The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arm of the Department of Homeland Defense (DHS) is getting some armed assistance with the addition of 1,200 National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The National Guard’s mission is to fortify the border until CBP can hire and train 1000 new agents. The urgent needs are the twin tides of illegal immigration and drug/weapons smuggling. As this release report from the Armed Forces Press Service attests, little distinction is made between the two kinds of criminal activity the National Guard is meant to curb.
This isn’t the first time the National Guard has stepped in to provide “relief” for a border police system that is seemingly always taxed to its limits. For two years, from 2006 to 2008, more than 6,000 troops participated in “Operation Jump Start,” building fences and fortifying barriers for CBP while they sought to hire more people to fill their needs.
The drug and weapons situation at the border (as well as away from it) is a serious problem for Mexico, as it is for the U.S. This latest deployment of troops by the Obama Administration is recognition of this, at some level.
The unfortunate thing is, this is little more than PR. The drug and weapons problem at the border is tantamount to a raging widlfire. The U.S. has just opened its garden hose.
The harder and more productive stance would be to ask how we can both snuff out the current blaze as well as stop promoting future fires. That would mean interrogating the ways U.S. weapons producers help add dry tinder to an already combustible situation and how U.S. consumers of drugs are the match.
It would also mean interrogating the policies promoted by the U.S. and its international agencies that make economic life in Mexico what it is for the rural poor.
But this token deployment is not innocuous. Anytime you send armed people to an incendiary situation there is the potential of danger. Their non-offensive position is another boost to the low-intensity-conflict strategy at the border, one that hopes to scare the migrant flow into the hazardous terrain of the desert. The end effect is a loss of life without a bullet fired.