The US is now using high-flying drones in its efforts to combat drugs. So far the drones are being used only for surveillance. They fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet and can surveil up to 40,000 square miles of territory in a day. They cannot be readily seen by drug traffickers - or anyone else - on the ground. As of yet international law prevents them from being used as they are in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East to actually destry targets but that could change.
Mexican President Caldreron realizes that the 34,000 deaths in the past few years in Mexico are directly caused by the US demand for drugs but, instead of urging the US to end it’s failed drug policy thereby removing the huge profits currently available to the drug cartels, has asked for US help in ending the violence. President Obama has responded with the only kind of “help” the US seems to know how to give; police and military type assistance. The two presidents have agreed to push the limits of international law to allow greater Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Defense involvement in Mexico than ever before.
Much of the US involvement is still secret and Mexican and American officials say Mexico turns a blind eye to American wiretapping of the telephone lines of drug-trafficking suspects, and also to American law enforcement officials carrying weapons in violation of longstanding Mexican restrictions. Mike Vigil, a retired chief of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration told the NY Times “It wasn’t that long ago when there was no way the D.E.A. could conduct the kinds of activities they are doing now, and the only way they’re going to be able to keep doing them is by allowing Mexico to have plausible deniability.” Mr. Calderón’s government is understandably cautious when it comes to just how the American intervention might be perceived at home. The Mexican Constitution prohibits foreign military and law enforcement agents from operating in Mexico except under extremely limited conditions. Mexican officials said the legal foundation for such activity may be questionable.
Of course, diplomatic issues aside, the US’s aggressive response to the drug problem hasn’t worked anywhere else and there is no reason to hope that it will work in Mexico. Recently the head of the US’s international supply reduction operations admitted that after a decade of Plan Colombia, (a similar type US operation involving the DEA, crop destruction, military efforts, surveillance, and all the rest), 97% of US cocaine is still of Colombian origin.
Legalizing and regulating these currently illegal drugs would start us on the road to reducing the harms they cause. With no more profits the cartels would be put out of business overnight and legitimate, taxable, government-regulated companies would take over the manufacture and sale of these drugs and America’s longest war, a war that has cost well over a trillion dollars since it began decades ago will end. Apparently though, Mr. Obama prefers to walk the safer path of failure.