La guerra que prefieren los generales
MEXICO CITY: Finally President Calderon, in recent statements, has acknowledged the growing consensus in the country that the Army should return to the barracks. Calderon has admitted, “There is enormous pressure that the troops not be in the streets,"
What makes the president's admission unsettling is that it could lead to a repugnant conclusion:
That after nothing has been won in this war, the Army must withdraw, recognizing the defeat of the Mexican State by the forces of organized crime.
Maybe it's time to interpret the call by civil society state in a different manner. The Army should be withdrawn from the streets, not declaring defeat, but to act like a true military.
Since the Army was brought to the streets to combat organized crime it has been used with one arm tied behind it’s back, performing police functions within police constraints among the civilian population, when the military could and should be waging a war against crime with their full monopoly of power as a force trained and equipped to face the enemy in direct and extremely violent confrontation.
Retired and outspoken Major General Luis Garfias Magana, no longer bound by the limits imposed by civilain control of the military, has another approach to the “drug war”.
General Garfias explains, "We talk about 40% of national territory where the State no longer governs, a 40% that is slowly spreading.”
If we divide the country into grids. If we clearly identify which areas are no longer governed by the rule of law and governed by organized crime. If these regions are isolated and sealed. If we evacuate the unarmed population. If we isolate and seal those regions imposing a state of emergency, with a suspension of individual guarantees, as permitted under Article 29 of the Constitution in areas where order is seriously disturbed
"Then the army could come after them with all it’s might. By air, by land and by sea. With planes and helicopters, tanks and ships. To not leave a single rock unturned."
If this is a war, implies the general, then so be it. The President and Congress should take the necessary steps to wage a territorially limited war and set the conditions for achieving the mission quickly. "According to the military this mission would last weeks or months," says General Garfias, “not years.”
Another crucial role the military should have depends on the President’s focus as to the objective of this war. Renounce broad war against crime and drug trafficking across Mexico, and decide to restrict the scope of the conflict to the safety of civilians.
The safety of the civilian population should not be defined by the extermination of the bandits, even for the drastic decrease of persons engaged in illicit activities. It should be defined by the dramatic depletion of crimes that directly destroy the lives of civilians. Theft, extortion, kidnapping and homicide.
Another Major General, who asked that his name not be revealed given the nature of his statement, stated a similar view. "It’s fine by me if the drug cartels build a pipeline carrying cocaine direct from Sinaloa to California. If America does not wage war against drug dealers, why do we fight against those who transport drugs to keep American distributors happy? What we should care for is a life free of crime and fear for Mexicans. "
This second approach does not contradict former General Garfias’ views which are directed to recapturing the areas where the rule of the Mexican State has been expelled. This second approach would be appropriate for the rest of the country and provides for an armed force of elite mobility and special attack, an elite force that in the short term can only be formed from the ranks of the Army or Navy.
If members of a cartel steal, extort, kidnap or kill a civilian, this group reacts by attacking the cartel with a focused and ferocious intensity.
Defining the objective of the war as the safety of civilians has specific benefits. It allows civilians to accept this war as their war. This would encourage drug lords to restrict the activities of their forces, to contain them, control them, as has been the case for some time across our northern border in the U.S.
This policy would allow the Army to choose the areas of conflict to their advantage and that of the civilian polulations. And finally, it would give an objective criterion to a declaration of victory.
When asked the question of who decided on this war and how to fight it, the President or the Generals of the Mexican Army, General Garfias laconically responded, “the President.”
Some military officers now believe it is time for the military to decide how to wage this war.