All Along the Watchtower
The War on Terror has arrived in Latin America, and is headed our way.


Mario Loyola

Now Mexican narco-terrorism has started to arrive in America’s own cities. There are reports of a sudden spike of kidnappings in Phoenix, Ariz. U.S. authorities recently arrested 52 cartel members in a single week. The cartels already control much of the distribution in the U.S.; now they are moving to control “retail” sales. The sophisticated networks they are developing — virtual pipelines that allow them to smuggle whatever people or things they please into and out of the U.S. — could be just as useful to Islamist terrorists. One wonders how long it will take for Hugo Chávez to start connecting the dots among his various friends.



After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration asked itself a basic question: “How do we fight a war against an enemy that is present in 60 or more countries with whom we are not at war?” We focused on “partnership capacity building” as the answer.

Behind the scenes of the high-profile fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, partnership capacity building has in fact been the essence of America’s response to the attacks of 9/11. In scores of countries across the Islamic world, U.S. security-cooperation programs have bolstered the institutions of governance — training and equipping security forces, bolstering administration of justice, developing education programs, even assisting with budget management. We have countered a transnational threat with a transnational effort that seeks to create points of connectivity between our government and those of our partners — e.g., our military and theirs, our law enforcement and theirs, and our intelligence services and theirs.

These efforts — developed in the fight against terrorism across the Islamic world — need to become the hallmark of our fight against narco-radical-Islamist terrorism in Latin America. The same life-and-death struggle against narco-terrorist networks and violent revolution that gripped Colombia for decades has arrived in Mexico, our last line of defense. We have to defeat it there, if we do not want to face it here.

We have to strengthen our ties of alliance, cooperation, and friendship with the countries of Latin America. But in extending that hand of friendship we should not shy from calling on them to do their share. Latin America’s democracies remain desperately poor because their societies continue to embrace cultures of dependency, cults of personality, and corruption. Until Latin America becomes a more fertile ground for good governance, it will keep producing poverty, crime, radicalism, and terrorism.

-- Mario Loyola, a former adviser in the U.S. Senate and at the Pentagon, is a visiting fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a frequent contributor to National Review.