[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] S [/yt_dropcap]peaking about metaphysics today seems almost an insult to the standard Western culture, all based on Reason and Feeling and on empiricism without a subject. On the contrary, this does not happen in the political civilizations currently emerging in the world. Inevitability pertains to losers while the culture of reality transformation pertains to winners.
And currently the West is an Accident compared to the great phenomena of global change, halfway between a Chinese empire emerging victoriously from the post-1989 Americanization and the Russian Federation creating an unavoidable and leading role for itself in the Middle East.
The losers believe only in few obvious facts, while the winners bend them to their will.
In China, in the military academies and intelligence services’ specialization schools, Taoist and Confucian traditions and classic martial arts – designed to fight both against the external and the internal enemy, the old empirical self – are taught.
On the other hand, as René Guenon used to say, the Tao is the esoteric aspect of exoteric Confucianism.
It is worth recalling that the spiritual Knowledge is always linked to a warrior culture: the Taoist-Buddhist Hagakure of Japanese Samurai is at the origin of classic geopolitical analysis, with the still very useful book entitled Dai Nihon by Karl Haushofer, the founder of German and European modern geopolitics.
Or it is linked to Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”.
The Soviet intelligence defectors were particularly surprised that in the US and NATO military academies there were not those classics they had to carefully analyze.
Historical science is Wisdom and therefore it combines a multiple and value-based dimension with the collection and analysis of facts.
Furthermore, in India, the Hindu religion is particularly widespread among young people living in the cities, while governments use the Hindu tradition to rebuild an identity-based political culture.
In Russia, the traditional Slavic nationalism of the Orthodox Church currently merges with Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian project.
When the Russian leader went to visit Pope Francis, he brought as a gift the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, namely the holy image that Stalin secretly flew over Moscow in the hardest moments of the Nazi siege.
Finally nothing can be understood of Iran’s politics and strategy without the Twelver Shia Islam of today’s Iran.
The fact that the Twelfth Imam, a descendant from martyr Husseyn Ali, returns – as he has always been alive – to the visible world and converts to Islam the whole world, as well as Christians and Jews, by definitely destroying the Antichrist’s works, is a myth that tells us more about Iran’s foreign policy than a thousand descriptions of its missiles and weapons.
In short, the laicité that the West is flaunting from the rooftops, as if it were some kind of novelty, is a sign of weakness, not of strength.
It is accounting, not mathematics.
Those who are currently winning the globalization war always unite the people around myths, strong ideas, symbols, rituals and identity, while those who are losing the “Third World War in pieces” – just to use Pope Francis’ phrase – live their own history according to the Enlightenment myth. Indeed this, too, is a myth.
In fact, while it is believed that only myths and religious identities lead to wars, as claimed by the theorists of contemporary laïcité, it should be recalled that – in the case of the great slaughters of history – the revolutionaries waged war against the Europe of Kings under the tripartite motto Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood, thus turning a nation of 27 million people, as was France at the time, into a wasteland inhabited by approximately 9 million people.
The same holds true also for the Bolshevik Revolution which, according to the speech delivered by Solzhenitsyn before the Duma in 1994, upon his return to Russia, exacted a toll of 60 million victims in the period between the beginning of “Trotsky’s coup” and the end of Stalinism.
The current myth of laicité is a myth whereby, before the 1798 French Revolution, there was “darkness” while, after the largest massacre in modern history, the Enlightenment – and hence Reason – would come, thus destroying every myth – and hence Metaphysics, foolishly considered similar to Religion.
Hence, a value-based curvature of foreign policy emerges: if “they”, namely the emerging countries’ peoples, are as “we” are, enlightened and rationalist, it is fine, whereas if they are still in the grip of old myths there can only be war.
Just think of the fact that decades of war have left Afghanistan still in the hands of the Taliban or that the actions in Iraq have created a failed state which currently only serves the interest of the Iranian leadership.
While, as you may recall, in 2003 the US Governor of Iraq, Paul Bremer Lewis, adapted the chaotic flow of vehicles in Tehran to Boston’s traffic rules.
The West has long been viewing the Other as if he/she were himself/herself, obviously a more “primitive” and less “secular” Self.
And this is the biggest mistake, the pathological narcissism of the West which, in politics, leads to the same situations as those occurring in psychology: a “grandiose” self, leading to manipulative tactics vis-à-vis the others.
In fact, the West interprets the jihad as if it were “terrorism”, while the Islamic “holy war” certainly uses terror, but as part of its strategy, not as an end in itself.
“I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike them upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip!” (Sura Al-Anfal 8:12).
But, if we studied the traditional Islamic law compared to jihad, at least 32 major rules from the Qur’an and an endless number of interpretations would further complicate the practice of the “holy war”.
In the Sunni tradition, the jihad is always defensive, but it is anyway intended to expand the community of believers. It is a complex political theology that does not only regard war as such, but also propaganda, Islam’s internal organization, its economy and its law in peacetime.
How can we indicate the Other as simple and primitive, when Islam, in its ferocity, is organizing an entire society against the “infidels”, by using the oil market, soft and hard propaganda actions, demographic penetration and a very wise manipulation of the most helpless and unarmed Western political system?
Moreover the West interprets Putin’s new Russia as a return of the Stalinist and Communist repressed aspects, thus forgetting that a country with eleven time zones and over 24 ethnic groups spread over 17 million square kilometers must be ruled in a centralized way or cannot be ruled at all.
Would a Eurasia “of autonomies and self-governments” – as unfortunately envisaged by Zbigniew Brzezinski some years ago – be more democratic and less dangerous for the Eurasian peninsula, namely for us?
Later the United States thought that the forced liberalization, developed in Yeltsin’s time, would lead Russia to be a peripheral country, but it was wrong.
While, as likely, the KGB defector to the USA, Anatoli Golytsin, was not entirely wrong, his theory developed in an old and useful book entitled New Lies for Old is that supposedly the USSR transformation and the end of the CPSU were carefully planned within the KGB First Chief Directorate.
Destroying the Party that blocked the State, bring fresh capital where there was none any longer and make Russia participate in the new “great globalization game”.
Clearly a country such as Russia cannot be studied by only checking – with the famous Reason – what the record of “democracy” or “human rights” is.
In the case of China, after an initial period in which Westerners were inebriated for the implementation of liberalizing reforms – because they believed them to mark the end of the Communist system – later they realized that the Four Modernizations of Deng Xiaoping (and, earlier, by Zhou Enlai) saved the Party from collapse, while the Chinese society remained strongly and often spontaneously Communist.
Hence there is no correlation between the “bourgeois” – and hence enlightened – “freedoms” and the political system, as indeed Benedetto Croce had already taught us.
Nevertheless, how can we avoid this “critical” and rationalistic thinking in foreign policy, which make us not understand the Other and obliges us, as Westerners, to always accept the fait accompli?
Etymologically krisis is the act of discerning, separating, judging and assessing.
Criticism and critique comes from krino, which is the art of judging – based on the values of beauty, justice and goodness – works and actions, as well as the people performing them.
However, how can the firm principles, the initial and final values of the kritikè teknè, namely the art of separating and hence judging, be created ? Obviously, metaphysics does so.
The West – and hence certainly Heidegger was not wrong – is characterized by the forgetfulness of Being in its “concealment”, which reveals itself only in its appearing, in its being temporary “semblance”.
Like a wave reveals the sea or the wind tells us about the air, by making us perceive and feel it.
Therefore, according to our interpretation, the Western krisis is currently lacking because its kritikè teknè has forgotten its foundations, the criteria which enable it to operate by separating appearances and leading them back to an original and initial principle.
As Wisdom, and not teknè, art and technology, philosophy is not only theoretical, abstract and hence partial knowledge, but it means knowing simultaneously “for us” and within the “actual reality of things”, which are both useful for fully guiding our lives.
Therefore foreign policy cannot be judged only based on one single aspect – be it military, economic or diplomatic – but by comparing all the aspects of a phenomenon.
In this regard, for example, suffice to think of the current Chinese rearmament, which is relevant both for domestic policy and for the Chinese project in the Pacific region, and finally for protecting the future Belt and Road Initiative, etc..
If we rationalistically consider one single aspect – the first which springs to our mind or we like – we isolate it and make it absolute, we only create a new myth, not a manifestation of Being.
Hence, metaphysics prefers an overall and global vision, the search for the cause or reason why – since nothing ever appears without a reason or, more exactly, a cause, and every cause always prompts the same metaphysical question: “why is this happening or is so and not otherwise?”
Moreover metaphysics knows that things and events have a meaning.
For Husserl, who was Heidegger’s professor, the distinction between sense and meaning “responds to the distinction between experience and what is lived and experienced” – hence, along the lines of his professor, in his book Being and Time Martin Heidegger tells us that the “sense is the possibility of action offered by the world we understand”.
Hence no formulas good for each phenomenon, for each partial unveiling of Being, as always happens in rationalistic geopolitics – in this regard, just think of Russian “militarism” or “bottom-up” democracy in the Maghreb region, which has strengthened al-Qaeda rather than the usual “pluralists” – but phenomena interpreted according to their sense, i.e. according to the scope of the objective correlations they generate.
Certainly, today metaphysics does not enjoy a good reputation. The Enlightenment has hidden it, more or less in the same way as the tutor in Rousseau’s Emile, or On Education cunningly and artfully hid, in the woods, the tools that the protagonist believed to discover by chance.
It is worth recalling that the term was coined in the first century A.D. by Andronicus of Rhodes, who had placed – in the library of Alexandria – Aristotle’s books on the “first philosophy”, namely metaphysics, after those on Physics, tà metà tà physikà.
Metaphysics – in Aristotle’ meaning, that the position chosen by Andronicus of Rhodes entails – goes beyond physical research by using the same methods as those used in research among particular beings.
In this connection, Giorgio Colli would have said that in the “Greek wisdom”, i.e. among the Pre-Socratics – the Being needed a faculty other than research into the world but, unlike modern rationalism, Aristotle’s intention is to use the investigating rationality in the whole sphere of Being.
Hence our knowledge is always abstract and there are no primitive or original languages – or even more inherently “true” languages than others – as the logical neo-Positivists and hence also the Empiricists imagined.
There exists no original or essential fact around which all the others are structured, as thought by all those who imagine an action from which everything begins – be it the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944 or the signing of the “short armistice” in Cassibile on September 3, 1943.
There is no objectively original fact – only the rationalists and wizards believe so.
Hence we extrapolate from the “metaphysical” analysis what is common to various facts; later we check the story of these facts and their actual connection. Then we extract-abstract from the various phenomena studied what can be subjected to a rational analysis, i.e. their number and their form.
Finally, we define the rules of things and of their being in that way and not in another and then we define their absolute necessity which – as also Kant taught us – cannot be based only on empirical experience.
Empiricism tells us about the constancy of phenomena, not about their necessity.
Hence we rise to metaphysics when we do not refuse to think specifically of the condition thanks to which we think everything else.
In historical terms, this means when we analyze all the contexts in which the facts occurred and, hence, their “not being otherwise”.
The metaphysical consciousness has no other objects than daily experience, this world, the others, human history, truth and culture.
However, instead of considering them as already existing, as empirical data available to everyone, or as consequences without premise – and hence as if they proceeded magically by themselves – metaphysics rediscovers their being alien to the world and the miracle of their appearing.
This means that metaphysics is the opposite of the “system”.
Therefore let us think about what might happen if we applied this way of thinking – not mutilated as the poor wretched rationalism of our times – to history and strategic analysis.
The perception and efficacy of all our evaluations would change: the Chinese policy, for example, would no longer be a sort of adaptation to the “market” economy, but the joint effort of a country to win the so-called globalization war.
Or the public debt would no longer be analyzed as an alternative between “austerity” and default, but as a universal financial market like that of all other securities.
And again, we would start to perceive – with “astonishment”, as Plato taught us, because reality is so and not in another way – the great future geopolitical tectonics, such as Africa’s transformation, the overlapping between technology and new mysticism or even the great subjectivization of our Western political culture, between Orwell’s 1984 and a new configuration of primary instincts.
Mounting Cyber Espionage and Hacking Threat from China
Earlier this month a ransomware attack on America’s Prospect Medical Holdings, which operates dozens of hospitals and hundreds of clinics and outpatient centres across the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Southern California was forced to shut off its centres in several locations as the healthcare system experienced software disruptions. In June India’s premier hospital, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) faced a malware attack on its systems which was thwarted by its cyber-security systems. This is not the first time that the premier hospital’s data was breached. In November 2022, AIIMS had experienced a cyberattack within weeks of announcing that from January 2023, it would operate on a completely paperless mechanism. The cyber attack which involved ransomware, designed to deny a user or organisation access to files, lasted for nearly a month affecting the profile of almost 4 crore patients – affecting registration, appointments, billing, laboratory report generation, among other operations of the hospital. Regarding the quantum of data that was compromised, the government revealed that “five servers of AIIMS were affected and approximately 1.3 terabytes of data was encrypted.”
Till June this year, Indian Government organisations faced over one lakh cyber security incidents and financial institutions saw over four lakh incidents. Data presented by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which has the mandate of tracking and monitoring cybersecurity incidents in India, indicates rising Cyberattacks to government organisations. or systems year on year. From 70798 in 2018, to 112474 in 2023 (up to June) incidents of cyber attacks have been on the rise, on a year on year basis. Presenting this data at the Parliament, Minister for electronics and IT Ashwini Vaishnaw said, “With innovation in technology and rise in usage of the cyberspace and digital infrastructure for businesses and services, cyber-attacks pose a threat to confidentiality, integrity and availability of data and services, which may have direct or indirect impact on the organisation.”
A lot of the hacking activity points towards China. Western intelligence agencies are becoming increasingly wary of digital intrusion by hacking teams that they believe are being backed by China’s government. Almost a decade ago, American computer security firm Mandiant had made the startling claim that these hacking groups are operated by units of China’s army. The firm was able to trace an overwhelming percentage of the attacks on American corporations, organisations and government agencies to a building on the outskirts of Shanghai. Mandiant made the case that the building was one of the bases of the People’s Liberation Army’s corps of cyberwarriors. US intelligence analysts have detected that a central element of Chinese computer espionage is Unit 61398 which targets American and Canadian government sites. Mandiant, which was hired by The New York Times, found that hacker groups like “Comment Crew” or “Shanghai Group” were behind hundreds of attacks on U.S. companies, focusing “on companies involved in the critical infrastructure of the United States — its electrical power grid, gas lines and waterworks” thereafter bringing that information to the military unit 61398.
In their defence the China’s authorities simply denied any form of state-sponsored hacking, and have in turn dubbed the US National Security Agency (NSA) as “the world’s largest hacker organisation.”
Nonetheless, since the 2013 revelations, Chinese hacking teams have generated a lot of interest and Western cybersecurity companies and intelligence agencies have accused them of global digital incursion. They allege that Chinese government-backed hackers attempt to target everything from government and military organisations to corporations and media organisations.
Most recently in the footsteps of the incident involving the Chinese spy balloon Microsoft claimed that in an ongoing effort Chinese state-sponsored hackers group ‘Storm-0558’ was forging digital authentication tokens to gain unauthorised access to Microsoft’s Outlook accounts and urged users “close or change credentials for all compromised accounts”. On May 24, Microsoft and US intelligence state-sponsored hackers of ‘Volt Typhoon’ were engaged in ongoing spying of critical US infrastructure organisations ranging from telecommunications to transportation hubs, using an unnamed vulnerability in a popular cybersecurity suite called FortiGuard, and had been active since mid-2021.
According to US cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks cyber espionage threat group ‘BackdoorDiplomacy’ has links to the Chinese hacking group called ‘APT15’and they are all involved in cyber intrusions and financially motivated data breaches for the Chinese government. During the visit by then-US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei, APT27 initiated a range of cyber attacks targeting Taiwan’s presidential office, foreign and defence ministries as well as infrastructure such as screens at railway stations. Television screens at 7-11 convenience stores in Taiwan Began to display the words: “Warmonger Pelosi, get out of Taiwan!”
Mara Hvistendahl’s article in Foreign Policy, 2017 ‘China’s Hacker Army’ estimated China’s “hacker army” anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 individuals, but rejected the belief that it was a monolithic cyber army. Mara contends that Chinese hackers are for the most part dangerous ‘freelancers’ whose ‘causes neatly overlap with the interests of the Chinese government’ and these hackers are left alone as long as they target foreign sites and companies.
Although cyber attacks have gone up globally, data by Check Point, an American-Israeli software company, reveals that weekly cyber attacks in India have gone up by 18 per cent this year, which is 2.5 times more than the global increase. Furthermore the cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated as hackers try to weaponize legitimate tools for malicious gains. For instance the use of ChatGPT for code generation, enables hackers to effortlessly launch cyberattacks.
Last year in a massive case of cyber espionage, Chinese-linked hackers broke into mail servers operated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in February 2022 and stole sensitive data. At the recent ‘Conference on Crime & Security on the theme of ‘NFTs, AI and the Metaverse’, current G20 President India, has highlighted the need for cooperation to build cyber-resilience in an increasingly connected world. Both cyber attacks and cyber crimes have national security implications.
In India, investigations into the cyberattack, which had crippled the functioning of India premier health institution AIIMS, revealed that “the IP addresses of two emails, which were identified from the headers of files that were encrypted by the hackers, originated from Hong Kong and China’s Henan province”.
Earlier this year, US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray had an alarming metric, – that Chinese hackers outnumber FBI cyber staff 50 to one. Addressing a Congressional panel he said, China has “a bigger hacking programme than every other major nation combined and has stolen more of our personal and corporate data than all other nations — big or small — combined.”
China is today home to some of the most sophisticated hackers, whose capabilities have only improved with time. Their motivations and actions might be independent but are conveniently entwined. However, much more needs to be understood about the hacker culture from China in recent years, if the menace of cybercrime and ransomware is to be mitigated successfully .
Whistleblowers: the Unsung Heroes
Whistleblowing is a bribery and corruption prevention strategy that does not receive the credit it deserves. In fact, rather than relying exclusively on laws, regulations, and resolutions, whistleblowing can be considered a highly effective method to combat bribery and corruption in any field, including government or corporate settings. Whistleblowing often leads to sustainable solutions, as it involves voices from various levels, ranging from grassroots to top-tier management. However, there are plethora of challenges whistleblowers face when they blow the whistle. Nonetheless, whistleblowers play a crucial role in preventing bribery and corruption, and this pivotal role enables preserving the security of any nation.
As stated by the National Center for Whistleblowing (2021), at its core, a whistleblower is an individual who discloses instances of wastefulness, fraudulent activities, misconduct, corruption, or hazards to public well-being, with the intention of prompting corrective actions. While whistleblowers are often affiliated with the organization where the wrongdoing occurs, it is not a prerequisite; anyone can assume the role of a whistleblower as long as they reveal information about the wrongdoing that would otherwise remain concealed. In simple terms, a whistleblower is a person who acts responsibly on behalf of themselves as well as others. Whistleblowers play an extremely imperative role in any society, as they stand for justice, promote accountability, and advocate transparency.
When looking at its link to national security, whistleblowers play a crucial role. One prominent action is whistleblowers exposing imminent and occurred security threats. They are capable of disclosing breaches of security, illegal surveillance, and in situations where individuals or entities are attempting to divulge material information. Whistleblowers uncover injustices, misconduct, and beyond-the-scope activities of decision-makers within government or private entities. If individuals engage in unethical practices, illegal actions, or actions jeopardizing integrity, whistleblowers blow the whistle. One such example, as reported by St. Francis School of Law in 2022, is whistleblower Frank Serpico’s case. He was the first police officer who openly testified about corruption within the New York Police Department, reporting instances of police corruption, including bribes and payoffs, despite facing numerous obstacles. His revelations contributed to a 1970 New York Times story on systemic corruption in the NYPD, leading to the formation of the Knapp Commission. In 1971, he survived a suspicious shooting during an arrest, raising concerns about potential attempts to harm him. Serpico’s bravery emphasized the importance of accountability and transparency in law enforcement.
Whistleblowers also contribute by facilitating accountability by bringing into light corrupt practices such as mismanagement of money. An example is, in 1968 when A. Ernest Fitzgerald, known as the “godfather of the defense movement,” exposed a staggering $2.3 billion cost overrun related to the Lockheed C-5 transport aircraft. His courageous testimony before Congress shed light on issues in defense contracting and resulted in substantial government savings. Fitzgerald’s contributions went beyond the immediate case, playing a crucial role in the passage of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. This results in a culture of accountability where representatives of the public are answerable to their actions. Whistleblowers uphold the rule of law and promote justice by defending the rights of the citizens. It fosters democracy.
However, whistleblowers are often subjected to criticism for standing up against injustice. They fear retaliation, as guilty parties may try to silence them out of revenge. Additionally, companies or institutions may not take whistleblowers seriously, leading them to avoid addressing the reported issues. In many cases, this happens because governments or authorities in power might be involved in bribery and corruption. Public recognition and appreciation of whistleblowers’ contributions to society are vital and should not be perceived as excessive. In addition, there are situations where groups of individuals create sub cultures within organisation and act against rules and protocols jeopardising inclusive culture. In such situations, reporting to a superior will be seen as favoritism or being overly devoted to the institution. This toxic environment demotivates valuable employees or those willing to stand against injustice. The lack of adequate legal protection further compounds the challenges faced by whistleblowers. Moreover, the courage to stand against bribery and corruption is in dire need, as many individuals may lack the moral fortitude to do so.
Whistleblowers are internationally and domestically protected, primarily through the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Other international agreements, such as the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and the Organization of American States Inter-American Convention against Corruption, also demonstrate a commitment to whistleblower protection. Various influential international organizations, including the G20, OECD, and APEC, have played a role in promoting whistleblower laws and best practices worldwide. On the domestic front, countries like Sri Lanka have specific laws dealing with corruption, while OECD findings highlight countries with comprehensive whistleblower laws such as the United States, Canada, Japan, and others.
Despite these efforts, there are still some ambiguities and gaps in provisions that hinder effective whistleblowing. For instance, the proposed anti-corruption bill in Sri Lanka allows public officers to accept gratifications authorized by written law or employment terms, which undermines the core objectives of the bill and enables influential individuals to evade accountability for corrupt gains. In Russia, whistleblower protection is limited, with unsuccessful attempts to establish protective measures in 2017. This puts Russia behind the EU, which has implemented robust whistleblower protection through the Whistleblowing Directive.
It is evident that whistleblowers play an indispensable role in combatting bribery and corruption, acting as a highly effective strategy to preserve the security of any nation. Despite facing numerous challenges, these individuals contribute significantly by uncovering wrongdoing, promoting accountability, and upholding transparency. By exposing imminent security threats and holding corrupt practices accountable, whistleblowers safeguard the rule of law and foster democracy. However, to harness the full potential of whistleblowing, it is crucial to address barriers to reporting and remedy afore mentioned legal hurdles. Encouraging a whistleblowing culture and recognizing their contributions will enable society to effectively mitigate and combat bribery and corruption, by creating a more just and transparent environment. To accomplish this, organizations can embrace a culture of whistleblowing, by conducting awareness campaigns, implementing training programs, and fostering a safe and supportive environment for whistleblowers to come forward. In addition, implementing technical measures and policies to ensure whistleblower protection, authorities can demonstrate their commitment to supporting those who expose wrongdoing. These collective actions will strengthen the pivotal role of whistleblowers in preserving security by combating bribery and corruption, fostering a safer and more ethical society for the future.
Breaking the Grip: Comprehensive Policy Recommendations to Defeat Drug Cartels
In 2022, drug overdoses claimed the lives of over 100,000 Americans. The primary sources of illegal drugs flooding into the United States are the Mexican drug cartels, who exploit a network of corrupt politicians, police officers, and military personnel in Mexico. Within Mexico itself, these cartels are responsible for a staggering level of violence, including tens of thousands of homicides each year. Within the United States, the cartels establish distribution cells, collaborating with either Mexican gangs or affiliated criminal organizations.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) considers the Mexican drug cartels to be the number-one threat to the United States. Among them, the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) are the richest and most powerful. Their exceptional earnings allow them to invest in soldiers and weapons, as well as payoffs and bribes, enabling them to expand their territorial control.
To effectively address the challenge posed by the cartels, the United States should adopt a comprehensive set of policy measures. These include securing the southern border, fostering enhanced cooperation with the Mexican government, implementing immigration reforms, bolstering drug enforcement efforts domestically, designating the cartels as terrorist organizations, imposing targeted financial and economic sanctions, and considering if limited military intervention is necessary.
While these measures hold significant potential, there exist political barriers that hinder their implementation.
Secure the Southern Border
Since January 2020, over five million people have illegally crossed the southern border. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) identifies protecting the border from illegal movements of people and drugs as being essential to homeland security. Transnational criminal organizations, such as the Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG, are responsible for most of the drugs entering the country. On an average day, CBP seizes 1,797 pounds of illegal narcotics. In 2022, CBP seized a total of “more than 1.8 million pounds of narcotics and 14,700 pounds of fentanyl.” Preventing the cartels from being able to transport drugs into the United States would take away their income, causing their soldiers and friendly politicians to stop cooperating with them.
In order to better secure the border, CBP has created a preparedness plan which consists of a number of crucial elements, such as increasing the number of personnel, while improving technology and infrastructure. In addition to new hires, the number of personnel can be augmented through increased cooperation with other branches of law enforcement and the military. In May, President Biden, in response to a request from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees CBP, ordered an additional 1,500 troops to the border for a 90-day deployment. This was on top of the 2,500 already in place. Texas Governor Ron Abbot deployed his national guard and the new Texas Tactical Border Force to the border. North Dakota and Tennessee, as well as other states, also sent members of their national guard to Texas. In addition to national guard troops, the state of Florida sent a mix of state law-enforcement officers from varying branches. To effectively control the border, however, and have a major impact on illegal immigration, the number of troops will have to be drastically increased and the deployment would have to be permanent.
The technological improvements called for by the DHS include increased use of high-tech assets for aerial surveillance such as drones and manned aircraft. They also want sensors on border barriers, land sensors, cameras, radar, and autonomous surveillance towers. This technology will allow the DHS to better detect, monitor, and track unauthorized border crossings. Additionally, improved data analytics and artificial intelligence would help with screening and processing of legal entrants as well as illegals who have been apprehended.
The DHS has called for improved infrastructure towers, as well as facility expansion and upgrades. Some U.S. lawmakers would also like to see the border wall completed, particularly along vulnerable areas. A wall would impede illegal entry to the country, while making it easier for officials to spot illegal crossings.
Plans to secure the border have been rejected on a number of grounds. First, it would be expensive to station the necessary number of personnel at the border. Increased infrastructure, particularly the wall, would also be very costly and would not provide a 100-percent solution. Even more, it would be seen as racist, with Bloomberg calling the border wall a monument to White Supremacy.
Increased Cooperation with Mexican Government
One part of the cooperation with Mexico has to include Mexico’s willingness to help staunch the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States. Mexican President López Obrador formed a national guard tasked with this purpose, but the group has been condemned by human rights activists. Furthermore, the national guard, like other elements of Mexico’s law enforcement and military, suffers from corruption.
If migrants were turned away by the U.S. in large numbers, Mexico would have to stand ready to accept them. Mexico would also have to form agreements with other countries in the chain of drug transit, from Colombia, through Central America, to the U.S. border. These countries will have to similarly agree to help prevent migrants from entering Mexico and they will have to stand ready to receive those migrants returned by Mexico.
Inside of Mexico, the Mexican government must actively fight the cartels, disarming them, disbanding them, and loosening their hold over both territory and people. This includes targeting high-profile cartel leaders. This will create command and control vacuums which historically have caused in-fighting among cartel members. Large cartels would then splinter into independent and warring groups with considerably less power. Changes within Mexico, however, would be dependent on reducing corruption, and these policies would be very unpopular among politicians, police, and military officers who benefit from the status quo.
Because of the massive corruption and the influence the cartels have over the Mexican authorities, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) has abandoned any hope of cooperating with the Mexican government, calling the country “a failed narco-state.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has similarly given up on the Mexican government, saying that the U.S. should notify Mexico that the cartels will soon be designated as terrorist organizations.
The screening process for legal immigrants must be strengthened, while backdoor avenues, such as illegal entry and asylum-seeking, must be curtailed. Under the Biden administration, anyone arriving at the southern border can claim to be seeking asylum. This allows them to remain in the United States awaiting their asylum hearing. Republicans see this as an enticement for people wishing to enter the country, bypassing normal immigration procedures. Rights groups, on the other hand, complain that Washington should not curtail its acceptance of asylum seekers. In this case, asylum seekers should be returned to Mexico to await their court date. Knowing that they cannot get a free pass into the U.S. would reduce the number of people seeking to exploit the system. This change in immigration procedure would have to be coordinated with Mexico, however, as the undocumented would be entering Mexican territory.
Increased Drug Enforcement in the U.S.
Drug laws in the U.S. must be rigorously enforced in order to reduce the demand for drugs. Law enforcement must be strengthened, including additional training, and increased investigation and prosecution of drug-related crimes. Intelligence gathering must be enhanced through the creation of specialized units and task forces. The DEA reported that drug cartels are exploiting social media to sell fentanyl and methamphetamine. The authorities should closely monitor these social media in order to identify and arrest buyers and sellers. Furthermore, the DEA must coordinate with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to increase arrests of people selling or buying illegal drugs.
Beyond law enforcement and prosecution, there must be comprehensive drug prevention and treatment programs, education campaigns, addiction treatment, and rehabilitation programs. Opponents of strict enforcement claim that enforcement does not work because drug use has increased during the 50 years that the U.S. war on drugs has been going on. The war on drugs has cost $1 trillion, and roughly one in five incarcerated people were arrested on drug charges. Opponents also complain that prisoners are disproportionately Black and Latino. Although only 13.4 percent of the population is African American, about 25 percent of all persons arrested for drugs are African American adults.
Identify Cartels as International Terrorist Organization
The cartels are known to cooperate with international terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah, Taliban, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and al-Qaeda, in order to sell their drugs in other parts of the world. They also aid terrorism by smuggling terrorists into the United States. To launder their illicit income, they employ the services of Chinese criminal organizations which pose their own threat to the United States. U.S. lawmakers have proposed designating the cartels as terrorist organizations, because they use violence and threats of violence to influence and control judges, politicians, and lawmakers. Designating the cartels as terrorist organizations would facilitate U.S. government seizure of cartel assets. It would make it easier for the U.S. to arrest cartel members inside of the United States, and possibly inside of Mexico. The U.S. could deport or bar from entry persons associated with the cartels. A terrorism designation would also enable the U.S. to deploy the military, even inside of Mexico.
However, there would be a number of disadvantages. First, violence would most likely increase, particularly if the U.S. military became involved. Next, it would effectively destroy U.S.-Mexico relations. The U.S. would be able to sanction or arrest high-ranking members of the Mexican government and security forces, which might be perceived as an act of war. These types of purges might destabilize the Mexican government and would, at the very least, cause a breakdown in cooperation between the two nations. Furthermore, bilateral trade, valued at $800 billion and accounting for millions of jobs on both sides of the border, would dry up. Increased violence, a destabilized government, and a loss of jobs would increase the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw and other U.S. lawmakers have called for an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to target Mexican drug cartels, saying “We must start treating them like ISIS – because that is who they are.” Those who back an AUMF point to the fact that the cartels are responsible for more American deaths each year than the entire Vietnam War. An AUMF would provide the president with the sophisticated hardware and expert personnel of the U.S. military, more powerful assets than those possessed by law enforcement or the DHS. Supporters of an AUMF also make the point that the soldiers would be engaging foreign hostiles in a foreign nation and, therefore, would not be infringing on the civil rights of U.S. citizens.
In addition to arresting or killing key cartel members, military intervention could disrupt drug supply chains by destroying growing fields and drug labs. The government of Mexico has protested discussions of U.S. military operations in his country, calling it an offense to the Mexican people. Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador said that he would not “permit any foreign government to intervene in our territory, much less that a government’s armed forces intervene”.
Another disadvantage of U.S. military operations in Mexico would be an increase in violence. Inevitably, civilians would suffer, and the U.S. would be portrayed as the villain in the international and liberal press. The threat of cartel violence against Americans would also increase. Historically, the cartels have tried to avoid killing Americans, for fear of provoking Washington’s wrath. If the U.S. military began engaging in cross-border operations, the cartels would most likely declare all-out-war on Americans. Cartel violence within the U.S. would also accelerate as the cartels would be risking nothing by upping the ante.
Increased Financial and Economic Sanctions
Financial and economic sanctions can be powerful tools to break the cartels and to punish those who assist them. This includes enforcement of anti-money laundering laws, as well as targeting financial institutions that handle cartel money. Cartel assets held in banks around the world could be seized if U.S. allies also participated in the sanctions. If Mexico is legitimately interested in curbing corruption in their own government, this intense scrutiny would also help them to discover which public officials were accepting bribes.
Sanctions have already been used against the cartels: In 2022, the U.S. Treasury Department, in cooperation with their Mexican counterparts, brought sanctions against a cartel member who was trafficking weapons from the United States. Under the sanctions, Obed Christian Sepulveda Portillo had his property in the U.S. seized. U.S. Entities and persons from the U.S. are also prohibited from doing business with him or completing transactions on his behalf. Those who violate these sanctions may face criminal charges or civil lawsuits. In July 2023, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against ten individuals, including several Sinaloa Cartel members, as well as one Mexico-based company, for their role in the production of illicit fentanyl and the precursor chemicals necessary for fentanyl production. Under the sanctions, all of their properties and interests in the U.S. were seized. Americans were banned from doing business with them. Companies in which they had a direct or indirect stake of 50 percent or more were also prohibited from doing business in the U.S. or with Americans. These are good examples, but to break the cartels, these types of sanctions would have to increase in scope, hitting large numbers of people participating in criminal networks.
From an efficacy standpoint, the above policy recommendations, if taken together, would result in a decrease in the supply side, a decrease in the demand side, and a long-term reduction in drug deaths and violent deaths in both the U.S. and Mexico, eventually leading to the stabilization of Mexico. Breaking the hold the cartels have on the country would allow Mexico to develop economically. This would benefit the entire population and the United States. But this success, which could take painful years to achieve, would come with a political and human cost which politicians may not be willing to pay.
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