As nations go, the United States is a player. From economic assistance to clandestine coup d’etats to outright warfare, we have a reputation for global intrigue. Sometimes our clever plans work out well.
And sometimes we are just too clever for our own good. For example:
1) Cuba: Our government’s failure to curb American companies, which exploited Cuba for decades, led to the Marxist revolution and anti-American sentiment. We followed this up with the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
2) Iran: The Islamic revolution which overthrew the Shah, a leader whom the U.S. helped install, was the beginning of the bitter enmity between our two countries.
3) Mexico: In the 1990s, the U.S. Special Forces Command trained a large number of Mexican army commandos in tactics such as deployment, marksmanship, ambush, counter-surveillance and the “art of intimidation” (Wikipedia). In 1999, dozens of these skilled soldiers deserted the army to become high paid enforcers for organized crime, later breaking off to form the most powerful and violent of the cartel, Los Zetas.
As awful as those operations turned out, it seems we are not immune from repeating our mistakes. Consider the last example, a well meaning joint Mexican-U.S. military training program which went horribly awry. Despite the bloody results, the military reports it has resurrected the plan (Trib 1/20):
[U.S.] Special Operations Command-North will build on a commando program that has brought Mexican military, intelligence and law enforcement officials to study U.S. counterterrorist operations, to show them how special operations troops built an interagency network to target al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden and his followers.
Let’s put this into perspective. A taxpayer funded program which led to the rise of Mexico’s most violent cartel AND contributed to the loss of a purported 70,000 lives is now back on the table. Why is that? Are we really so desperate that this rehash of a failed plan is considered viable?
In the last twenty years nothing has changed on the ground in Mexico that necessitates implementing a plan that, at best, could be viewed as the least worst option. The average Mexican citizen, soldier or not, still have the same primary concerns as we do – family, friends and a chance at a safe and prosperous life. Unfortunately, they are still caught between their own flailing government and its authoritarian and underpaid military, and the tempting allure of obscene wealth available to the omnipresent and destructive followers of the cartels.
That is why training and educating Mexican soldiers in antiterrorist tactics is a bad idea. With circumstances in Mexico largely unchanged, who would really be surprised if a new batch of Mexican soldiers used their U.S. funded training for more lucrative pursuits, such as being paid by cartels to root out and eliminate the competition.
Far-fetched? Absolutely not. In the realm of international intrigue, even the best laid plans can fail. File away the above examples as unintended consequences if you must, but in the present day we already know that the cartels have infiltrated every institution in Mexico (and more than a few in our own country as well).
To put it bluntly, this costly redux is nothing more than a short term appeasement to a new Mexican government that is destined to fall on the heads of the average Mexican citizen like an anvil in the days to come. It is a level of foolishness that falls into the category of cliche. In fact, one already comes to mind.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.