Take them seriously: GOP’s war on Mexico is more than a distraction

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday that the Democrats are going to drag the country into a full-scale war to “unite the country behind Biden.” The Republican said it would “be horrific” and would infuriate the country “but make no mistake, they want war.” Donald Trump was so pleased he actually re-posted her comment on his own social media platform Truth Social.

Greene trying to portray herself as some sort of peacenik is possibly even more hilarious than Trump doing it. They both like to position themselves as “anti-war” by calling Joe Biden a warmonger for supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion. They claim to be “America First,” or at the very least “non-interventionist,” as if they just want to give peace a chance but they don’t seem to realize that just doesn’t scan as their faux pacifism is belied by their extreme bellicosity. Take for example this declaration from Greene just a few months ago:

As you can see, they’ve actually introduced legislation to “declare war” on the Mexican cartels. Trump is echoing this in his presidential campaign:

I will order the Department of Defense to make appropriate use of special forces, cyber warfare, and other overt and covert actions to inflict maximum damage on cartel leadership, infrastructure and operations.

That kind of talk will sound familiar to anyone who lived through “the war on drugs.” There were covert operations in places like Colombia but those were coordinated with the governments in question. What these people are talking about is essentially an invasion of Mexico, which hasn’t happened in over one hundred years.

Trump wanted to do it during his first term but was apprised that it would be unwise, to say the least. The New York Times reported that former secretary of defense Mark Esper revealed in his book, “A Sacred Oath,” that:

Mr. Trump, who was unhappy about the constant flow of drugs across the southern border, during the summer of 2020. Mr. Trump asked Mr. Esper at least twice if the military could “shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs.”

“They don’t have control of their own country,” Mr. Esper recounts Mr. Trump saying.

When Mr. Esper raised various objections, Mr. Trump said that “we could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly,” adding that “no one would know it was us.” 

Trump wanted to perpetrate an act of war against our neighboring country and then lie and say it wasn’t us who did it. That sounds so unlike Trump.

That was just one of many kooky anecdotes in Esper’s book which was like so many other of the Trump books that were released during and after his term. It was clear he had no understanding of how the government worked or what the Constitution meant and was always issuing crazy orders and he would be talked out of it by some of the more responsible people he had around him.

It has been made very clear since then that none of those people would be welcome in a new administration and Trump would have free rein to carry out some of his most irresponsible impulses. In fact, they are openly making plans to that effect. Unfortunately, much of Trump’s reckless rhetoric has infected the Republican Party in general.

This idea of war with Mexico is now a mainstream Republican policy. As you can see from Marjorie Taylor Greene’s post, one of the people pushing this aggressive policy with Mexico is Dan Crenshaw, R-Tx., who is generally considered to be at least occasionally sane. No one would say the same about House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, a Republican from Kentucky, who told Fox News that it was a mistake that Trump didn’t go ahead with his plan to send Patriot missiles into Mexico to take out the cartels. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., meanwhile, introduced a bill designating Mexican cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, creating the option to take military action against them. And freshman Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, makes it clear what he’s after:

“We need to declare the Mexican drug cartels a terrorist organization because that’s exactly what they are. It allows our military to go into Mexico, to go on our southern border, and actually do battle with them.”

And the presidential candidates have jumped on the bandwagon as well.

Asked if he would send special forces over the border into Mexico at last month’s presidential primary debate, Florida Governor Ron Desantis said “yes, and I will do it on day one.” (He has likewise vowed to kill drug smugglers “stone cold dead” at the border which means that he’s going to order summary executions as well — which is illegal, obviously.)

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Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the alleged moderate who told Vivek Ramaswamy in that same debate that his lack of foreign policy experience was showing, told Fox News that:

When it comes to the cartels, we should treat them like the terrorists that they are. I would send special operations in there and eliminate them just like we eliminated ISIS and make sure that they know there’s no place for them. If Mexico won’t deal with it, I’ll make sure I deal with it,” she added.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, for his part, has said he would destroy the cartels and would “allow the world’s greatest military to fight these terrorists. Because that’s exactly what they are.”

This talk is, to be blunt, batshit crazy. Mexico is a sovereign country and taking any of these actions unilaterally would be an act of war. Even such hawkish Republicans as former Ambassador John Negroponte are appalled at the idea. He points out that “Mexico is our largest trading partner, we share a 2,200 mile border and we have inter-relationships that are extensive and across an entire spectrum of issues such as migration, trade, people-to-people relations and environmental concerns.” Needless to say, the Mexican government and its people would be outraged and defiant and the consequences would be dire.

The allegedly “isolationist” GOP of 2023 may love to call the Democrats warmongers. But just listen to that rhetoric and this rapidly evolving consensus that the U.S. should send troops into Mexico and it becomes obvious that the anger and hostility that animates their domestic policy extends to their foreign policy as well. They are the ones itching for a war. If I didn’t know better I’d think they watched Russian President Vladimir Putin make his move against Ukraine and thought, “what a good idea!” 

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about from Heather “Digby” Parton

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