Obama’s Policy to Fight Mexican Drug Cartels is Doomed to Fail

The Obama administration, rather than dealing with the root cause of the violence along the Mexican border, has decided to adopt a policy to deal with the symptoms. The problem is that this policy will neither alleviate the symptoms nor come close to treating the problem.

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration promised Tuesday to help Mexico fight its drug war by cutting off the cartels’ supply of guns and profits, while resisting the Texas governor’s call for a troop surge at the border to ward off spillover violence.

Let’s assume for a moment that Obama’s policy to prevent Mexico bound firearms from leaving the U.S. 100% successful. Given the fact that the drug cartels can acquire firearms from other sources (such as corrupt Mexican government agents with access to firearms among other sources) the only difference would be that the firearms are no longer coming from the U.S.

The Obama administration correctly identifies that the drug cartels are so powerful because of the profitability of the illicit drug trade. It’s this ability to make enormous profits, particularly in an impoverished country as Mexico, that attracts players into the business and makes corruption on the part of government officials almost irresistible. Unfortunately, though the Obama administration has identified the profitability of the drug trade as the source of the drug cartels’ power, there is clearly a profound misunderstanding of the way basic economics work (as if the bailouts, handouts, and myriad of other government programs were not proof enough).

The steps announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano – 450 federal agents shifted to border duty, supplied with dogs trained to detect both drugs and cash, and scanners to check vehicles and railcars heading into Mexico – amount to a subtle but important shift:

The blockade of contraband will now be a two-way effort. The fence begun under the Bush administration will be completed, to deter smugglers of drugs and workers. But the new emphasis will be on disrupting the southbound flow of profits and weapons that fuel the cartels.

At his televised news conference Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that for now, it’s more important to disrupt the cartels’ access to profits and weapons than to fortify the border with soldiers.

“That’s what makes them so dangerous,” he said. “The steps that we’ve taken are designed to make sure that the border communities in the United States are protected and you’re not seeing a spillover of violence. … If the steps that we’ve taken do not get the job done, then we will do more.”

So what’s wrong with this approach? The basic economic law of supply and demand tells us that whenever a product is in high demand (drugs in this case) and the supply is lower (in this case by successful drug interdiction by the U.S. governemnt), those who supply the given demand stand to profit more NOT LESS! Whether Obama’s policy results in a decrease in the supply of drugs of 1% or 99%, those drugs which do make it to the end customer will pay even more to get them.

I would even go as far as to say that the Mexican drug cartels would cheer this policy. Sure, the cartels might have more difficulty moving their product into the U.S. and their profit and firearms out of the U.S. but for the most clever smugglers, these enhanced drug interdiction efforts would filter out the competition! (And we know how black market operators hate competition).

On some level, I do believe that even the political class understand this but somewhere, there is a disconnect. Just yesterday in her visit to Mexico, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that the war on (some) drugs over the past 30+ years “has not worked.”

“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.”

And now the disconnect:

“Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians…”

Mrs. Clinton apparently recognizes how the war on (some) drugs has been an abject failure fails to realize that the Chosen One’s policies will do little to reverse this trend. If she truly wants to do something productive, something has to be done about what she (correctly) describes as this “insatiable demand” for these drugs. She seems to understand that the “Just say No” campaign didn’t work but does she and others within the Obama administration really believe that more drug hysteria PSA’s will do anything to curb this demand?

Given how the Obama administration has decided to deal with the drug war related violence along the border, I’m not optimistic. If spending billions of dollars annually on this insane war on (some) drugs which has contributed to leading the world in the number of people in prison (imprisoning 1 out of every 100 adults; more than half of the U.S. prison population is there because of drug related offenses) has failed to curb the demand, then perhaps it’s time to try a different approach.

Nothing short of legalizing the drug trade will stop the violence, so why does the politicos, law enforcement, and government bureaucrats at almost every level continue the same “get tough” policy which clearly has not worked? The only conclusion I can come to: they must be high.

  • Thomas Harris


    If everyone would just quit bitching about Obama’s “job performance” and do a tiny bit of research they would come to the conclusion that Obama is not only not qualified to be POTUS but probably is not even a naturalized US citizen.

    Support Orly Taitz in her heroic battle to expose this fraud.


  • Francisco Méndez

    Please, try to translate my comments since my English is not as good as my Spanish.
    Muy acertados sus comentarios acerca de la incapacidad de la Admón. de Obama para atacar el problema del contrabando de droga desde México y de armas de aquí para allá. Soy de México y radico legalmente en USA desde hace algunos años. El problema que veo aquí en USA es el de la educación: la mayor parte de las personas no tienen acceso a las universidades por el alto costo de las colegiaturas y tienen que conformarse con ganarse la vida haciendo algo que no les gusta, de ahí la frustración en la vida y el posible refugio en las drogas ilegales para sentirse bien aunque sea por un rato y a costa de su propia salud y del poco dinero que pueden obtener trabajando en trabajos menores, ya que saben que jamás podrán ser doctores o abogados como sin duda es o era su sueño. Tan alto es el costo de la universidad que USA no tiene suficientes profesionistas y tienen que venir ingenieros o doctores de India, Nepal y otros lugares a trabajar en la construcción de sus puentes o en los hospitales norteamericanos. Efectivamente, meter a la cárcel a los drogadictos no es la solución, ni tampoco lo será tratar de frenar la venta de armas a los mafiosos mexicanos. Siempre habrá quien les venda armas. Lo que deben hacer aquí en USA es elevar la calidad de vida de sus habitantes. Hay gente que trabaja dos turnos y apenas si le alcanza el salario para irla pasando. El sistema económico que se ha practicado en este país desafortunadamente sólo ha beneficiado a los que están arriba; los de abajo, que son la inmensa mayoría, no viven bien y lo que es peor, no se sienten bien porque no están a gusto con el sistema; por eso votaron por Obama en las pasadas elecciones, ya que éste pregonaba un cambio sin definir por supuesto dicho cambio, hasta ahora que todo mundo se da cuenta que intenta implementar un sistema tipo socialista que le va a hacer mucho daño a esta gran nación. Si lograran rebajar el costo de las colegiaturas universitarias y mas gente tuviera acceso a una carrera profesional, habría menos drogadictos y por ende menor demanda de drogas en este gran país que desafortunadamente esta pasando sus peores momentos en la historia contemporánea. Un saludo y muchas gracias.