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March 09, 2009

Mexico - Jeremy Black asks, is this the future for the British army?

Posted by Jeremy Black

Most military commentary and history focuses on wars, and understandably so. Yet this attention can lead to a lack of focus on other uses of the military. That of the Mexican army in dealing with large-scale and heavily-armed criminal gangs involved in the drug trade is notable at the present. In part, this involvement reflects the difficulties encountered by the police, and notably in the face of deliberate attacks by the gangs. Such a commitment may appear a world away from that of the British army, but it would be mistaken to draw too sharp a distinction. Instead, such tasks may become pressing for two reasons. First, British units may be deployed under EU or NATO mandates to deal with similar problems elsewhere in Europe, notably in the Balkans. Secondly, the possibility of such a crisis in Britain itself within the next half-century is not implausible if policing breaks down in a particular area. Scarcely to be desired, of course, and the military, understandably, prefer to focus on force projection, but the issue of domestic peace needs to be borne in mind when considering doctrine, training, weaponry and force structure.

Jeremy Black is Professor of History, University of Exeter, and the author of War Since 1990.

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Why talk about Mexico when we have the Irish. The troubles have begun again in Armagh. We had to fight an internal war against terrorists in Ulster. The IRA supports itself by drug-dealing. So what's new?
The real problem in England is not going to be gang warfare but the Muslim problem which is far beyond the capacity of the police to deal with as we saw recently in Mumbai.
Our inspiration should be Irish, the gallant soldiers of the Irish Free State who fought for the Treaty with admirable ruthlessness.

Posted by: Seamus at March 9, 2009 08:24 PM

There's much to comment upon here, for such a small article.

Firstly, the Mexican army (and, to a certain extent, the Navy) is being used to supply firepower in the anti-narco campaigns because this effort is now controlled at Federal level. The rationale for this was largely due to the tendency towards greater corruption of State-level law enforcement, the ease with which such corruption could apparently be achieved, and the lack of coordinated approaches between State forces.

Secondly, this Federal effort is directed at the very highest level of the drug-gang infrastructure. The street-corner pushers and users are largely left alone as the real damage is being done by those in control of a supply-chain geared towards an external user base, viz. the United States.

As the UK's drug issues largely involve it being and end-user, rather than a part of a larger distribution network, such an approach towards centralised control and delivery of force in 'fight against crime' could only be used once local corruption had reached critical levels. I do not believe that the public would stand for having squaddies busting down doors at 3.00AM unless the situation was far, far worse than it is now.

It is entirely possible that British squaddies could be used in a Mexican-style effort elsewhere in Europe but this would be generally easier to conceal from the public, should there be discontent, as it would not directly affect them.

Posted by: Eddie Willers at March 10, 2009 12:37 PM

"tendency towards greater corruption of State-level law enforcement, the ease with which such corruption could apparently be achieved"

Your knowledge of Mexican internal politics is appallingly bad. Get your Spanish dictionary out and look up "plomo o plata." Just as it took the Feds to break big time crooks in the US during prohibition, the Federales are what it will take to break the narcotraficantes in EUM. The cure for this is the same, btw. Legalize drugs and spend the money on treatment, not enforcement and/or prisons. And no it won't be pretty or perfect, but it will be cheaper and less likely to corrupt politicians.

Posted by: RKV at March 19, 2009 04:45 AM
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