THE MAGAZINE

Looking Ahead: Disaster Response

By Matthew Harwood

There’s a lot of talk about American guns fueling Mexico’s drug war. Is that accurate?

It’s a complex issue. There is no doubt that there are some weapons coming from the United States. But I think what is equal to or greater than the threat of weapons from the U.S. getting into Mexico are weapons coming into Mexico that do not come from the United States. One source is Central and South America, where weapons from the guerilla wars remain plentiful. Governments have had a hard time controlling the weapons that were provided to them in the 1980s and 1990s. These criminal groups can buy anywhere, and they can buy in volume. We’ve seen recently huge caches of high-tech weapons that are not coming from the United States. These are military-grade weapons, not a shotgun coming from Texas or a handgun from Louisiana.

What has the United States learned from its security cooperation with Mexico?

The Mexican security forces have a very effective human intelligence network. Their ability to understand the threat they are facing is good. The challenge they have is doing something about it. They’ve done a good job within the limits of their domestic laws of building a pretty solid picture of these criminal groups. We’ve used some of their techniques to look at other terrorist groups around the world.

What’s one commonsense way to bring more security to the Southwest border?

It’s all about information sharing. Securing the border means using the tools available in a more efficient way. No one agency, department, or jurisdiction has the capacity to go it alone. As reluctant as we sometimes are to share information or equipment or technology, that’s the only way we can handle this. And it has to be balanced with our longstanding and strong economic ties with Mexico and Canada, two of America’s biggest trading partners. We have to balance security with civil liberties so that all elements of government are brought to bear. We need to do a better job of integrating the corporate sector, too. They are not just trying to sell us something; they have knowledge, they have skills. We have to find ways to get them in the fight too.

 

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