U.S. Double Standards: ISIS and Murders in Mexico
The Mexico conflict is the U.S.’s most unjustifiable strategic blind spot.
- Militants are destabilizing a major oil producing country next to a NATO member without repercussion -- in Mexico.
- Unlike ISIS, the US hasn’t bombed Mexican cartels despite their attacks on Americans and territorial control.
- Every argument for the aggressive response toward ISIS could be made toward the conflict in Mexico.
- Mexican cartels have killed more US citizens inside the US itself than were killed by al-Qaeda on 9/11.
- Mexican cartels have even attacked US consulates. Where are the Benghazi-style “investigations”?
There are heavily armed militants with substantial military experience terrorizing, extorting and beheading people in a major oil-producing desert country to the south of a NATO member, destabilizing a wide region encompassing many countries.
They are the Mexican cartels and the United States hasn’t bombed them at all (unlike ISIS), even as they have captured and held territory for years on end.
Even two dozen student protesters being mass-executed and set on fire – either by the cartel-captured local government/law enforcement or by the government’s convenient cartel fall-guys willing to confess – has barely stirred a reaction in the United States.
The overall numbers of victims in the last eight years – whether in mass graves or individual assassinations – are astonishing.
A more horrifying problem than ISIS?
ISIS is held up for its barbarity. But the cartels in Mexico have them beat there, too, with far more public beheadings and dismemberments. There has also been a far more systematic campaign against reporters and citizen journalists in Mexico than anything seen from ISIS.
The treatment of women is at least as bad under the Mexican cartels as under ISIS but on a much vaster scale, with thousands upon thousands being enslaved, sexually trafficked or sexually assaulted to intimidate communities.
U.S. airstrikes this summer in Iraq began when ISIS forces came within a few dozen miles of the U.S. consulate in Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, while U.S. airstrikes in Syria came after two beheadings in Raqqa, Syria.
How does that stack up with Mexico? The Mexican cartels have not only staged attacks and assassinations inside the United States but have killed more U.S. citizens inside the United States itself than were killed by al-Qaeda on 9/11. The cartels have even attacked U.S. consulate compounds. (Where are the endless Benghazi-style “investigations”?)
In contrast, ISIS has not staged any attacks in the United States, or killed large numbers of U.S. citizens anywhere, for that matter. They’re bad, but are they a bigger threat?
Perhaps it’s just that it’s politically easier to conduct airstrikes in Syria or Iraq – without getting substantive pushback from the relevant governments – than it would be in Mexico.
(And I’m not saying this to make an argument for a U.S. military intervention in Mexico, since that would be the wrong approach, too.)
Why a double standard?
Or is Mexico “one of us” – a fellow North American civilization of suit-wearing businessmen and politicians who are good Christians? Whereas, perhaps ISIS is an “orientalist” archetypal threat led by people who “dress funny” and claim to be Muslims, who were supposed to be the big cultural threat to “the West” before “the West” tore itself apart over Martin Luther’s ideas?
Consider: Republican members of Congress are more likely to fabricate elaborate tales of Islamist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah crossing into the United States from Mexico to stage attacks than to talk about actual infiltrations by Mexican cartels to murder U.S. citizens. (Perhaps they just lump the latter in under a general antipathy toward all Mexicans entering the United States.)
Another argument for a U.S. intervention against ISIS – in Iraq at least – was that the United States owed it to the people of Iraq (including but not limited to Kurdish allies) to protect them from some of the unintended consequences of US actions.
But the United States has arguably done more, historically, to destabilize Mexico than it has done to destabilize Iraq, so Americans probably owe them more.
Moreover, while the United States doesn’t buy oil from ISIS (not even indirectly) and fill their coffers, its population does buy a vast sea of illegal drugs from the Mexican cartels. The United States is directly fueling and arming this conflict in Mexico.
The Mexico conflict is the most egregious and unjustifiable strategic blind spot the United States currently has anywhere in the world. Every argument raised for the aggressive response toward ISIS could have been (and still can be) made toward the ongoing conflict in Mexico.
And yet only one situation earned the response. That should raise serious questions about U.S. policy in both places, as well as questions about how U.S. officials assess threat severity and then how the country handles it.