Why so many top Republicans want to go to war in Mexico

By | April 21, 2023

Zack Beauchamp writes:

One of the hottest new ideas in Republican politics is, apparently, launching a war in Mexico.

Three recent articles — in Rolling StonePolitico, and Semafor — traced the rise of the proposal from obscurity to the party’s highest levels, finding ample evidence of the idea’s popularity in the GOP ranks. Former President Donald Trump, for example, has been asking for a “battle plan” to “attack Mexico,” specifically targeting drug cartel strongholds in the country. Every single declared Republican presidential candidate has endorsed treating cartels like terrorist organizations. And in both the House and the Senate, leading Republicans have proposed authorizing the use of military force in Mexico to fight cartels.

These proposals are typically billed as responses to the fentanyl overdose crisis. Roughly 107,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2021, the last year data was available, a 15 percent increase over the 2020 death total. Of those deaths, a majority were attributable to fentanyl — a synthetic opioid painkiller considerably stronger than heroin. This is a major problem, and coming up with some kind of policy response is as important as it is difficult.

But launching cross-border raids into the territory of the US’s neighbor and third-largest trading partner, a vital partner on many issues, is just about the worst one. The US and Latin American partners have been waging a literal war on drugs for decades; military campaigns like Plan Colombia have repeatedly failed to stop narcotics from entering the United States. Attacks on Mexican soil seem no more promising — and considerably more likely to backfire in dangerous ways.

In reporting this piece, I spoke to four different experts on foreign policy and/or the Mexican border from across the ideological spectrum; not one of them thought these proposals contained anything like a workable idea. “The planning would embarrass Paul Wolfowitz,” quipped Justin Logan, the director of defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.

What this exposes, more than anything else, is an important way the Republican party hasn’t changed in the Trump era. [Continue reading…]