Former president Trump proposed a naval blockade of Mexico. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged to send drones and Special Forces over the southern border starting “on day one.” Investor Vivek Ramaswamy imagined launching a “shock-and-awe” military campaign against drug cartels. Republican candidates are in a rhetorical arms race, vying to one-up each other with tough talk on the U.S. border with Mexico, taking Trump's 2016 rallying cry to “build the wall” to the next level. The bellicose proposals reflect widespread Republican outrage over immigration, as well as the ongoing crisis of opioid deaths. “It’s now time for America to wage war on the cartels,” Trump said in a campaign video. Mexican officials and security analysts have cautioned that military force by the U.S. would fail to stop drug trafficking while torching relations with its southern neighbor and risking significant casualties, the Washington Post reports.
“I understand the political appeal of holing out one of these guys at 50 yards,” said Justin Logan of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. “It is not a 1950s Western with guys in white hats and guys in black hats. It is a very serious and tricky problem that is tough to solve with a hammer. You could wind up with an awful lot of bloodshed on the border and plenty of fentanyl to go around, which would be the worst of all possible outcomes.” The Republicans frame their eagerness for warfare on the southern border in contrast to more far-flung military entanglements, particularly in Ukraine, as GOP support for a prolonged commitment there shows signs of waning. Despite widespread public disenchantment with U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Republican proposals often draw on those conflicts as models for strikes in Mexico. Security analysts said those proposals rely on a misguided idea of how Mexican drug trafficking works. Falko Ernst, a Mexico analyst for the International Crisis Group, said comparisons to combating ISIS are wrong. Those Islamist militants were imposed from the outside. Mexican traffickers, in contrast, are deeply embedded in their communities. Republicans have “the illusion you have a clearly delineated threat” in Mexico that “stands apart from the rest of society, politics and the economy, one that can be surgically removed, a cancer-like growth in the body,” Ernst said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”