2016 Border Problems

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

In the sixth article in my series concerning the issues that the next president will face, the focus shifts to two chronic problems for American foreign policy that hinge on the issue of borders. The new president will be confronted with trouble south of the U.S. border and the issue of borders in the Middle East.

Destabilization of Mexico

The next president must jettison the baggage created by the immigration issue and deal with the root cause of the domestic and foreign policy muddle that is Mexico.

Mexico has been experiencing political and social instability for the last century. Following multiple regime changes in the 19th century, Mexico developed a more stable government in the 20th century. However, the country has been plagued by a ruling oligarchical class and a large poor lower class. In the last 30 years, there has been a tremendous rise in gangs and drug cartels, and the money they have made is seeping into all areas of Mexican government. The police and political sectors have become extremely corrupt and threaten the very life of Mexico itself.

Americans should be continuously reminded that the purchase of illegal drugs, regardless of direct origin or type, fuels not only the cartels but terrorist groups. There used to be a public service announcement during the George W. Bush years that reminded Americans that if you purchase drugs, you help to kill Americans. This is more than a choice – it is akin to treason. Human rights groups report that 60,000 people were killed in Mexico due to cartel violence from 2006 to 2012. Additionally, Mexico has experienced the rise of armed militias. Some of these militias fight against the cartels and some for the cartels, and some fight each other. The U.S. Justice Department classified Mexican drug cartels as the “biggest organized crime threat to the United States.”

Ultimately it has the potential to be a failed state on the United States’ southern border. There must be a clear policy toward the Mexican government that the United States will not tolerate the violence and chaos created by the drug cartels. The United States must offer the Mexican government the tools to break the back of the cartels or do the job itself. The current policy of muddling through has produced increased death and violence on both sides of the border and threatens the very existence of a viable Mexican government.

Realists recognize that chaos right on our border is simply an impossible situation to tolerate and is the number one factor in the drug degradation of American civilization. Liberals see the potential for a human rights tragedy that has never been seen this continent, let alone the horrors of human trafficking, drugs and the destruction of the last vestiges of Mexican democracy. The next president must level with the American people that this is not about domestic politics or votes: It is about the most basic foundation of American national security along its border and the coming nightmare if American policy continues the status quo or is held hostage to those that make money and power off of the domestic issues of immigration and race.

Israel and Palestine

The United States has been a partner with the state of Israel from the beginning.

President Bush turned away from the policy of accommodating Palestinian terrorists in an effort to promote democratic Palestinian forces. There is no other alternative to dealing with this crisis. There must be a permanent and continuous policy for the support of Israel; terrorists groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and states like Iran and Syria must be put on notice that an attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on American interests.

Further, any support of Palestinian aspirations must be predicated on peace with Israel, recognition of Israel and the development of Palestinian democracy and civil society. Hamas, which seized control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007, continues to launch attacks against Israel and receives aid and armaments from Iran. Objective analysts have known for years that the Arab states do not care about the fate of the Palestinians, but it has served the interests of propaganda and domestic consumption.

However, the basic question that needs to be asked is this: “What is the alternative to Israel?” No other nation in the region is as democratic, competent and stable. There is no other intelligence service that can be trusted, no other military and no other government equal to Israel in the region. Realists who seriously analyze American interests without reference to religion, civilization or culture would find it impossible to find another substitute. Liberals, who seriously consider issues of justice, human rights and democracy have even further to go to find such an alternative.

In the end, just like the Iranian nuclear question, it will not be resolved until there is a change of government away from the number one state sponsors of terrorism in the world. The Palestinian issue cannot be solved without democracy in its entirety, not just elections. Liberals, realists and conservatives should recognize together that American grand strategy is best served when there is a vibrant democratic civil society for both Israelis and Palestinians. The next president must reframe the relationship with Israel as not only about American support for the Jewish state but about American support for democratic values, and invite the Palestinians to join that cause.

So called international relations liberals and realists are both served by stable, democratic societies that protect liberty, private property, human rights and a republican political process. The only strategic way to deal with Mexico or the Arab-Israeli conflict is in this lens. The Lilliputian thinking of the current administration – alienating Israel, using Mexico for domestic political purposes and not steering the Palestinians toward a freedom agenda – simply pushes the next administration to have a more difficult and challenging start.