The U.S. Still Hasn’t Figured Out the Security Challenges South of the Border

The U.S. Still Hasn’t Figured Out the Security Challenges South of the Border
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent patrols on the U.S. side of a razor-wire-covered border wall that separates Nogales, Mexico from Nogales, Ariz., March 2, 2019 (AP photo by Charlie Riedel).

There has been much to criticize about President Donald Trump’s handling of America’s national security, including his recent declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. But while that declaration might be misguided, Trump has been right about one thing: The United States has never developed an effective strategy for the actual security challenges south of the border.

Since the United States became a global power in the 20th century, it has used a sequenced method for addressing emerging threats—first building an understanding of them, then developing a working consensus among security experts and political leaders, and then relying on the military to develop strategic concepts, capabilities and plans. This was the approach during the Cold War and after 9/11, but it has never taken place for the security challenges from the south—mainly an influx of narcotics and related crime.

To an extent, this gap is because of the intricate complexity and multidimensional nature of the problem on America’s southern border. Its roots are the country’s insatiable demand for narcotics, which violent criminal cartels have thrived on, growing rich and powerful enough to challenge national governments in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico. Against narcotrafficking gangs and cartels, these governments—already hobbled by corruption—have proven unable to provide adequate security and economic opportunity for their people. The resulting crime and violence have driven waves of people from the region, heading north to the United States for security and a chance at a job.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.