The Great Mary O’Grady on the U.S. Border Crisis

by Don Boudreaux on July 21, 2014

in Country Problems, Crime, Current Affairs, Immigration, Politics, Reality Is Not Optional

The Wall Street Journal‘s Mary Anastasia O’Grady rightly refuses to join the chorus of sanctimonious and ill-informed conservatives who blame Barack Obama for the appalling spectacle on display now on the U.S.’s southwestern border.  Obama deserves special blame for countless follies and problems; he’s an insufferably officious, duplicitous, arrogant, and economically ignorant politician (which is to say, an utter scoundrel).  But this problem is at least as much the fault of American conservatives as it is of “liberals.”

Mary’s essay is behind a paywall; here, though, are some slices:

In a nation where it is not uncommon to hear the other side of the Rio Grande referred to as “South America,” it is amusing to observe the recent wave of self-anointed experts in the U.S. opining authoritatively on the causes of child migration from Central America.

Some of these are talking heads of conservative punditry who seem to know zip about the region and show no interest in learning. They wing it, presumably because they believe their viewers and listeners will never know the truth and don’t care. What matters is proving that the large number of unaccompanied minors piling up at the border is President Obama’s fault for somehow signaling that they would not be turned back. The origins of the problem are deemed unimportant and the fate of the children gets even less attention.

Thank heaven for four-star Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, who knows something about war and failed states and now heads the U.S. military’s Southern Command, which keeps an eye on the region. He has spent time studying the issue and is speaking up. Conservatives may not like his conclusions, in which the U.S. bears significant responsibility, but it is hard to accuse a four-star of a “blame America first” attitude.’

….

But when a U.S. interdiction strategy in the Caribbean raised costs, trafficking shifted to land routes up the Central American isthmus and through Mexico. With Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s war on the cartels, launched in 2007, the underworld gradually slithered toward the poorer, weaker neighboring countries. Venezuela, under Hugo Chávez, began facilitating the movement of cocaine from producing countries in the Andes to the U.S., also via Central America.

In a July 8 essay in the Military Times headlined “Central America Drug War a Dire Threat to U.S. National Security,” Gen. Kelly explains that he has spent 19 months “observing the transnational organized crime networks” in the region. His conclusion: “Drug cartels and associated street gang activity in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which respectively have the world’s number one, four and five highest homicide rates, have left near-broken societies in their wake.

….

Gen. Kelly writes that the children are “a leading indicator of the negative second- and third-order impacts on our national interests.” Whether the problem can be solved by working harder to bottle up supply, as the general suggests, or requires rethinking prohibition, this crisis was born of American self-indulgence.

Bottling up the supply of drugs will not work.  Episodes from history (as well as this very crisis itself) speak this conclusion loudly and clearly.  Instead, we must end drug prohibition.  Ending drug prohibition will not only reduce the horrible violence that rages today in Latin America – and, hence, help to alleviate the connected immigration woes – it is also the only policy consistent with the U.S.’s boast that it is the land of the free.

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