Unlike most US politicians who seem impervious to the ticking time bomb south of its border that has been created by the proliferation of heavily armed drug cartels, Donald Trump understands that the the power of drug cartels in Mexico and Central America has caused supreme poverty which in turn sets off a chain reaction of migration north which is later politicised by ultra-liberal factions within the United States. Such a reality is a lose-lose situation for Central American nations, for Mexico, for the United States and for individuals caught between geopolitical chess matches and the barrel of a narco’s gun.
In order to tackle these problems, one must acknowledged their roots. The fact of the matter is that in much of Central America and in parts of Mexico, the drug cartels are able to muster more firepower than the police and in many cases more firepower than the military. When one realises that due to overwhelming poverty and corrupt governance, many military and police are bought off by the drug cartels without attempting to fire a shot, it becomes clear that if ever a situation called for a multi-national broad based military/intelligence coalition of the willing, it was the narcotics epidemic in parts of Central America and parts of Mexico.
If NATO were to pivot its resources to Central America and Mexico, it would be both possible and highly beneficial for Washington and its militarily modern allies to work with governments from Mexico to Panama in a coordinated military campaign against the heavily armed and well organised narcotics syndicates. The fact of the matter is that many of these cartels are armed to degrees not entirely different to the levels of armaments among terror groups like Daesh and al-Qaeda during their apex of power in Iraq and Syria. For the people living under the iron first of the narcos, life is scarcely better than it was for Syrians living under Daesh occupation in cities like Raqqa or Iraqis in cities like Mosul.
There is therefore no reason why NATO’s military strength should not be used to crush the cartels south of the US border. This would require not only intense intelligence cooperation between Washington and its southern partners in order to avoid civilian causalities, but it would also necessitate long term economic incentives including those derived from trade so that the often impoverished countries in Central America would realise that appeasing narco terrorism does not pay but that cooperation in an anti-narco terrorism coalition would result in positive economic dividends.
It goes without saying that the countries south of the US border would likewise have to do a better job in preventing the proliferation of drug trafficking, human trafficking and illegal migration from south to north, a pledge that in respect of Mexico Donald Trump seems to have already at least partly secured.
The terrorism that is funded by and that is a material outgrowth of a narcotics culture is a ticking time bomb and one that in the case of Mexico and Central America is literally on the doorstep of the United States. This makes the problems south of the US border even more pressing than anything occurring in the far off (vis-a-vis Washington) Middle East.
At a time when NATO is looking for a reason for being, it would be vastly more beneficial for the military alliance to pivot its resources away from the old borders of the Cold War and towards the western hemisphere where out of control drug cartels threaten the peace, prosperity and human development of multiple regions.