zachvaughn asked: I think the RAND study published last year undermines that claim to a degree (http://www.rand.org/pubs/occasional_papers/2010/RAND_OP325.pdf). The cartels would certainly like to maintain the status quo, but I don't think it undermines them greatly. Not that I oppose legalization (at least for some drugs), but living close to Mexico, I keep a wary eye on what goes on there, and long term, they have serious issues which U.S. legalization will not adequately address, imo, such as the kidnapping and trafficking of migrants, because even if drugs are legalized, migration from Mexico to the United States will continue, even with the occasional amnesty and/or reforms. Aside from a matter of degree (how much it effects the cartels), I think we generally agree on the issue though. I appreciate your reply, so I will ask a question related to this issue. What are your thoughts on the move to classify the cartels as terrorist organizations? My initial reaction is negative, but I'm trying to do some further research.
And thank you for the message! I’ll give that RAND study a look.
To answer your question: I haven’t done much research on the move to re-classify cartels as terrorist organizations myself, but my initial thoughts concern the number of externalities that might result from it, both positive and negative:
1) classifying Mexican cartels as terrorists organizations would help diminish the cultural/racial subconscious stereotype of Arab = terrorist. Such a classification would help make people understand that terrorism is a modus operandi, and not a cultural tool used exclusively by radical muslim extremists. The actions of the cartels certainly do resemble those taken by violent Islamic extremists (i.e. public acts of ruthlessness meant to scare the public into submission). The only thing I haven’t seen the cartels do is use suicide bombers. And I think everyone can agree that 2 violent organizations who resemble each other’s tactics in every way except the use of suicide bombing is no principled basis for calling one group terrorists, and the other mere criminals.
2) There is a very real threat to re-classifying Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations, in that it places them in the same “enemy” category as Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda affirmatively wants America to be destroyed. Mexico’s drug cartels want no such thing (their trade would be ruined!). By grouping the cartels under the same label as Islamic Extremists, we risk muddying up the very real distinctions between each group. For evidence of this, consider how difficult it is for the media to keep Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and the Taliban separate, despite the fact that they are very different groups with very different goals: Al-Qaeda wants to beat back Western civilization; Hamas is a hyper-nationalist movement that fights on behalf of the national interests of Palestinians; and the Taliban is a group of hyper-conservative theocrats who want to regain political control of Afghanistan. Yet all of them are grouped under the same banner of “Islamo-fascism” with unsettling frequency.
3) Labeling Mexican drug cartels as Terrorist organizations also creates a cultural imperative for certain anti-terrorist organizations that have been created since 9/11: The Department of Homeland Security being the largest. These organizations were created almost explicitly to “fight terror.” Labeling the Cartels as terrorist organizations might be an excuse for politicians to buff up the budget of the DHS and its analogs, which in my view, would be a huge mistake, since I tend to view the DHS as a cumbersome and unnecessary organization to begin with.
4) Labeling the cartels as terrorist organizations also risks inflaming hysteria over illegal immigration. We have already seen the border-line xenophobic lunacy that has dominated the illegal immigration debate for much of the past decade, to the point where people want to make fundamental changes to our Constitution. Making Mexico a source of terrorists in addition to illegal immigration would give immigration hawks one more thing to fearmonger about; and they’ve already shown that they are more than ready to make this connection, no matter how ridiculous they sound when they do it.
5) Labeling the Cartels as terrorist organizations also risks militaristic opportunism, in the sense that some future hawkish president may use the designation as an excuse to “intervene” in Mexico with American forces. Given the fact that we are currently involved in 2 prolonged wars and one “kinetic military” intervention in Libya, I fear giving future leaders any more rhetorical ammunition to justify yet another intervention in a foreign country with the U.S. military.
So overall, I think my reaction is negative as well. Perhaps my attitude will change as I research the designation more, but I suppose time will tell on that front.