forever, the record for stupidity was held by Lumbo, a Cambrian
trilobyte born to an early family of retarded trilobites. Lumbo
also had Down’s Syndrome. It ws an unbeatable combination.
Nobody and nothing was as slow as Lumbo. It was thought that he
would hold the record for all time, but then came the governor of
Texas, Rick Perry. He thinks it might be a good idea to invade
thinks, barely, that such a martial lunge might help rid Mexico
of drugs, or do something about immigration. He thinks it should
perhaps be done with the permission of the Mexican government. It
is my hope that Washington will not adopt the governor’s idea,
but, given America’s penchant for lurching into catastriphic
wars, perhaps we should examine the notion for advisability.
wise plan begins by embodying the mistake the Pentagon always makes
when it sets out to lose a war, which seems to be every time it
holds a war. He, and it, begin by having no faint grasp of the people
to be invaded, or of people at all.
difficulty with the notion of people, of citizens, of populations,
who are mere impediments to the proper management of a swell war.
The military longs for mechanized battle in which men in machines
destroy other men in other machines, tank against tank, fighter
plane against fighter plane, in a spirit of simple-minded adolescentt
romanticism. You know, battle-scarred tanks growling across the
Algerian desert, against a flaming red sunset burning out to night,
desert wind blowing scarves of heroic etc. People don’t figure
in this dream, which is why the results are so regularly dismal.
Now, some practical
considerations, a kind traditionally of little interest to military
just sort of invade Mexico as an abstraction. You have to invade
an actual part of it. Which?
Well, you could
try the cities thick with narcos: Tijuana, Juarez, Culiacan, Ciudad
Victoria, all the gang. Good idea, that. As any intelligent officer
will tell you – one was reported in Anhalt-Zerbst in 1654,
but this was never confirmed – fighting in cities is not a
lot of fun. The narcos have AKs and RPGs. They are expert at urban
ambushes. They know the cities. They speak the language. They can
fade into the population. Consequently frustrated Gis, quickly coming
to view the population as subhuman, will begin killing people at
random and…have we seen this before?
As an equally
unwise plan, the good governor might advocate sending troops after
the narcos in the wild, in the Sierra Madre Occidental, up around
Copper Canyon, the Barranca del Cobre. Have you seen the
barranca country? I have, on the Chihuahua Pacific railway
from Los Mochis to Chihuahua. It is like Afghanistan, but with difficult
terrain and tree cover. Roads are few. There are canyons in which
you could drop the Grand Canyon and have trouble finding it the
next day. Did I mention AKs and RPGs? Trees? Rocks? Things to hide
What the Pentaloons
don’t understand, being armed Boy Scouts who believe their
own propaganda – “Ooo-rah! Yes sir! Yes sir! Can do, sir!”
is that they usually can’t. The chief reason is that people
really, really do not like American soldiers invading their countries,
wrecking cities and killing their children. The military, which
thinks at right angles, cannot wrap its mind around this difficult
thought. Thus Americans invariably begin by thinking, “We are
right. We are for democracy. We are trying to help these people.
Therefore they will love us.”
step to disaster is to set up a puppet government, by purchase or
intimidation, declare it an ally, and assert that America is helping
the legitimate government of a beloved fellow nation. Think Cambodia,
Laos, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and note that the Governor
Perry says he wants to invade "with Mexico’s permission,”
which means puppetizing the government. Of course no government
that supports invaders who kill Pablo’s three-year-old and
her dog is going to enjoy a whole lot of legitimacy.
doesn’t work, this being regarded as a minor defect by military
minds. It’s the glory of the thing, the swoosh and bang and
zowwee that count, not practical concerns like winning. But…does
it seem salient to you that in all of our hobbyist wars, our locals – our
Khmers, our Viets, our Afghans, and so on – fight poorly, while
our enemies are passionate and stubborn? Note that after ten years
our Afghan soldiers aren’t ready and disappear with their rifles,
the Pakis collaborate with the Taliban and hate us, and the Iraqi
police are permanently incapable.
Why might this
be? Because, when you force part of a country to kill the other
part, not too much enthusiasm ensues.
ingredient in our wars is underestimation of the enemy, reflecting
a general American contempt for everybody else. Cheese-eating surrender
monkeys, that sort of thing. The Viet Cong were rice-propelled paddy
maggots who didn’t have a single B-52. Iraq would be a cake
walk, the Afghans were louse-ridden towel-headed farmers, and so
Still, it is
perhaps worth noting that as the US army lowers recruiting standards
to reflect flabby American males, the Mexicans work construction.
In the barranca country you find hard and hardy people, Tarahumaras
and tough farmers who have trucks now thanks to the marijuana crop.
Soft they are not. Mexicans have fought long and bloody wars –
the Revolution, the Cristero War, the current drug wars in which
29,000 have died since 2006 in armed conflict (which suggests that
there are a whole lot of them and not afraid to fight, doesn’t it?).
Sound like Afghans?
all Mexicans, are violently hostile to any invasion, on any terms
at all, by the US. They’ve been down that trail before. I mentioned
the governor’s idea to my (Mexican) wife. I’ve never seen
her face so hard. This is universal. If you want to see a united
Mexico, send the Gis.
are not as reliably hostile to the traffic in drugs, or to the traffickers,
as Washington would like. The common attitude is that if the gringos
don’t want drugs, why do they buy them? Why is it Mexico’s
problem? The traffic has brought relative prosperity to places formerly
without electricity. In a country not enamored of a corrupt government,
the narcos not infrequently are seen as Robin Hoods. Various bands
make a living singing narcocorridos,
songs glorifying the traffoclers: Los
Tigres del Norte, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, La
Here we come
to the final error of American military interventions: the belief
that everybody wants to be like America, that they want democracy
or are capable of it, that we just have to show them how we want
them to live and they will gratefully do it. Ah, fond hope. We are
going to make Afghanistan into a democracy, an idea as probable
as making a frog into a television set. In Afghanistan the military
invaded Marjuh and said it was going to impose a “government
in a box,” whereupon an Afghan town would be just like a village
in Iowa. Oh sure. Any day now. And in Mexico the Mérida Initiative
is going to produce honest police and judges, whereupon Mexico will
Oh god. Lumbo
is back. Some good advice to the Joint Chiefs: Stay the hell out.
is author of Nekkid
in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and A
Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be. His latest
book is Curmudgeing
Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle. Visit