Cross-border operations, the Republicans argue, would weaken the most powerful Mexican drug cartels and reduce the trafficking of fentanyl and other narcotics. Since the attacks would be carried out with or without the knowledge of the Mexican government, labeling the cartels as terrorist organizations would provide the necessary legal cover.
To undermine the cartels’ ability to carry drugs across the border or to persuade the Mexican government to crack down on them, missile strikes or cross-border operations are unlikely to succeed.
Mexicans, who have long been Trump’s scapegoat, would suffer the most from such attacks. There is little reason to expect that missile strikes or cross-border raids would damage the capacity of the cartels to smuggle narcotics across the border or force the Mexican government to crack down, and President Trump has a limited understanding of the mechanics of military power.
The peaceful relationship between the United States and Mexico has endured for almost a century, but such actions would undoubtedly disrupt this. Neither the United Nations nor regional multilateral operations receive significant military support from Mexico. It stands out compared to Canada, which spends twice as much on defense in raw, non-PPP adjusted numbers despite having a fourth of the population and a smaller economy.
Because it cannot protect its emigrant populations or recover lost territories, Mexico has adopted an unusual national security policy because it cannot build a military capable of resisting the United States. When compared to the “Mexican” strategies of Ukraine and Poland toward Russia, Canada has traditionally adopted a much more activist military and foreign policy. Instead of accommodating China, Vietnam’s security policy is based on measured resistance.
Mexico is vast and prosperous enough to afford to explore several options. The Mexican government can afford to devote a larger share of its GDP to the military since it is not impoverished.
Previous US presidents, however, have avoided even implying that strikes against Mexicans were possible.
Trump’s foreign policy would make that issue much more likely to materialize.