Thursday, November 28, 2019

War on Narcoterrorism

I do not believe we should invade Mexico, but we certainly have the right to take effective measures to keep drugs out of our country. From Crisis:
Spreading illicit, dangerous drugs throughout the country is a threat to the most vital of a nation’s resources: its people. Illicit drugs are sickening, permanently harming, damaging the lives and families of, and even killing many Americans, as well as causing disorder and turmoil in communities.

In Catholic teaching, war can be resorted to only if it is a last resort, after all means of peaceful resolution have been attempted. Negotiation must be seriously undertaken to attempt to resolve differences. While the argument could be made that the U.S. should intensify its efforts to negotiate a joint solution to the cartel problem with the Mexicans, Mr. Obrador’s response isn’t promising. Moreover, the point could be made that an American military incursion would not be a full-fledged war but a much more limited action. It could be seen almost as a large-scale police action. Also, it would not be directed against the Mexican government but against a group of highly sophisticated bandits within that country’s borders. Right intention is also a criterion for just war. There would certainly be no question about America’s intent. We would be aiming to bring the cartels to bay, and not, say, to topple the Mexican government.

Catholic just war teaching also requires that there be a proportion between the foreseen evils of a military action and the hoped-for benefits. It does not seem disproportionate to have a limited military action when one considers the benefits that both the U.S. and Mexico would derive from eliminating the cartels. It is true that in Catholic social teaching nations have a right to non-intervention and, in general, to conduct their own affairs without interference. These rights like all rights, however, are not absolute. As the encyclical Pacem in Terris says, a state may not unjustly involve itself in another’s affairs. It is not interference per se, then, in another nation’s affairs that is morally rejected, but unjust interference. Acting to suppress the cartels operating from Mexican territory that are threatening the common good and well-being of the U.S. in many ways, when the Mexican authorities can’t or won’t suppress them, hardly seems to be unjust interference.

Some have described the cartels as narcoterrorist groups. The Church, of course, has condemned terrorism. Nations clearly have a right to protect themselves from terrorism, whether originating within or outside of their borders. As far as international law is concerned, there has been much dispute and debate about the military efforts the U.S. has undertaken in the Middle East and Central Asia to defeat terrorist networks. Michael P. Scharf, a prominent international law scholar, says that while the use of force in self-defense has traditionally not been viewed as lawful against non-state actors in a third state and that American claims in international forums to the contrary when dealing with terrorists were initially opposed, the U.N. Security Council ultimately sanctioned the use of force by outside powers against ISIS in Syria. Therefore, it might be said that international law is evolving on this and that a good case can be made that an American military intervention against the Mexican cartels would not offend it. (Read more.)

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