A dozen or so years ago, a public exercise involving the Mexican and U.S. militaries might have surprised many U.S. and Mexican citizens, and given Mexican historical suspicions of the U.S. military, elicited sharp political criticism from nationalists across the Mexican political spectrum. Mexicans, too, remember the Alamo, but not quite in the John Wayne tradition.
Dreadful recent history has changed perceptions. Al-Qaida's 9-11 atrocity and Mexico's bitter Cartel War demonstrate that North America is a battle zone facing an array of destructive threats, from militarized crime to terrorism to conventional military threats. Mexican security officials sent the message -- with political clarity -- that increased intelligence sharing, closer operational liaison with the U.S. and Canada, and training assistance are in Mexico's interest.
NORTHCOM has indicated future exercises could involve U.S., Canadian and Mexican air and naval assets responding to illegal (criminal) activities. Natural disaster is one thing, but exercising a joint response to external human threats is much more blatantly military, in terms of publicly acknowledged U.S.-Mexican cooperation. Air and naval assets responding to illegal activities suggests a maritime and air narcotics smuggling scenario. Given the three nations' common concerns with the Cartel War and heavily armed criminal syndicates, this training scenario is just common sense. Jingoist politicians may object, but sensible leaders know it.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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