Mar 17, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

“It matters a great deal whether countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia believe us—and support us—when we insist we’re defending the principle that big, powerful countries must not invade their smaller neighbors.“

How can I put this gently….

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Yes, but there are degrees of total hypocrisy, you know?

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I honestly think it’s a domestic issue. It won’t really change how people outside the US think.

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Wait until we do it.

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I have a few thoughts about this issue.

First, a sovereign country that can't control large swathes of its own territory is a dangerous country, regardless of its government's stated intentions. Mexico fits that description. Moreover, Mexican law enforcement and, to a less extent the Mexican armed forces, are compromised by the cartels, which, whether you're willing to call them terrorist organizations or not, are inflicting great harm on the United States. And to judge from the recent, distinctly hostile, comments of the President of Mexico, the United States can expect no cooperation from that quarter. On the whole, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to call this situation a national security threat. The question is what to do about it.

Of course, it would be stupid and counterproductive to launch an invasion of Mexico. But military action against the cartels need not take that form. The US has military intelligence and special operations capabilities second to none. Putting the cartels under intensive surveillance and carrying out the occasional targeted assassination might do a lot to cramp their style.

But I don't like the idea of designation the cartels as terrorist organizations. They bear more of a resemblance to the Barbary pirates than they do to ISIS or Al Qaeda. I'd treat them accordingly.

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I'm a student of Latin America since the 1990's. My roots to Mexico are deep. My uncle's family lived their for 3 years in the 60's. I met many a higher ups sons when my uncle returned to the States. Also, my playmates during my childhood were second generation of Mexican descent. I currently am a dual citizen of Costa Rica and the US.

You are right about the Mexican government's inability to control the Northern part of the country. I was astounded when I translated cases of the World Court in San Jose, Costa Rica who was an intern. It seemed international law held the government responsible for human rights violations. Even in areas that they have limited control.

Why not take an approach like we did with the Extradables in Columbia? Play some hard ball diplomacy on extradition, make a case and put pressure on them. The cartels are a nasty bunch. They are slowly taking over ganglands in many cities in the States, pushing out the black gangs primarily.

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It's a difficult problem, for sure. Maybe there are no good options and we just have to figure out which one is the least worst...

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"Biden might even sign it. How many executives can resist the opportunity to have open-ended power?"

Paging WigWag. I feel like there's a wager here I want to make.

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I didn’t quite reach the end, side-lined by the entrancing idea of Canada invading the USA to prevent all those Americans, including kids, from shooting each other on a daily basis with their (to me) incomprehensible addiction to guns.

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Yes, under R2P. ... It would be about as welcome, I expect.

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This is not Mexico’s fault, it’s California’s fault. Don’t send the U.S. military to Mexico send it to Los Angeles. See,


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So at least two hundred new people would have to enter the addict pool each day. Otherwise it is a self-limiting problem. Do 200+ people daily really decide to become junkies? It's not like it's a good option for any purpose; they're not being forced; literally any other choice would be better; and they can't say they didn't know.

Where are all the heroin addicts appearing from, then? Maybe we can stop that at source...

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Speaking of fentanyl I saw an interesting tweet earlier today that sums up the absurdity of blaming Mexico for a problem mostly created by progressive Americans.

“San Francisco hands out 12,000 needles a day, the majority of which are disposed of in the street.

Meanwhile, restaurants in the city are banned from providing patrons with plastic straws, virtually all of which would likely end up in the trash can.”

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Mar 14, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

Primary question is about the wording and expected effect of proposed “anti-drug Cartel” legislation. Crenshaw proposed two bills. Bill 1 would allegedly authorize partnership with Mexican gov to “Target cartels” (my paraphrase). I haven’t located or read the bills. Bill 2 would specifically target the freezing of monetary assets. Either bill 1 or 2 stipulates more severe criminal penalties for those involved in cartel activity.

Other politicians and former appointees (Barr), who comment on legislation proposed by others- may or may not understand design of proposed bills. Republican references to terrorism and Al Queda may be figurative to signal problem severity. I doubt that any politician (Dem or Repub) envisions an “Afghanistan or Iraq”-styled invasion and war.

On supply-demand argument from Mexico. I have heard this argument from Mexico for years. Imagine if someone hypothetically drove to a local high-school with 100 cases of Whiskey and then said “The problem is that high school students create a demand for product, not my fault that I am at the school providing free booze.”

On comparison to loony “Defund Police” idea that became actual policy; yes - we never know which random idea will catapult into actual gov policy. But, “Defund” was not merely the result of local/state politicians liking an idea. “Defund” was the planned and organized creation of the “Equity Program” that 100 mayors and 30 governors implemented with dictatorship-like authority. None disclosed publicly that they had made their jurisdictions a member of Racial Equity Alliance, nor that they likely knew about “Defund” since 2018 or 2019 but kept secret from public and even city-gov/state-gov employees- until June 01, 2020. Just like all projects for Equity Program, each sentence is treated as if “From God”, with any disagreement at any step strictly forbidden. Employees who disagree- get fired.

Republicans have no power structure that matches the “totalizing” Equity Program. Republicans do not have “unity across the party” to act partisan unless it is specifically anti-Biden or in former years “pro-Trump”.

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I can see that the FTO designation isn’t accurate in regards to the cartels. Is there a designation that would be better that would still allow prosecution of Chinese firms providing precursor?

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Sorry, one more thing. (This is the third of three comments I've posted in reply.) We also have the Kingpin Act, see: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-fentanyl-sanctions-idUSKCN24I26G. So I think we've got all the tools we need? I'd welcome hearing from someone who knows what designation as an FTO might add in addition to this.

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The testimon at this hearing--especially from Kirsten Madison of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the State Department--elaborates on the tools we already have at our disposal: https://www.congress.gov/event/115th-congress/house-event/108650/text. She says, for example:

"With China, the Department is building upon the commitments

made in President Trump's November 2017 meeting with President

Xi to deepen bilateral counternarcotics cooperation. This

effort has yielded concrete results including arrests,

seizures, and take-downs of clandestine labs by Chinese law

enforcement. Law enforcement information sharing has increased,

including information used to combat the export of drugs that

are controlled here but not in China.

"Additionally, China has taken significant action to

domestically control 175 substances with the 32 that were added

to that list just last week including fentanyl analogues and

key precursors to fentanyl production. We continue to press

China to use every available tool to aggressively counter

illegal production and the trafficking of synthetic opioids.

Some synthetic opioids from China are flowing through Mexico

where traffickers sometimes mix them, often mix them with

cocaine and heroin before shipping them across our southwest

border. Countering this flow is part of our partnership with

the Mexican Government to disrupt drug production, dismantle

drug distribution networks, prosecute drug traffickers, and

deny transnational criminal organizations access to illicit


"State also works multilaterally to address the

proliferation of illicit synthetic drugs and uses foreign

assistance working through international organizations to

support real-time coordination and information sharing between

law enforcement and forensic officials around the world. This

increases the identification, detection, and tracking of

synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals worldwide.

"Working through multilateral organizations, we also deliver

specialized training to strengthen the ability of key countries

to intercept suspicious drugs and chemicals sold online and

shipped through the mail and express consignments. The

international tools that we use must actually be capable of

addressing the 21st century challenge that we are facing. And I

think this includes supporting an acceleration of the rate at

which drugs are controlled at the international, regional, and

national level. As is the case with China, international

controls lay the groundwork for enhanced law enforcement

cooperation with the U.S.

"In March 2018, we mobilized countries at the U.N.

Commission on Narcotic Drugs to control the deadly opioid

carfentanil, for example, plus additional fentanyl analogues.

The CND was also the venue in 2017 to assert controls on two

primary fentanyl precursor chemicals, NPP and ANPP. And, at the

U.S. instigation, the International Narcotics Control Board

recently issued a call to all nations to voluntarily restrict

93 new substances that have no known medical use.

"To have impact these controls have to be implemented. So in

INL we are helping countries actually institute the treaty-

mandated controls that they are supposed to at a national

level. My team and I have been looking as well at additional

ways that we can adapt INL's work to address the dynamic threat

that is presented by illicit synthetics and to help our

partners both in the U.S. Government and law enforcement and in

the international community to tackle, really, all of the links

in the illicit synthetic supply chain.

"For example, we are developing new partnerships to expand

global capacities to detect and interdict synthetic drugs

shipped through the mail and express consignment shipping,

including by expanding the global collection and sharing of

advanced electronic data. INL also aims to broaden its

cooperation with U.S. law enforcement partners to expand

training and the use of technology to detect and interdict

suspicious mail.

"INL is also considering what additional practical steps it

can take with international partners to prevent the diversion

of legitimate chemicals for illegal uses and to support partner

governments' ability to seize and dispose of diverted chemicals

and build law enforcement capacities to detect and safely

dismantle clandestine labs. As part of this effort, we believe

firmly that we will need to seek increased cooperation with

industry to make licit modes of commerce more inhospitable to

criminals without encumbering licit activity."

If you believe (which I don't) that this problem can be solved by drying up the supply of those chemicals, this is the right way and the right level at which to think about it, I suspect. The problem isn't that we don't have the tools to prosecute manufacturers of precursor chemicals. We have tons of laws that would allow us to prosecute them, beginning with the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. (I think that was what the act was called.) But we have to arrest them before we prosecute them, and since they're in China--and growingly, in India, Nigeria, South Africa, etc.--that means we have to have the full cooperation of the governments of the countries where the manufacturers are making this stuff. That means painstaking diplomatic work--including painstaking work at the UN to pass the treaties that commit governments to drafting legislation to ban these chemicals; painstaking bilateral work with governments that don't yet have the technical ability or the manpower to detect or apprehend manufacturers that produce the chemicals; the painstaking building of relationship with law enforcement in those countries. We can declare that these manufacturers are terrorists until we're blue in the face but it won't do us any good unless they're arrested and delivered to us (or to a cooperative government) for prosecution. Unless we're prepared to send the Marines to raid Chinese labs--and of course we're not; we're obviously not going to pick on someone our own size--the only way to get these people is with the full cooperation of the governments of the countries in which they're operating.

But it's a Sisyphean task. We can spend years writing a multilateral treaty that bans precursor chemicals A and B and then shepherding it through round after round of talks and revisions and ultimately ratification. Bravo! Everyone agrees the manufacturers of these chemicals must be arrested! But no sooner is the legislation passed than their labs start making the precursors to the precursors. It's always going to be possible to figure out a way to cook this stuff up. Opiates aren't like nuclear weapons, which can only be built with rare elements that are reasonably simple to track. I'm not a chemist--I can't explain the technical aspects of this to you in a clear way--but everything I've read suggests this is like trying to hold back the ocean with a teaspoon. As I understand it, it's like trying to ban the ingredients for making chocolate chip cookies. You manage to ban Hershey's chocolate chips? They start using Nestle's. You ban chocolate? Well goodbye to a crop that makes up the better part of an ally's GDP--but suppose we manage to do it. They'll just start using synthetic chocolate instead. No one can tell the difference. You crush the synthetic chocolate industry in China? They move to India. You expend your last bit of diplomatic capital to crush the Indian chocolate industry, too? They move to Nigeria--which never signed the Convention on Prohibiting Chocolate in the first place. It's a fool's errand: So long as the demand for drugs is as insatiable as it is, and so long as people, anywhere, live in desperate poverty (or are just greedy), someone will figure out how to get us the drugs we're demanding.

The only way to fix this is on the demand side. That isn't easy, either, but at least it's in the time zone of a solution. Trying to interdict the supply isn't. Not to mention that interdicting the supply can have terrible unexpected effects: When we cracked down on the pill mills that were dispensing Oxy, we drove the addicts out onto the street and created a generation of heroin addicts. They're now overdosing on fentanyl.

The War on Drugs has been given a very fair and well-financed chance. It's been a complete failure.

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We can also go after them via the Treasury: see: https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy1288


Treasury Sanctions Sinaloa Cartel Network of “Super Lab” Suppliers and Fentanyl Operators

"As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated individuals that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or persons within or transiting the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. U.S. persons may face civil or criminal penalties for violations of E.O. 14059. In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the individuals and entities designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions or subject to an enforcement action.

"Today’s action is part of a whole-of-government effort to counter the global threat posed by the trafficking of illicit drugs into the United States that causes the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans annually, as well as countless non-fatal overdoses. OFAC, in coordination with its U.S. government partners and foreign counterparts, will continue to target and pursue accountability for foreign illicit drug actors."


And we have Executive Order 14059 of December 15, 2021: "Imposing Sanctions on Foreign Persons Involved in the Global Illicit Drug Trade."

"By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701

et seq

.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601

et seq

.) (NEA), the Fentanyl Sanctions Act (21 U.S.C. 2301

et seq

.) (FSA), sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C. 1182(f) and 1185(a)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

"I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, find that the trafficking into the United States of illicit drugs, including fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, is causing the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans annually, as well as countless more non-fatal overdoses with their own tragic human toll. Drug cartels, transnational criminal organizations, and their facilitators are the primary sources of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals that fuel the current opioid epidemic, as well as drug-related violence that harms our communities. I find that international drug trafficking—including the illicit production, global sale, and widespread distribution of illegal drugs; the rise of extremely potent drugs such as fentanyl and other synthetic opioids; as well as the growing role of Internet-based drug sales—constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. This serious threat requires our country to modernize and update our response to drug trafficking. I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.

Accordingly, I hereby order:

Section 1

. (a) The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to impose any of the sanctions described in section 2 of this order on any foreign person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security:

(i) to have engaged in, or attempted to engage in, activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a significant risk of materially contributing to, the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production; or

(ii) to have knowingly received any property or interest in property that the foreign person knows:

(A) constitutes or is derived from proceeds of activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a significant risk of materially contributing to, the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production; or

(B) was used or intended to be used to commit or to facilitate activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a significant risk of materially contributing to, the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production.

(b) The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to impose any of the sanctions described in section 2 of this order on any foreign person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security:

(i) to have provided, or attempted to provide, financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of:

(A) any activity or transaction described in subsection (a)(i) of this section; or

(B) any sanctioned person;

(ii) to be or have been a leader or official of any sanctioned person or of any foreign person that has engaged in any activity or transaction described in subsection (a)(i) of this section; or

(iii) to be owned, controlled, or directed by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any sanctioned person.

(c) The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to impose any of the sanctions described in section 2 of this order consistent with the requirements of section 7212 of the FSA (21 U.S.C. 2312) on any foreign person determined by the President, or by the Secretary of the Treasury pursuant to authority delegated by the President and in accordance with the terms of such delegation, to be subject to sanctions pursuant to section 7212 of the FSA.

Sec. 2

. When the Secretary of the Treasury, in accordance with the terms of section 1 of this order, has determined that a foreign person meets any of the criteria in section 1(a)-(c) of this order, the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, is authorized to select one or more of the sanctions set forth in subsections (a)(i)-(vi) of this section to impose on that foreign person.

(a) The Secretary of the Treasury shall take the following actions as necessary to implement the selected sanctions:

(i) block all property and interests in property of the sanctioned person that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person, and provide that such property and interests in property may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in;

(ii) prohibit any transfers of credit or payments between financial institutions, or by, through, or to any financial institution, to the extent that such transfers or payments are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and involve any interest of the sanctioned person;

(iii) prohibit any United States financial institution from making loans or providing credit to the sanctioned person;

(iv) prohibit any transactions in foreign exchange that are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and in which the sanctioned person has any interest;

(v) prohibit any United States person from investing in or purchasing significant amounts of equity or debt instruments of the sanctioned person; or

(vi) impose on the principal executive officer or officers of the sanctioned person, or on persons performing similar functions and with similar authorities as such officer or officers, any of the sanctions described in subsections (a)(i)-(v) of this section that are applicable.

(b) The heads of the relevant executive departments and agencies, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, shall take the following actions as necessary and appropriate to implement the sanctions selected by the Secretary of the Treasury:

(i) with respect to a sanctioned person that is a financial institution:

(A) the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shall not designate, and shall rescind any prior designation of, the sanctioned person as a primary dealer in United States Government debt instruments; and

(B) the sanctioned person shall not serve as an agent of the United States Government or serve as a repository for United States Government funds; ...

etc., etc. So we have plenty of tools to make their lives miserable already: Designating them as terrorists wouldn't add much.

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That’s an absolutely disingenuous response. As a writer you know that tone can pervade an entire story without any one word being offensive. You could have covered the story of Crenshaw’s proposed AUMF seriously, and even included Graham’s outrageous comments. But you chose to just paint anyone to the right of Lowell Weicker as insane warmongers, which is a strange position for someone with your journalistic history to take. Don’t urinate on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

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But these proposals *are* insane warmongering. That's my point.

Do you disagree? Argue your case on the merits, then!

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Mar 14, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

Hi Claire. I am glad you liked Dave's last two comments and I had a talk with him about this privately.

I think it was rude and inaccurate to claim there are "histrionics" or "hyperventilation". I think he is in the state he is in because of some things that happened at an event that he and I attended personally concerning people affiliated with the Bulwark. This has nothing to do with you so please do not take it personally. We are also both tired of the redundancy of the content that the Bulwark publishes but I think it really comes from a place that domestic politics is too speculative and out of our control at this point. I like how the Cosmopolitan Globalist focuses on international affairs including US national security and including things that are in our control such as donating to help the family which you helped escape from Afghanistan - and thank you so much for helping them and enabling us to do so!

I agree with him that "tone can pervade an entire story without any one word being offensive" but don't think that applies to this article or to the Cosmopolitan Globalist so much as other publications - not even the Bulwark so much as actually left-of-center publications but the Bulwark is becoming one of them. I don't think your response was disingenuous and nor do I think that anything was false or beyond the scope of the Cosmopolitan Globalist's portfolio. It seems he wanted an article more specific to Crenshaw and you seem to have covered the views of a broader range of figures - Greene, Ramaswamy and Graham - and that could be a whole separate article that Crenshaw has a more nuanced view. And maybe, as a point of constructive criticism - everybody makes mistakes and it is undoubtedly stressful to manage the Cosmopolitan Globalists so independently compared to other more well-staffed media outlets, in addition to being depressing to follow all these global issues with so little personal agency, so it is completely understandable - you should have more clearly separated Crenshaw from everybody else because he actually introduced the AUMF whereas everybody else is just shooting their mouth off. But I can see why you reacted the way you did. Psychologically, I think Dave sees the Bulwark as an example of a "domino effect" and doesn't want the Cosmopolitan Globalists do be the next "domino" to fall. So I can also see why he reacted the way he did though I don't think its appropriate. Personally I'm following US politics less and telling Dave to do so as well until we have a better sense of what is possible in the 2024 election. Meanwhile the Cosmopolitan Globalists is a great source of international news including matters related to US national security and that you give us things to donate to and engage with your readers is very refreshing compared to the feeling everywhere else that we are just shouting into a void. I am incredibly grateful for what you do.

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Thanks for this kind comment. I'd never dream of taking feedback like David's personally; I always like to know what our readers find useful and what they don't. I'm often surprised by it, too: I found it fascinating to see how readers answered the questions I asked--the responses weren't what I would have guessed. I may do that more often!

Graham and Kennedy also announced they're going to sponsor an AUMF. (I don't know why they think they need a different bill, exactly.) The Crenshaw-Walsh bill has a lot of support: Here's the list of the 17 (!) cosponsors: https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-joint-resolution/18/cosponsors?s=1&r=40.

And Senators Roger Marshall and Rick Scott have separately reintroduced a bill (first proposed and shot down last September) to designate four Mexican cartels as FTOs. (I'm a bit puzzled by the redundancy. Why aren't they working together, I wonder, on a single bill? Is it common to steer legislation through Congress this way?)

So I think it's reasonable to see these comments as more than hot air, and more than "one or two GOP wacko birds." Even if their motivation for saying these things is just to posture and show their constituents that they take this seriously, the consequence of this posturing could be a new AUMF. That's a legal authority -- and a fresh expansion of executive power -- that's not hot air at all.

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Yeah. I need to do more reading on this specific topic.

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Mar 14, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

And for the record we are NOT Trump or DeSantis supporters. But we are cautiously optimistic that the GOP can be fixed. We are principled classical liberal conservatives on the side of our democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law as well as US national security and US leadership on the world stage. But we read the Cosmopolitan Globalist for international affairs and at least in my case I try to focus on what I personally can do, and I don't think either side of the predictive debate on the future of the GOP has enough evidence at this point to rigorously substantiate its arguments.

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Mar 14, 2023·edited Mar 14, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

Don’t get me wrong. Graham has a heartwarming life story growing up the son of poor African-American sharecroppers, working at a gas station, and falling in love with Bernadette Peters, but that doesn’t justify his shameless pandering.

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Mar 14, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

If Crenshaw’s telling the truth, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t believe him, then it’s not insane to work out a better military strategy to deal with private militaries on our border. But you spent the vast bulk of this article venting your spleen because Lindsay Graham . . . duh-duh-duh . . . is an idiot. You didn’t even get into any particulars about the issue. I mean, if you’re just reading the Bulwark, I get it. It’s just spin these days, and I’ve told as much to my friend who’s an editor. I come here for INFORMATION, not bile, and after reading this essay, I can honestly say that I don’t know anything more about the AUMF than Claire says she hasn’t made up her mind on it, but she’s mighty incensed about it. That does me absolutely no good as a consumer of news.

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Stop using fentanyl! I couldn’t agree more. “It’s preposterous to propose to invade your neighbor because you are an addict.” I loved that. That’s exactly what I think about this unconscionable fentanyl hysteria. I would add it’s also an exceedingly lame excuse for “border security.” And that’s where this comes from, the xenophobic hatred of Mexico, that demands a wall. It is no justification to build a xenophobic border wall because some weak americans in increasingly red states like West Virginia, who don’t work and live on welfare payments, are drug addicts--at immense cost to taxpayers, refugees seeking asylum and opportunity, and the economy. It doesn’t surprise me that Biden has done nothing to condemn or quell this braggadocio. Surely he sympathizes with it, because he wants the fentanyl victim self-destructing red state voting bloc so badly, and for his whole career he has sought to brand himself a working class hero; no higher principle seems to get in the way of his romance with the drug-addled/racist/entitlement-pampered class of citizen. They’re all “workers” to him who have been exploited by international finance or “market fundamentalism,” as they are for the GOP just the same. It is the biggest yet least understood and underrated threat to democracy in America how both the Democratic and Republican parties have arrived at the same conclusion that populist grievance can or should be appeased, and that somehow it’s legitimate, whether continuing to detain immigrants at the border, pull out of Afghanistan, lukewarm support of Ukraine, cracking down and talking tough on China to protect manufacturing and protect Americans from Tik Tok, or now talking about classifying Mexican drug cartels as terrorists. It is an insincere perverse fetish, all about getting votes, and it has to stop. This was a great piece. Really needed to be said. I saw an op-ed in wsj last week or the week before by Bill Barr, which was how I first heard of this, and I didn’t read it. I couldn’t believe how stupid it sounded. But I haven’t paid attention to this monstrous development because it just seemed like another thing republicans might say that was crazy but they don’t mean, because they say something nuts every other week. I chose to ignore it. But you’re right depending on how much support the AUMF gets, not Biden but perhaps someone else will decide to bomb Mexico. So it’s definitely worth analyzing

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Mar 14, 2023·edited Mar 14, 2023Author

I largely agree with this comment, but I don't think the concern about fentanyl is "hysteria." The statistics Graham cites are almost correct, and this is a catastrophe. We have to do something about it. No decent country could allow this to continue. But what we have to do is solve the problem of American despair, which is a lot harder to do than making blustering speeches about invading Mexico.

That the problem *is* soluble is evident from the fact that other countries don't suffer from it, or suffer from it to nothing like this extent. Like our suicide epidemic, our obesity epidemic, and our mass-shooting epidemic, this is particular to America and particular to this moment. If we solve any one of these problems, we'll probably be well on the way to solving them all, because they are all fundamentally aspects of the same sociological phenomenon: despair.

The question is *why* Americans are so despairing. Nothing about our objective circumstances warrants it. The contempt you express for the "drug-addled/racist/entitlement-pampered class" is mighty tempting, but it doesn't help: The plain fact is that this class is so miserable that it's killing itself--and it's prepared to take the rest of us with it. We have to figure out why and we have to fix the problem, not least because they're our fellow citizens, and we owe them as much. (Also, we have no choice.)

Do I know how to fix this? No. Not at all. But I know this is the question we should be asking.

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Yeah. Totally fair. And I know Graham’s statistics were correct. And I gaped at them too. While I do have contempt that I don’t hide for that voting bloc I described, it is not just because I have contempt for them as indviduals, but more that their problems are at the forefront of national politics when they pale in relevance compared to saving the international order from Putin, reforming entitlements and reducing the debt. I also think that by being contemptuous of this issue, if goes a long way towards mitigating the self-serving overweening compassion both parties have duped the taxpayer and consumer to being passive spectator to or buying into this vote-getting pity party, literally with their tax dollars. As every job for example protected by our steel and aluminum tarriffs costs taxpayers 250,000 bucks. And I think the rest of us normal people like u and me have a right to be mad at this nutty cohort of the population who thinks they have the right to overthrow the democratic system just because THEY are depressed and their leaders like Josh Hawley. It’s an injustice to the rest of us who are not depressed, not taking drugs, and not obese! and believe in our democratic institutions. I also think that by stridently reasserting the case for economic liberty and individual rights we can best hope to inspire the kind of growth that is the best way to lead people out of that despair, while some warranted contempt for their grievances would show that liberal democracy has red lines which morons have no place to cross. Appeasing them whether by messaging that we care about them or expanding government to help them, would only make the problem worse I would add, further slowing growth, concentrating wealth, raising taxes, funneling opportunities to privileged sectors and popular causes, stoking and licensing more anger as the relationship between people and government becomes more and more zero sum. This is my case for stridency. Idk how well i’m articulating it. But right now we basically have two marxist workers political parties in america arguably, increasingly unconstrained by democratic norms or constitutional principles, or international trade laws. I think the center needs a more energetic, impassioned defense of the taxpayer to stave off the populists and the entitled factions they patronize.

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I have no objection to partnering with the Mexican authorities to provide them with weapons and intelligence to help them take on the cartels.

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Nor do I, but "partnering" involves consent. In international relations as in lovemaking, the act is a very different one--indeed, a grave crime--if there's no consent. I'd be happy for us to do this with the Mexican authorities, although I don't think it would solve our overdose problem--it's a demand problem, not a supply problem. But taking out the cartels would make the world a better place.

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Mar 14, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

Judging by the accusations of rampant collusion with the cartels and the history of Afghanistan and Vietnam, I’m guessing both information and weapons would make their way into the hands of the cartels.

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Mar 14, 2023·edited Mar 14, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

I'm for raising the cost of doing business for the cartels. Primarily because of their human trafficking and secondarily because of the drugs. We already use the military, mostly the Coast Guard, to impact the cartels in Pacific, Atlantic and in particular the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. If we can use drones and special forces to kill those high up in the cartels and damage their infrastructure, that would be a good thing.

We will never completely stop these activities because of the demand, but right now the US is, in essence, facilitating trafficking across the Mexican/US border. Raising the cost of doing business will reduce the human and drug trafficking, and that is a worthy goal.

I would prefer to do this in coordination with the Mexican government, but in northern Mexico, the cartels are the government, and they are not going to cooperate.

It would appear that many of Mexico's government official are on the take from the cartels, so their cooperation is highly unlikely. If they do cooperate with the US, it is likely that the cartels will kill them, and they know that.

The US politicians putting these ideas forward are opening a debate. It is good that we have this debate out in the open and congress can address it one way or another. That is what we elect them to do.

By the way, Mexico's army is really just an enhanced police force. In recent history they haven't really faced the threat of war and have spent little money on a modern military. If there was a full-scale war between the cartels and the Mexican military, my money is on the cartels.

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Mar 14, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

¨But when senior representatives of one of the US’s major political parties propose to invade Mexico, it should at least make us blink.¨

The main player here in terms of seniority is Lindsay Graham: my short summary is that Lindsay Graham is a belligerent idiot and always has been (it sells in South Carolina). When McCain was alive I believe he restrained some of Graham´s more histrionic flights of fancy, but once McCain was gone and Trump was here, he reverted to type: the ever-belligerent (or maybe ´more-belligerent than thou´) Southerner. It´s a type and a political style that has been performed over and over again since at least 1800. Full stop. (War with England (again)! Filibusters! Haiti! Manifest Destiny! War with Mexico the first time! Knights of the Golden Circle! The entire goddamn Civil War! et cetera ad nauseam ad infinitum.)

¨Or have we collectively decided to ignore everything the GOP says on the grounds that they can’t possibly be serious and it must be just another meaningless sop to their insatiable base?¨

Not to put a fine point on it, but the GOP has lost three elections in a row. (Strictly speaking they didn´t lose in 2022, but only by the barest sliver.) Additionally, every time they get control of the House there is no end to the lunatic bills they´re going to propose for messaging purposes; if I live long enough maybe they will finally get around to declaring war on the stars themselves.

I´m glad some journalism was committed in reporting this, but there´s no strong need to give them oxygen, or more important to them, loud public opposition, so they have something to campaign against in the continuous-365 election cycle.

¨They seem very serious about wanting to use it to start a war with Mexico.¨

They´re very serious about not raising the debt ceiling, presumably to force the US to go into default and force a financial panic that will result in a deep recession that will finally break open the pinata of destroying Social Security and Medicare which they can then blame on Democrats, which in turn will result in them winning all the elections forever (by say, outlawing the Democratic party), and then an economic miracle will happen, the heavens will part, Jesus will step out of the stretch limo and all the bad people will become true Christians (ahem: including the Jews, if they know what´s good for them) and peace will reign all over the earth forever, amen. With that payoff, you´d practically *have* to support war with Mexico... if you were a true believer in a certain form of received Christianity. Street Christianity. (They´d appreciate if you didn´t mention that bit about no man shall know the hour or the day.) (´Well, he didn´t say anything about the year or the decade right? So we can know those parts, right?´)

´The CDC says that 150 people die daily from opiate overdoses, of which fentanyl overdoses are a sharply rising proportion.´

But the opiate problem (which replaced the meth problem) was basically induced internally by the Sacklers and their pharmaceutical salesman, and the Sacklers are embarrassingly rich. Much easier and safer to heap garbage on foreigners, specifically Mexicans, whom the Republican base was mad at during many of our previous episodes of Reality TV politics.

¨When a military enters a sovereign country against the wishes of that country’s people and its legitimate government, that’s an invasion.¨

It´s generally considered an act of aggressive war (much like a filibuster, or occupying the ports of a Central American country that might be in arrears to United Fruit Company or American banks). I think a reasonable case could be made that invading Iraq was an act of aggressive war, no matter how much BS was strewn about in service of the case, and the folks who loved that (particularly the blood) like they love their dogs would happily do something just like it all over again.

¨This reinforces the idea that these proposals are meant to be a negotiating strategy, not a true effort to facilitate an invasion.¨

OK, the original idea was that we couldn´t declare war on Al Qaeda because they were a terrorist group and if we did we´d have to treat them as enemy combatants/POWs and what we wanted to do was engage in a police operation against the world´s worst criminals using the military, and (here´s the not directly stated part) we would then be free to do whatever wanted to said Al Qaeda members. (Such as torturing them.) Also, because Al Qaeda could be anywhere it had to apply anywhere in the world, and also we included anyone who supported Al Qaeda, like the Taliban or just anyone we don´t like and want to kill, et voilà: we de facto declared war on every country on earth that doesn´t bend the knee. Come time to invade Iraq, they decided, for finicky legal reasons and also figleaves, to write one that could anywhere near, around, over, under or besides Iraq. It´s great: eternal war for perpetual TV hits, no fussing with Congress, no need to mess with the Red Cross or international courts or the UN, bomb anybody, anywhere, at any time, if you can cough up even a half-witted justification. It´s not an actual declaration of war (which could involve drafts or quelle horreur! raising taxes), it just works like a perpetual war-generating machine.

They want to put the band back together. As you say, the idea is insane, so they just come out and say they don´t *really* mean it and they would never really invade Mexico (they would totally invade Mexico is they thought it would an election or three), never mind that Mexico is ~5 times the population and ~4 times the surface area of Iraq. They wanna bomb something; even more importantly they want to go on FoxNews and talk about bombing things, and even more importantly than that they want to campaign on bombing things and killing people.

The junction of the words Mexico, drugs, cartels, China, terrorists,´the border´ and bombing will (they hope) cause the elderly FoxNews Barcalounger Brigade to arise as one from their reclining positions and scream ´BINGO´! Assuming they can get up off the Barcalounger. (Freudian slip? I keep wanting to spell it BarcOlounger as in ´starkers´.) It all sounds very tough and warlike, and gets attention off the fact that Biden visited Kyiv and they don´t want to fight the Russians because Vladmir Putin is a very manly 5´7" sitting at one of many splendid long tables, and Ze is good Jewish boy would wore a dress in a comedy skit, so clearly Ukraine is gay, and they´re totally off fighting the Russians, even ignoring the fact Donald Trump loves Putin as much as he loves anybody other than himself.

As it stands, there´s no chance Biden will sign this: it would drive a stake through the heart of his reelection campaign, which is yet another reason for Republicans to bring it up in the hopes that he will do something really stupid. Further to that, the donor class would not want to actually go to war with Mexico because they own property down there, so this likely won´t go very far.



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The opiate problem didn't replace the meth problem. We still have a meth problem, bigger than ever. As of 2021: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/methamphetamine-overdose-deaths-rise-sharply-nationwide

ethamphetamine overdose deaths surged in an eight-year period in the United States, according to a study that will published today in JAMA Psychiatry. The analysis revealed rapid rises across all racial and ethnic groups, but American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest death rates overall. The research was conducted at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

"Methamphetamine overdose deaths surged in an eight-year period in the United States, according to a study that will published today in JAMA Psychiatry. The analysis revealed rapid rises across all racial and ethnic groups ...Deaths involving methamphetamines more than quadrupled among non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives from 2011-2018 (from 4.5 to 20.9 per 100,000 people) overall, with sharp increases for both men (from 5.6 to 26.4 per 100,000 from 2011-2018) and women (from 3.6 to 15.6 per 100,000 from 2012-2018) in that group."

It's bad.

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All the sources I read say that you think you’re buying meth, or most any other drug, but they’re selling you fentanyl. It’s everywhere.

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Mar 14, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

I would tend to assume that rhetoric about invading Mexico would be just that - messaging to get attention/enthuse supporters with an authoritarian tendency, and just maybe to make a serious point about a serious problem. Although given where the rhetoric is coming from, the latter seems unlikely. I mean, maybe they're serious - god knows there have been some crazy ideas floated by people in positions of power in the last few years - but it seems more likely they're just making noise.

I know nothing - not an American, never lived there and wouldn't, but don't mind the occasional visit - but I doubt there are any easy fixes to the drug problem in the US. Restricting supply (which history suggests is really hard anyway, regardless of how many dollars or bullets thrown at the problem) just makes it a more profitable business - illegal activities are one place where markets tend to work quite efficiently. As Claire notes, ultimately you have to reduce demand, and that's a difficult, probably multi-generational project that the whole of society needs to buy into. So not an easy sell in any political environment, let alone the current one.

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Mar 14, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

We shouldn’t invade Mexico; we should invade San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and every other city with a major fentanyl problem. It’s not the Mexican President we should be worried about, it’s the Soros backed prosecutors who refuse to take the problem seriously and won’t bring charges against street level dealers.

In San Francisco the other day, a group of local politicians led a rally opposing the deportation of low-level Central American fentanyl dealers.

A large number of fentanyl addicts are suffering from untreated psychiatric diseases and are using fentanyl to self-medicate. Too many progressive Americans believe that patients with psychiatric disorders should not be forced into treatment; the result is that many of these patients turn to drugs they can buy on the street.

Remarkably, instead of forcing fentanyl addicts (and patients who are not addicts but suffer from severe psychiatric disease) into treatment whether they like it or not, many local governments including San Francisco and Los Angeles are creating locally run drug dens. These drug dens make the problem worse not better.

Invading Mexico in the hopes of alleviating this problem is absurd; not because the Mexicans won’t like it but because it won’t work. If the United States won’t institute punitive policies to reduce demand, the supply will always be available. We need to prosecute drug dealers (low level and kingpins) and we need to detain fentanyl addicts, not permit them to take over our streets.

About the only good thing to be said about the idea of invading Mexico is that it would violate “international law.” The entire concept of international law is so deluded that you almost have to be hooked on fentanyl to support it.

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That's another major issue, isn't it? Why is there such a huge demand for narcotics in America?

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How about if instead of using the phrase, "International Law," I use the phrase, "The principle that you need a damned good reason to invade another country, and 'Our citizens are drug addicts' ain't it." Could you get behind that? Is that "deluded?"

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Mar 14, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

Yes. I could get behind that.

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Project Exile cleaned up Richmond, but since the Feds and the City stopped cooperating, murder rates are rising again. And it’s all due to being a drug running hub.

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Richmond is a great city. It’s art museum is spectacular for a city it’s size and it’s botanical garden is truly beautiful. When I visit, I like to stay at the Jefferson Hotel which is a landmark in its own right. Sadly, I don’t feel secure walking on the street after sundown.

Didn’t Project Exile involve outsourcing the problem of gun violence from the local government to the Federal Government? Wouldn’t it be better if local governments could enforce the law rather than depending on the U.S. Justice Department to step in?

Williamsburg, VA is only an hour from Richmond. Did the Burgess’s who met there ever think that the role of the Federal Government they would help to create was to prosecute what are essentially local crimes?

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What it did was take drug dealers, who were committing federal drug offenses while murdering people, and moved them to federal prisons in other states instead of to Petersburg or one of the state prisons, where family and friends could visit and they could continue their business from the inside. Hence the name “Exile.” Hard to run a drug clearinghouse in Richmond when you’re locked up in Indiana. Now, in my local jail, one of the big drug kingpins is a frequent flyer, his girlfriend’s a deputy, and the inmates in the supposedly locked down detox wing can get whatever they want. And that’s been going on with the tacit approval of sheriffs from both parties. I believe we call that bipartisanship?

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