Time: “You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Peña Nieto, according to the excerpt given to AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”
With Trump it is difficult to tell bluster and carney-barker showmanship from serious consideration or actual intention. While clearly a threat, the remark may have been intended only to intimidate, and the ascription of cowardice to the Mexican army only ill-bred. Trump’s military record leaves no doubt as to his own courage. Given his administration’s threats of military action–war–against China and Iran, the possibility that he will send troops southward may be worth pondering. Whether the President has the faintest idea of what would be involved in very much worth pondering.
To begin with, the narcos look exactly like everybody else in Mexico. They do not carry ID cards saying “Narcotraficante.” They can easily blend into the general population. If GIs try to operate here, the inability to distinguish narcos from everybody else will quickly lead to intense frustration. Frustrated troops become angry. They begin to hate the locals as in all such wars they hated the dinks, gooks, slopes, zipperheads, sand niggers, and rag-heads. Mexicans will begin to seem treacherous to them, as always happens when US troops go to countries they do not understand. All Mexicans will come under suspicion.
Soldiers, being young, usually not too bright, poorly educated, with no experience of other cultures, will start knocking people around. It always happens. Always. It is exactly what happened in Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia. There will be beatings, people slapped about, mistaken raids with the man of the house handcuffed, thrown to the floor, and humiliated in front of his wife. This is what happens when when you chase will-o-the-wisp narcos or terrs or mujaheddin or VC or commies on the basis of shaky information from unreliable sources with agendas of their own.
American forces will be called “advisers” or maybe “trainers” by the Pentagon, but Mexicans will see them as invaders. Since the Mexican constitution forbids the deployment of foreign forces in the country, they will indeed be invaders, although the Mexican government will be pressured into “inviting” them.. No country well tolerates arrogant, blundering, heavy-handed alien myrmidons with the power to push them around. GIs will not be regarded as friends or saviors.
Much of the narco culture springs from the Sierra Madre Occidental, very rough mountainous land traversed by trails and dirt roads that the narcos know well and GIs never will. People here are tough, leading lives harder than any in modern America. For many of them the drug trade is a miraculous thing allowing them more than a very hard-scrabble existence. American troops bumbling about here would accomplish nothing. The Pentagon, again, would rely on drone operators with no way of knowing who they were killing.
To make things worse, much worse, the narcos are neither helpless nor poorly armed. They have AKs, RPGs. They have years of experience in combat, with each other or the Mexican army. They are skilled at ambushes. When you look exactly like the rest of the population, and the American soldiers look like space aliens, they are easy to ambush. The American reaction to a few dead GIs will be hysterical. The narcos will use ambushes in populated areas to make troops fire wildly, killing children, grandmothers, young women. This will turn the country further against the invaders. Not nice, but effective.
The US will rely on its new toys, drones, and on helicopters to try to compensate for the fact that Mexico is a huge country with lots of very nasty terrain. Drone operators don’t know who they are shooting at. This means that, as always happens, always, they will kill a lot of innocent people. The American media will suppress the these killings, as they do in America’s other invasions, but the Mexicans will know. The military doesn’t care as long as killings do not result in bad publicity. The Trump administration will refer to these slaughters as “isolated incidents.” An isolated incident is business as usual that has been detected.
It takes very little killing of innocents to generate hatred. The public will regard the invaders as worse than the narcos and withhold cooperation, which will make the invaders yet more angry. Further, cooperating with the US will be dangerous. The narcos respond very badly to such things. The Mexican army will be compelled by the US to assist the invaders but will be unenthusiastic. Soon the Americans will be complaining that they are getting little help in what the GIs will be told is a campaign to help Mexico.,
This too is routine and inevitable. In all of its invasions, in Southeast Asia, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, the Pentagon makes a show of training local forces to “defend their countries,” to stand up and fight whatever it is that the United-States doesn’t like. This means encouraging, or forcing, citizens of a country to kill other citizens of the same country. Only the Pentagon could be surprised when this works poorly. Picture China’s invading the US and forcing Virginians to fight Texans. And so in country after country the Americans complain about the indigenous army, of its poor fighting quality, low morale, desertion, payrolls padded with ghost soldiers, theft of weapons, and troops going over to the enemy.
Mexico is very large, about 2000 miles across the northern border and about 1200 driving miles from Laredo to Tuxtla Gutierrez. Much of it is godawful for infantry operations. Necessarily the troops will be able to operate only in small parts of the country. The narcos will easily go around them. Since a small number of troops will accomplish nothing, there will be calls for more troops.