Blogger’s Notes: For 10 of the 30 years I served in the military, I had the privilege of being in the California National Guard’s Counterdrug war rooms planning and strategizing missions, formulating policy, and managing operations. I was confident we were on course to secure the border in compliance with President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Directive 221 (The 1986 National Narcotics and Security Act), and President George W. Bush’s National Security Strategy (NSS).
But I feel established politicians snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by failing to apply the national instruments of power. In this post, I speculate how, if elected President, Donald Trump might do what established politicians failed to do with the tools of:
- Diplomacy-How Trump’s rhetoric stacks up against the U.S.-Mexico diplomatic history and how his “Wall Diplomacy” may change the course of this history;
- Informational–Why Trump’s Wall diplomacy is rattling the national illegal immigration and border security narratives;
- Military–why joint U.S. Mexican military engagements are necessary to battle regional security threats in addition to the wall; and
- Economic– how the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) inflames our security threats, and why Trump’s willingness to restructure NAFTA marginalizes these threats while benefiting both the U.S. and Mexican economies.
I begin by talking about the original purpose of the wall……
The Fence Isn’t Supposed to Stop Illegal Immigration
Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump’s aggressive Campaign promise to make Mexico pay for a wall across the Southwest Border has stirred up a political hornet’s nest on both sides of the border.
Trump maybe speaking a language the Political elites have failed to articulate the instruments of national power; the diplomatic, informational, military, and economic (DIME) tools for projecting American ideals of freedom, prosperity, and security abroad to build a safer world. Trump’s so-called “wall'” is a military concept, born from the California National Guard’s 1990 Counterdrug strategy. California National Guard combat engineers locked the manmade fence obstacles into natural obstacles such as mountains, lakes, cities, and deserts, to secure the border.
After completing the first 14 miles of fence, it’s effectiveness was obvious. Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (DLEA) regained operational control of that portion of the border, able to herd drug trafficking organizations (DTO) into inescapable areas where DLEAs could capture them, and intrude into their decision-making circles, forcing them into costly, time-consuming tactics, such as digging tunnels, that delay DTO operations so that DLEAs can close in on them. The fence forced Drug traffickers from San Diego and nearby communities into uninhabitable terrain of the El Centro deserts where they were more easily spotted and contained.
Congressman Duncan Hunter Sr. championed the fence. Under his leadership, the fence gained national momentum convincing Congress to pass the Secure Fence Act of 2006. But politicians and critics have successfully confused the national narrative, polluted diplomatic strategy, and misconstrued economic realities to stall and undermine the Border Security Act.
I see Trump’s pledge to make Mexico pay for the wall as the resolve career politicians lack. But his foreign affairs inexperience, in my opinion, has opened a Pandora’s box of economic, social, and national security issues stemming from porous borders, and exposes the corruption and tyranny Mexicans have endured for more than a century.
The fence was never intended to block illegal immigration as Former Mexican President Vincente Fox erroneously believes, but it is a homeland security tool Trump can use in unison with the other national instruments of power to resolve the illegal immigration challenge.
And Trump’s “build the wall platform” can begin by tearing down a cultural barrier embedded in diplomacy.
The United States diplomatic tendency is to avoid the appearance of inserting itself in Mexico’s internal politics, while protecting American business interests and investments in Mexico.
President Porfirio Diaz, hero of Mexico’s business community, favored an oligarchy of estate-owning hacendados, and exploited the industrious compesinos. His despotism sparked the 1910 Mexican Revolution, overtaking Diaz’s successor, President Francisco I. Madero’s, and his dream of a Democratic Mexico without polarized social classes. US Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson helped slay this dream, allegedly conspiring with Diaz’s nephew, Felix Diaz, and Mexican General Victoriano Huerta to overthrow and assassinate Madero.
During the ensuing Revolution, US President Woodrow Wilson protected American entrepreneurism by recognizing the traitorous President Venustiano Carranza Administration as Mexico’s legitimate government. Wilson then unwittingly helped wipeout vestiges of Madero’s revolutionaries by marginalizing the peasant generals who helped Carranza oust Huerta from power. Wilson sent Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing on the infamous “Punitive Campaign” to capture Poncho Villa, and sat idle after Carranza lured Gen. Emiliano Zapata into a fatal ambush on April, 10, 1919. In the end, Carranza robbed revolutionaries of promised land and labor reforms, and locked out the Catholic Church from the 1917 Mexican Constitution.
More than 90,000 Mexicans died during the Cristero War (1926 – 1929) rebelling against President Plutarco Elias Calles‘ anti-clerical policies implanted in this Constitution. President Calvin Coolidge refused to intervene in the persecution of Catholics until pressured by the Knights of Columbus. Then US Ambassador Dwight W. Morrow danced around religious oppression by negotiating tolerance of religious practice; while preserving the Bucarelli Treaty that Calle excepted American Oil from Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution which barred foreign corporate property ownership.
The treacherous Calle then formed the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR)–predecessor of today’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), consolidating Mexico’s corporate and secular powers, and policing the Catholic Church. The PRI ruled Mexico for 71 continuous years until the National Action Party’s (PAN) won the Presidential election in 2000 under Fox and his successor Felipe Calderon in 2006. The PAN, an ideological extension of Catholic values, began purging government corruption and cutting out the Drug-Cartel cancer.
On Oct. 11, 2006, Calderon decisively launched “Operation Michoacán,” deploying 6,500 federal troops to raid drug plantations and clamp down on drug trafficking. More than 60,000 Mexicans died in Mexico’s drug war from 2000 thru 2012. Another 120,000, not including 27,000 missing, perished in subsequent DTO turf wars.
This changed the diplomatic paradigm, resulting with the 2007 diplomatic Merida Initiative. The agreement coalesced Mexico, Central America, and the United States against Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO) (including terrorist groups) with Mexico pledging to tackle corruption, and expunge DTOs; and the U.S. addressing demand for illegal drugs, and interdict Southbound gun smuggling which fueled Cartel violence. It came with $5.5 billion in U.S. assistance over 5 years to reform Mexico’s police and courts. Plus financial incentives from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for economic development, and Department of Defense (DoD) to train its military.
After PRI presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto was (many suspect fraudulently) elected President in 2012, the Merida Initiative began to fall apart. Nieto altered the agreement, peeling back military protection, de-emphasizing criminal extradition to the US, and nullifying Calderon’s “king pin” strategy of taking out Cartel bosses, reports the Congressional Research Service. The Cartels resurgence retaliated against those who challenged them during the PAN’s drug wars, and King Pins like Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo,” regained their corrupt chokehold on government, or repeatedly escaped Nieto’s corrupt prion systems.
Human Rights complaints consequently soared after Nieto withdrew the population’s military protection. The most grievous being the Iguala mass kidnappings. In what might be considered Nieto’s “Ben Ghazi, because of its similarities to America’s Chief Diplomat, Hillary Clinton’s, alleged failure to act on Ambassador Chris Stevens’ request for security on the 2012 9-11 anniversary, the Mexican president stood down military and police protection. The Gurreros Unidos (United Warriors) crime syndicate allegedly kidnapped and murdered 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher’s College on September 26, 2014 . Ironically, the students were en route to Mexico City to participate in the commemoration of the 1968 Tlatelolco Plaza Massacre when Mexican police and military allegedly gunned down students protesting the PRI.
Nieto and the PRI managed to suppress the Ghosts of Madero, Zapata, and Villa that Fox and Caldera aroused to rout the Cartels, but Trump’s build-a-wall diplomacy could be resurrecting their spirits. Fearing a Trump Administration might conceivably materialize, Mexico has overhauled its diplomatic corps in the United States, and revised its diplomatic strategies around Human, political, and religious rights, according to Mexico’s Secretary of the Economy, Ildefonso Guajardo.
The writing’s on the wall, figuratively speaking, that it will not be diplomacy as usual under a Trump Administration. Mexico’s already spending diplomatic currency to help pay for a wall.
The United States’ diplomatic propensity of supporting Mexico’s secularism and corporatism has skewed the National Narrative. Our narrative is morally narcissistic, omits Mexico’s responsibilities for its people’s welfare, and saturates Americans with guilt. It’s soaked in political correctness like: “deportation is too costly;” “the border fence is inhumane;” “ it obstructs commerce;” “the US economy depends on illegals;” and “America should concentrate on fighting real terrorists.”
The fallacy of this storyline is that it blurs the immigration and border security issues and omits root causes of illegal immigration. Hunter’s Fence had an unplanned effect on illegal immigration. Prior to 1990, hordes of illegal immigrants gathered each dusk, near population areas like San Diego, waiting for dark, to rush past a handful of border agents to blend into U.S. border cities and towns. The fence dispersed these crowds into small bands, roaming uninhabitable deserts, searching for food and water; alarming critics who linked the fence to illegal immigration.
As the US Border Patrol reduced crimes of illegals upon illegals near the fence, the smuggling guides, or “Coyotaje,” increased their prices as a result of the fence. With 46% of its 120 million population living in poverty, it’s difficult to imagine the Mexican laymen can afford coyotajes without Mexican government or Cartel financial assistance. Despite good intentions, therefore, Sanctuary Cities debatably tend to shield criminals employed in Cartel supply and distribution chains as highlighted by chronic felon Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez who allegedly murdered apolitical citizen Kate Steinle.
Criminals that most likely reach America’s major cities via High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDAs), avenues on which CTOs and DTOs supply, distribute and market their contraband; their “Ho Chi Minh Trails,” if you will. Trails replete with processing centers and halfway houses that double as the Human Trafficking industry’s pipeline for marketing prostitution, child pornography, and slave labor in major U.S. cities.
The latter that former Congressman Tom Tancredo suggests in his book, “In Mortal Danger, ” the Mexican Government encourages, publishing and distributing brochures and pamphlets instructing illegal immigrants how to illegally migrate to America and access welfare benefits. By pinning illegals welfare costs to US taxpayers, Mexico increases its own profits from earnings these indentured servants return to their families in Mexico. Money that circulates through, and grows, the Mexican economy, while robbing America of circulation through its economy.
The narrative allows al Qaeda, and presumably the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to slip under the intelligence radar. Terrorist organizations are tenants of these “Ho Chi Minh Trails,” leasing them to smuggle asymmetrical weapons and materials for improvised explosive devices (IED) through the border. During my watch as operations director of Joint Task Force Vista (JTFV), OPERATION JUMP START in 2007, the fence was vital for interdicting and controlling the movement of special interest aliens’ (SIA). It was intelligence (including declassified information from Iraq and Afghanistan battlefields) that alerted us to SIAs with information the Border Patrol needed to know about what SIAs were carrying, predicting where they would penetrate, so authorities could use the fence to canalize them where they wanted them.
The fence fixed-in-place a M-13 drug smuggling operation in Mexico, six miles South of Jacumba Peak near Boulevard, Ca on June 7, 2007. Fixed-in-place is a combat engineer concept that uses obstacles to limit enemy maneuverability to make them a vulnerable target; in this case detection from JTFV Army National Guard helicopters flying on the U.S. side of the border, and satellites operated by Air National Guard Space Operations Squadron.
It was information generated by National Guard entry identification teams (EIT) (recognizance) that we blended with this intelligence to paint the MS-13 operating picture. A system of stockpiling contraband at warehouses inside Mexico near the end of California’s fence, staging it for onward movement onto HIDTAs originating at the Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas borders. MS-13 even had their own observation points, and observers with night-vision devices, monitoring our missions. But with troop withdrawals in Iraq and Afghanistan, DLEAs no longer have the human intelligence (HUMINT) it had in 2007, making the border more vulnerable to ISIS penetration, even with a wall across the entire Southwest border.
It’s rumored that the M-13 is planning to assassinate American cops, and incite violence that might be behind anti-Trump protestors waiving Mexican Flags, burning American flags, and assaulting Trump supporters at rallies. While these inciters, unlikely Mexican patriots, and more likely illegal immigrants, abuse the privilege of free speech, the Mexican government bullies Yo Soy 132 and other anti-PRI groups who dare to speak out in Mexico. Against this backdrop, critics labeling Trump as anti-Latino and racist for saying, “Mexico sends “people with problems, “bringing drugs, crime, and rapists” are arguably guilty of hypocrisy and taking his quote out-of-context by omitting “some are good people.”
Pope Francis himself scolded church leaders and the Mexican Government for fostering “fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence” human trafficking, kidnapping, death, suffering, and delayed economic development during mass at the Mexican border last February. But the Pope also offered a new thesis for the National Narrative: Build Bridges, and not walls which I interpret the Pope as meaning in the evangelistic sense, not the secular gist of a government protecting its people.
Ecclesiastical advice Trump can apply by building a “smarter, not taller” wall with bridges for economic development and Human Rights.
By restating the National Narrative, Trump’s campaign is poised to tear down an erroneous wall of political correctness—militarizing the border. Activists associate the border fence with the Cold War’s Berlin Wall. Silly claims to any historian, military professional, and those who’ve actually visited the border and talked with U.S. Border Patrol and other DLEAs.
Critics of the California National Guard’s border mission exaggerated future visions of the fence, saying machine-gun towers, minefields, and barbed wire are next logical progression of California’s border fence. The obvious intent was to sway public support of the fence. A concept that the Ukraine Military officials, whom I escorted through our Border Operations in the late 90s, mocked and recognized as fiction. They visited our operations under the State Partnership Program (SPP) to learn how to subordinate its military to civilian authorities for its border security missions.
In reality, Mexico militarized the border. With its economic and political power, the Mexican Cartels owed the Mexican Military, often paying for safe passage through their districts. During the course of my career, I observed Mexican soldiers forming bridgeheads inside the US-Mexico border for the Cartels safe entry into California, and saw reports of roving Mexican Humvees reconnoitering for the Cartels on American soil.
The Mexican military has traditionally been the weak link in Western Hemisphere security. They were omitted as part of military diplomacy under” President Ronald Reagan’s Directive 221, and President Bill Clinton’s “Plan Colombia.” A military exception that Mexico’s PRI arguably manipulated by demanding we respect Mexican Sovereignty stemming from past U.S. Conflicts and adherence to the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This omission, in effect, gave Cartels and TCOs safe haven after Columbia marginalized its Cartels’ production and trafficking, according to the Brookings Institute Press.
The United States Military worked around the Mexican military in the 1990s. The United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) provided Columbia military-to-military engagement to attrite its Cartels, while the US Northern Command’s (USNORTHCOM) Joint Task Force-6 provided domestic DLEAs military capabilities, primarily the National Guard, to prevent Columbian Cartels from entering HIDTAs at the border and controlling operations along it.
The American military went to great lengths to avoid entering Mexico or operating militarily inside their country. The fence was built 18-inches on California’s side of the border out of respect for the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. California National Guard operations were organized with the lessons learned from Pershing’s Punitive Expedition, adhering to military discipline to protect the border as Pershing requested Wilson to mobilize the National Guard, a federal component, to do under the National Defense Act of 1916; and to preclude Governors, such as Texas, from sparking war with Mexico when it organized its “little punitive campaign” to pursue both Carranza forces and Vista raiders who attacked Glenn Springs, Texas on May 5, 1916.
But history shows us that the Mexican military must, and can, be part of the military strategy to eradicate Cartels and TCOs. We saw Mexico’s National will to rebel against the Cartels Tierney under the Merida Initiative. Fox’s and Calderon’s “War on Drugs” emboldened emboldened the Mexican military, public officials, and journalists to stand up to the cartels, endure beheadings, public hangings of corpses, car bombings, tortures, and assassinations as a PAN-led government reduced Cartels from 12 to four.
But the Nieto Administration started dismantling the Merida Initiative in 2012. Nieto has peeled back military protection and nullified Calderon’s strategy of taking out the Cartel’s “King Pins.” But he continues accepting billions of United States assistance to train judges, attorneys, and police to reform a judicial system that jails our Marines, decreases extradition to the U.S., and reduces criminal prosecutions against the Cartels, according to the Congressional Research Service. Perhaps most dangerous, drug lords like El Chapo remain on the prowl, jeopardizing global security.
It’s in both Mexico’s and the U.S.’s security interest to collaborate militarily to quash the Cartels and Transnational Criminal Organizations. Restoring the Merida Initiative‘s tenet to battle Cartels, to include U.S. military-to-military engagement policy, could also be currency Mexico can use to help pay for Trump’s Wall, while simultaneously removing a regional threat.
A Trump Administration could build a bridge by busting up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The California National Guard Counterdrug Command staff cringed when the House of Representatives enacted NAFTA in 1993, believing it exacerbated black markets.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (CHA) substantiated this fear in a March 20, 2015 article titled: “NAFTA and Drug Trafficking: Perpetuating Violence and the Illicit Supply Chain.” CHA says the Mexican government caved into the DTOs bribes, and catapulted Mexico into a centrally planned economy. Mexican President Carlos Salinas raped Article 27 of the 1917 Mexican Constitution, empowering Mexico’s ruling class to channel NAFTA’s foreign investments into Mexico’s Northern states, particularly in the states of Guerrero and Michoacá. NAFTA effectively starved its Southern States bordering Guatemala and Belize of entrepreneurial opportunities.
Mexican politicians rescinded subsidies for farmers, and eliminated government price regulation for the poor, CHA reports. Mexico imported more than 50% of its food from the U.S. and Canada under NAFTA, reversing nearly 100 years of food production independence, triggering dramatic food increases, driving down per capita income, and igniting an exodus of illegal migration northward.
American manufacturing companies benefited from the revocation of Mexico’s Constitutional land and labor reforms. Mexico’s Labor Department with its historical penchant for oppressing labor doesn’t oppose American manufacturing industries using Mexico’s cheap labor as a bargaining chip for negotiating with American unions, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s Jeff Faux. The economist says American labor either accepts lower wages in America, or see their jobs go to Mexico. Nearly 700,000 American jobs have moved to Mexico.
NAFTA is jackpot for Cartels. The Cartels not only offer employment within its supply and distribution chains, according to CHA, but surges its profits. The Cartels control NAFTA‘s tariff free-zones near the border, the CHA says, spiking the flow of rail-containers exponentially through border ports of entry, overwhelming the U.S. Customs Service’s manpower and technology to search them for illegal drugs.
By advocating “better deals for America,” the man who wrote “The Art of the Deal, could bridge gaps by restructuring NAFTA to bring Mexico’s economy on par with the United States, enhance security, and mitigate incentives for migrating north. But a better deal also threatens greedy interests and the affluent. It’s small wonder that Fox calls Trump the “Ugly American,” Nieto says he’s “Hitler,” and El Chapo’s rumored to have offered a $100 million bounty for the billionaire’s head.
Greedy interests and corrupt political parties stand to suffer economic and political deprivation if Trump’s elected President.
Conclusion: A DIME and Some Change
An anonymous U.S. Army Officer told Newsday in 1991, that the U.S. military is capable of plugging the [Southwest Border] holes permanently, and that it’s absurd [to believe] that the “most powerful Nation on earth cannot prevent a swarming land invasion by unarmed Mexican peasants.” The fact that Trump’s “Wall Diplomacy” started with Congressman Duncan Hunter’ Sr.’s fence, is tribute to California National Guard’s Counterdrug program; and testimony to the military community’s capability to plug holes.
But a “smarter” barrier system, not “taller wall,” complemented with diplomatic, informational, and economic instruments of national power are needed to resolve the broader issues of illegal immigration, economic disparity, and human rights plaguing Mexico and South America. As a lifetime Democrat I despise Trump’s bombastic rhetoric, and take umbrage that I would ever become bored with winning if he’s elected President. But I have grown weary of career politicians who arrogantly tout their foreign policy experience, and use the art of political correctness to try to convince me that losing is an acceptable way of life.
Trump’s perceived arrogance is arguably a swagger that all politicians lack; and this novice politician’s business acumen could transform into DIME savvy with a “Build the Wall Diplomacy,” that wins the “War on Drugs” and minimizes terrorist intrusions; with change leftover to construct those bridges the Pope’s advising us to build.