A growing number of Republican lawmakers have expressed their support for sending U.S. special forces to Mexico to assist in the fight against drug cartels. They argue that the drug war poses a serious threat to the national security and public health of both countries, and that the Mexican government needs more help to combat the violence and corruption that plague its institutions.
Some of the prominent Republicans who have voiced this idea include Ted Cruz, Dan Crenshaw, Marco Rubio, Ron DeSantis, and former President Donald Trump. They claim that a more active U.S. involvement in Mexico would not only reduce the flow of illegal drugs and migrants across the border, but also strengthen the bilateral relationship and promote democracy and human rights in the region.
Now Reuters reports that about half of Americans also support this initiative proposed by GOP legislators.
Some of the candidates would send special forces into Mexico, the U.S.’s biggest trading partner, or conduct missile or drone strikes there, even without the permission or consent of the Mexican government.
The dramatic rise in overdose deaths related to the synthetic opioid fentanyl, and stemming the flow of narcotics from Mexico has become a major theme among Republicans.
In a policy video released earlier this year, former President Donald Trump said he would direct the Department of Defense “to make appropriate use of special forces, cyber warfare, and other overt and covert actions to inflict maximum damage on cartel leadership, infrastructure and operations.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said he would send troops to Mexico on “day one” of his administration, and he has not ruled out cross-border missile strikes.
According to the seven-day Reuters/Ipsos poll, which closed on Thursday, 52% of respondents said they supported “sending U.S. military personnel to Mexico to fight against drug cartels,” while 26% were opposed and the remainder were unsure. Republicans were supportive by a 64% to 28% margin; Democrats were narrowly opposed, 47% to 44%.
When asked if the United States should do so without the permission of the Mexican government, however, the numbers changed dramatically. Some 59% of poll respondents opposed unilateral action, while 29% were supportive. Fifty-one percent of Republicans opposed unilateral action, compared to 40% who supported it.
Tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina Tim Scott have also signaled a similar openness to a military confrontation with Mexican drug cartels.
Haley told Reuters in an interview last week she would send special operations forces over the border with or without Mexico’s permission.
Only former Vice President Mike Pence, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have stopped short of saying they support sending U.S. military personnel into Mexico.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, for his part, has repeatedly made clear that Mexico would not tolerate U.S. military action within its borders and has ridiculed the calls as “irresponsible” and “pure publicity.”
Such a unilateral authorization of strikes against a sovereign nation would amount to a declaration of war. However, Obrador is downplaying such belligerent saber rattling. “As we are in election season, they talk about intervening in Mexican affairs, about not respecting our sovereignty; They insult us, but one shouldn’t take them too seriously,” he said last month in one of his regular press conferences.