Men with guns and no options
One of the greatest preventable mistakes in Iraq (besides the actual invasion itself), was the disbanding of the Iraqi Army during the summer of 2003. What had been relatively organized, easily trackable and easily talkable formations of heavily armed men who had status and options in society became instead a dispersed group of men who still were heavily armed, reasonably well trained, and locally embedded but without any status, place or prestige in the NEW (run by AEI and Heritage Hacks) Iraq. The Iraqi Army, and more importantly the Iraqi Republican Guard officer classes became the core of the Sunni Arab insurgencies.
The argument put forth by Viceroy Bremer and others in support of this policy was that the old Iraqi Army was a repressive Sunni dominated anarcharism and the Sunnis’ would be sucking it in the New Iraq. Instead, the US would stand up the Iraqi National Guard which would be competent, well led and respectful of human rights and democracy ™. Whoops — we got militias and sectarian divisions instead.
Mexico is facing a similar but much smaller problem. Over the past few years, the Mexican government has been engaged in a systemic purge of its security forces. The purges are focused on municipal and other local police forces that the federal government thinks have been captured or corrupted by the various drug cartels. Federal police and military forces have stepped into the municipal policing role as well as the quasi-counter-insurgency role. The intermediate term plan is for a new core of local police to be trained and controlled at the state level instead of the municipal level. The problem with this plan is that it has created a group of thousands of young men who have guns and decent small unit tactics who are now incapable of operating within society.
Borderland Beat passes along a tidbit about these men:
one of the branches of government to acknowledge for the first time what the federal government has consistently denied: the involvement of state sponsored paramilitary groups in the drug war….
“These groups operate outside the law with the knowledge and complicity of the Mexican State,” said Senator Ricardo Monreal Avila, parliamentary coordinator of the Labour Party (PT) and one of the main sponsors of the request for information from Cisen. It is thought that thousands of Army desertors, both soldiers and officers, and police officers fired for corruption make up these groups. They are “trained paramilitaries,” says the Senator…
Men with guns who have no legitimate options in society will seek illegitimate options and opportunities.
Mexican paramilitary groups that are targeting the current cartels are a likely cartel successor group as the experience of Columbia’s embrace of right-wing paramilitaries against FARC soon led the paramilitaries to turn into major cocaine smugglers and protectors of the cartels. Furthermore, the embrace of paramilitaries will further degrade the Mexican state’s legitimacy as more groups and elites re-legitimate non-state actors using violence.