The NYTimes reported today about "changing tactics in border-related crime". That makes my hands sweat as I think about Iraqi militias and their effect on innocent civilians. Terrorism, the violent acts committed in order to intimidate, has arrived in North America. The local populace is becoming more fearful of cooperating with authorities. It is simply becoming more dangerous to do so.
This is a direct threat to U.S. security. "There is real danger that Islamic extremist groups such as al-Qaida and Hezbollah could form alliances with wealthy and powerful Latin American drug lords to launch new terrorist attacks, U.S. officials said." CURT ANDERSON, AP News. We've already seen Mexican drug cartels invade our prisons and our military. Now they are in our cities and towns.
(This is not a blast wall in Baghdad. This is on the Arizona/Mexico border.)
Home invasions, kidnapping, assassinations, hostage taking for ransom, and street violence involving military style weaponry is an increasing threat to U.S. citizens in Arizona. The good news: "federal authorities have said there is no sign that the pattern of beheadings and mutilations of victims and the regular killings of law enforcement officers that characterize the violence in Mexico has arrived in the United States."
In January the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said our SWAT teams were ready if the Mexican drug violence crossed the border into Texas. He was off by by only two states. That's not good enough.
We have seen what uncontrolled militias did (and are still doing) to the innocent civilians in Iraq. We failed miserably in our first attempts to control the militias in Iraq, and we are, so far, not doing much better in the U.S.
What did not help in Iraq was an increase in offensive violence directed at the militias. Arizona has relatively effective smuggling intervention, and has broken large cartel shipping routes in the past. What our border states do not have yet is a program to combat the terrorist activities that keep the local people from lending their critical assistance to authorities.
What will help is:
-working with the civilian population as it realized the terrorists were not acting in the interest of the general population,
-providing their neighborhoods with enough forces to ensure long-term security, and
-convincing people that it was in their best interest to cooperate with the authorities.
Add to this an increase in direct aid (in the form of better education and wider job opportunity) to the poor of our border states so that the local populace is not driven to support terrorism because of extreme poverty and lack of hope. (Over eighteen percent of Arizonan's live at or below the poverty level.)
Unfortunately, Governor Janet Napolitano's Arizona Roadmap for Homeland Security does not address the need to enlist the civilian population, provide terrorist-proof levels of security social networks, and promote cooperation. It's just more of the same militaristic thinking that can solve only part of the problem.
If this sounds like I am asking for a surge, so be it. But our forces in our border states must be clearly apprised of their mission. It is to provide security, not offensive violence. We know how to keep enough enforcement people on the street so that violence is severely attenuated. All we have to do now is think clearly enough to avoid the entrapments that led to our failures in Iraq.
And how do we pay for this? We might cut down on the 10 billion dollars a month we pour into Iraq and Afghanistan and start paying more attention to our own citizens who are being terrorized.