A Washington Post editorial argues that funding for the Mérida Initiative with Mexico is getting too low. It makes a direct connection between the violence in Ciudad Juárez and the failure to deliver Blackhawk helicopters. It acknowledges that the Obama and Calderón administrations are putting together a new strategy aimed more at civil society, judicial reform, and other non-military priorities, and also acknowledges that U.S. pressure for militarization is not taken too well in Mexico. But we should do it anyway. Why? Because more money will, apparently, get more results.
I am still trying to figure out how more helicopters will do much in Juárez, as the WP seems to confuse it with the jungles of Colombia. Take this article in the Wall Street Journal, published the very same day as the editorial:
The gangland-style murders of three people with ties to the U.S. consulate in this border city have confirmed for many people what residents here already knew: President Felipe Calderón's strategy of sending in the troops to corral drug gangs has failed.
And for good measure add this:
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, while praising Mr. Calderón's antidrug efforts, said this week the military deployment "hasn't helped."
The army was sent because the government felt overwhelmed, but planning did not go much beyond merely acting as a show of force. Fortunately, the Mexican government is recognizing this:
The president's top aides tacitly acknowledge that the army strategy hasn't worked. Officials say they will try two new approaches: a greater focus on intelligence work, and an effort to create jobs, build schools, open parks and counsel drug addicts.
The bottom line is that we need to resist the drum beat for militarization, not only for human rights reasons or mission creep, but because in many contexts the army is not the right tool. In the Mexican case, the purely militarized solution is not working, so we can move on to more diverse strategies that, incidentally, are also much cheaper.
The mere amount of dollars is not central. Realistic planning is.