Former President Trump has talked privately about U.S. military action in Mexico, and now the idea has become increasingly popular in the Republican Party, the New York Times reports. On the presidential campaign trail and on the GOP debate stage in California last week, nearly every Republican candidate has been advocating versions of a plan to send U.S. Special Operations troops into Mexican territory to kill or capture drug cartel members and destroy their labs and distribution centers. On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers have drafted a broad authorization for the use of military force against cartels — echoing the war powers Congress gave former President George W. Bush before the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. They have also pushed for designating Mexican cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, an idea Trump flirted with as president but backed off after Mexico hotly objected.
Now, if Trump returns to the White House in 2025, he has vowed to push for the designations and to deploy Special Operations troops and naval forces to, as he put it, declare war on the cartels. The plans have angered officials in Mexico. Its president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has denounced the proposals as outrageous and unacceptable. It has been more than a century since the U.S. sent military personnel into Mexico without the Mexican government’s assent. Mexico has a bitter history with U.S. interference: Much of the southwestern United States was part of Mexico before the U.S. took it by force in the middle of the 19th century. To this day, Mexico generally does not allow U.S. agents with guns to carry out operations on its soil. Analysts have warned about the potential for military action to cause significant economic damage. The plans could rupture the U.S. relationship with Mexico, its largest trading partner. Some Republicans view the threat of sending the military into Mexico as a negotiating tool to force Mexican officials to get aggressive with the cartels.