Obama Should Not Send Troops to Protect U.S. - Mexico Border, Says Former Congressman
April 16, 2009 - 7:21 PMPresident Barack Obama should not consider sending the U.S. military to the border with Mexico to help halt spillover violence from drug cartels, former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) told CNSNews.com.
Kolbe also said that the Mexican government may favor the United States sending troops to prevent American guns from crossing into Mexico, but he did not think the idea would be discussed during Obama’s trip to Mexico on Thursday – and if it did, Obama would probably “brush it aside.”
Kolbe made his remarks at a panel discussion -- "Expectations for President Obama's Trip to Mexico and the Summit of the Americas” – held at the Washington, D.C. office of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas on Wednesday.
Last month, the governors of both Texas and Arizona requested that U.S. military troops be sent to secure the border with Mexico -- more than 7,000 people have been killed across Mexico in drug-related violence since January 2008. While Obama initially indicated he would consider sending troops, his administration has since clarified that it does not think “militarization” of the border is the proper solution.
“No,” said Kolbe when asked by CNSNews.com if he thought Obama ought to send troops to the border. “I don’t think that’s the way you deal with the problem along the border. I mean, it’s still a law enforcement issue. National Guardsmen are trained by the U.S. military. They don’t have the training in U.S. legal terms on when you can detain somebody, of the Miranda rights, or things like that.”
“I think it’s a mistake to try to use [National] Guard troops for that kind of border protection,” said Kolbe. “We certainly have not reached that kind of level. The spillover violence is significant, but it’s the kind of violence that has to be resolved through police actions, through investigations and the rest -- not through military action.”
But on Mar. 11, in speaking with reporters, President Obama said he would consider sending more troops to the violence-ridden border.
“We’re gong to examine whether National Guard deployment would make sense and under what circumstances they would make sense,” Obama said, as reported by McClatchy Newspapers. “I think it’s unacceptable if you’ve got drug gangs crossing our borders and killing U.S. citizens.”
But the next day, the White House backed away from that statement saying the border problems could not be solved through “militarization.”
“The president has enumerated again that our long-term challenges to our many policy decisions around the border are not going to be solved through militarization of the border,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters.
Around the same time, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) said they thought troops ought to be posted to protect the border.
But Kolbe said he doubts the subject will come up in Obama’s discussions during Thursday’s trip to Mexico.
“My guess is that it probably is not going to come up,” Kolbe told CNSNews.com. “But if it does, my guess is he is going to brush it aside and downplay it.”
Meanwhile, Kolbe expressed concern that American-sold weapons are crossing the border and being used for drug violence in Mexico. The Mexican government, he said, would probably be in favor of placing troops on the U.S. border to prevent gun smuggling, he said.
“What the Mexicans would like now is for us to try to take whatever steps are necessary for us to try to curb the importation of arms into Mexico -- guns -- assault weapons into Mexico, and I think they would be quite happy if there were checks from military along the border to prevent that from happening,” Kolbe told CNSNews.com.
“They are very concerned about that and rightly so,” he said. “There is no question that the vast majority of weapons are coming into the Northern part of Mexico from the Southwest of the United States across that border there. There is tremendous traffic in that.”
Kolbe added that, in terms of gun smuggling, “the president needs to step up to the plate.”
As CNSNews.com and other media have reported, U.S. authorities do not know how many guns are smuggled into Mexico and used by drug cartels because information on weapons confiscated and is provided only by Mexican authorities to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and that data only includes the traceable weapons: serial numbers, make and model.
It does not include the complete number of guns confiscated or inventoried in Mexico, or the numbers of weapons that have no serial numbers and cannot otherwise be traced. As Fox News.com, after interviewing several ATF personnel, reported on Apr. 2, “only 17 percent of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced to the U.S.”