Terrorists gave the police chief little choice. "Resign now,"
they said, "or we'll kill one policeman every other day until you
It was no idle threat. They'd killed five of his officers the
The chief resigned.
Two days later, banners throughout the city announced plans to
behead the mayor.
This scene wasn't played out Kabul or Baghdad or even
Bogotá. It happened in Ciudad Juárez, a town that
used to be called El Paso del Norte. The city sits on the
US-Mexican border, right next to El Paso
The terrorists rampaging in Mexico today are members of drug
cartels and transnational gangs. They are at war with the Mexican
government, fighting to control the smuggling corridors that carry
people, guns, money, and drugs into the United States.
It's a $25 billion per year business--and a dangerous one. The
body count from Mexico's "drug wars" was somewhere between 5,500
and 6,000 last year, and the pace of killing is up so far this
Increasingly, the violence threatens to spill over into the U.S.
The "narco-banners" calling for the head of Ciudad Juárez
Mayor José Reyes Ferriz also threatened to decapitate his
relatives living in our country.
The activity threatens legitimate business, too. Juárez
boasts more than 300 "maquiladoras" (factories), but employees
living on the U.S. side are increasingly afraid to go to work. It's
so bad, U.S. officials recently ferried to El Paso to confer with
businessmen on both sides of the border.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón is trying to get
control of the situation by sending in the troops. That move was
necessary when it became clear the local police were both
overwhelmed and corrupt.
Mexicans lost faith in local law enforcement long before the
recent surge in violence. Surveys by Gullermo Zepeda, a researcher
for a prominent Mexico City think tank, found only 19 percent of
crimes in Mexico were reported.
Why? Because almost half believed the police would do nothing
about it. And 20 percent feared they would be victimized by the
Now there is speculation that Homeland Security Secretary Janet
Napolitano will follow Calderón's lead and press President
Obama to send the National Guard to the border.
That's nothing new for the Guard. President Bush sent 6,000
National Guard troops to the border in 2006 to help stem the surge
in illegal border crossings. That mission, "Operation Jump Start,"
officially ended last July, when the feds successfully doubled our
border patrol manpower to over 18,000.
While serving as governor of Arizona, Napolitano learned a lot
about the rise in border violence. And she was a fan of Operation
Jump Start. In 2007, she declared her own "state of emergency" and
called up Guardsmen to work on Arizona's borders.
But would "Jump Start II" really be a savvy move? The answer
depends on a lot of things, starting with a clear answer to the
question: What is the mission?
Last time, the Guard fulfilled mostly support roles, freeing up
Homeland Security officers to police the border. Since then,
however, the border patrol has swelled its ranks. And the federal
government already has a contingency plan in place to send troops
to the border if there is a "crisis." If more law enforcement is
needed at the border now, there are much better ways to beef that
up than to simply call out the Guard.
Our state and local law enforcement agencies aren't beset by the
corruption issues that plague their Mexican counterparts. They can
and should play a vital role in policing border communities.
The biggest obstacle is that, right now, the narco-terrorists
have them outmanned and outgunned.
What state and local officers need is support and financial
resources. That would be a far better use for homeland security
grants than buying more fire trucks.
Napolitano should also increase support for Border Enforcement
Security Task Forces (BESTs) and initiatives like the Immigration
and Customs Enforcement 287G program which promotes federal
cooperation with state and local law enforcement.
One more thing: The administration should affirm its support of
the Merida Initiative, a package of aid and support to help Mexico
combat the cartels.
Cooperative initiatives like these are much more efficient and
enduring countermeasures. Sending brigades of our already
over-stretched military to the border would doubtless grab a few
headlines, but it's a less-than optimum strategy for winning the
long war on our border.
Carafano is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation
and the author of GI Ingenuity: Improvisation, Technology and
Winning World War II.
First Appeared in The D.C. Examiner
Terrorists gave the police chief little choice. "Resign now," they said, "or we’ll kill one policeman every other day until you do."
Protect America Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director
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