overdoses. There is a long list of killed or captured Mexican drug lords. Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is in a supermax prison, and the ultra-violent Zetas were largely dismantled by Mexican security forces, but this did little to stem drug abuse by Americans.

This reality creates a dangerous loop where military operations grow in scope and are fed by increased resources to achieve an unattainable goal. The promise of a victory over fentanyl through military force is alluring but false.

Unfortunately, taking on the drug problem in the United States requires us to face daunting interrelated challenges related to U.S. drug laws, local law enforcement strategies, mental health issues, harm reduction measures, and access to health care.

Tucsonans and Arizonans have the most to lose if irresponsible bluster somehow transforms into real action. Any U.S. unilateral military engagement would generate a strong nationalist response from Mexico. Our border region could become more militarized than it already is — separating families and restricting legal cross-border travel.

Mexico is Arizona’s largest trading partner, with nearly $9 billion in exports last year. Much of this trade is formed by integrated supply chains that are vulnerable to disruption in the case of a diplomatic crisis. The economic consequences for Arizona, its companies, and its citizens could be devastating.

U.S. military and law enforcement activity in Mexico must be conducted in partnership with the Mexican government. For many years, the United States and Mexico embraced the concept of shared responsibility. This has now been replaced by a return to an adversarial relationship pervaded by accusations and threats.

Juan Ciscomani, representing Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, should know better. He emigrated from Mexico and served as the Senior Advisor and Vice-Chair of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. On the commission, he worked closely with Mexican officials on the border and in Mexico City. Ciscomani recently joined the Congressional Task Force to Combat Mexican Cartels led by Crenshaw.

Ideally, he will educate his colleagues about the economic importance of our trade with Mexico and the vibrant cross-border community Arizonans share with their Sonoran neighbors. Perhaps, he will moderate damaging simplistic calls for military action and advise his colleagues to embrace comprehensive solutions. Hopefully, he can avoid his status as a Mexican-American and Tucsonan from being exploited to add legitimacy to reckless calls for military action in Mexico.

Professor Michael L. Burgoyne is an Assistant Professor of Practice at the UofA School of Government and Public Policy. He is a retired U.S. Army Colonel. He deployed twice to Iraq in command and staff positions and served as the Defense Attaché in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was a counterinsurgency trainer at the National Training Center and co-authored The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa, a tactical primer on counterinsurgency. He served in various policy and security cooperation positions in the Americas, including assignments as the Army Attaché in Mexico, Andean Ridge Desk Officer at U.S. Army South, Senior Defense Official in Guatemala, and policy analyst at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Burgoyne holds an M.A. in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College and an M.A. in Security Studies from Georgetown University. His research and writing focus on security in the Western Hemisphere, insurgency, transnational organized crime, alliances, and defense policy. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in War Studies at King’s College London.

3 thoughts on “Ciscomani Should Defuse Calls for War with Mexico”

  1. Juan Ciscomani and his fellow Republican officeholders overlook capitalism’s economics101, supply responds to demand. So long as the insatiable demand for illegal drugs continues from north of the border, illegal drugs will be supplied from south of the border. It’s not surprising that Ciscomani is incapable and lacks influence in his abject failure to condemn his Republican colleagues Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Mike Waltz (R-Florida) for their crackpot joint resolution authorizing the use of military force across the border against Mexican cartels in clear disregard for Mexico’s sovereignty. The inept Republican majority in Congress should redirect its xenophobic anti-drug resources against our fellow Americanos whose appetite for illegal drugs keeps stimulating the illicit trafficking that respects no borders.

  2. “Perhaps, he (Juan Ciscomani) will moderate damaging simplistic calls for military action and advise his colleagues to embrace comprehensive solutions.”

    I think you’re hoping for too much from Juan Ciscomani.

    I live in his district. JC has two goals that I’ve observed. One is to distinguish himself from the batsh*t crazy Republicans who represent Arizona in Congress. And I have to admit that he’s doing fairly well in that regard.

    JC’s second goal is to get re-elected. Being on the Congressional Task Force to Combat Mexican Cartels will fit nicely on a campaign flyer and that’s probably as far as JC goes with it. It’s not like the GOP House is getting anything done that could be called an accomplishment for their representatives to run on in 24.

    Sorry, Colonel, wish I were more optimistic.

  3. Come on, Juan! Speak up against this wingnut idea of violating Mexican sovereignty before it goes any farther, and spare Tucson a huge disaster! — a Tucson resident since 2008

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