It's the war no one wants to talk about. It has been raging on the U.S.-Mexican border for three and a half years and until recently neither the media nor Washington has given it the attention its alarming casualty numbers demand.
Since 2007, nearly 23,000 people have died in Mexico's war with the drug cartels, nearly three times U.S casualties in Iraq and the Afghanistan conflict combined.
The violence is closing in and on occasions spilling onto U.S. soil. The murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz in March of this year ignited a revolt among Arizonans that has burst onto the nation stage and polarized opposing sides in the immigration debate. Yet it has spurred little action by the U.S. to aid Mexico in its struggle.
For the cartels, America's quibbling over "immigration reform" presents a welcome diversion for their lucrative businesses. The U.S. has an insatiable demand for their drugs and they are filling it faster than the DEA can close the wormholes they use to send them into the country.
In play may be the very future of U.S. relations with its southern neighbor. In 2006, pro-American moderate Felipe CalderÃ³n barely defeated a leftist populist in Mexico's presidential election, and the national mindset is desperate for solutions to the country's abject poverty, government corruption and mounting violence.
For the United States, the question is no longer whether it will take action against narco- and human-traffickers on the border, but when it will deploy troops. The U.S. can ill afford an anti-American leftist government similar to Venezuela on its southern border, and it will happen if the Washington doesn't act soon.
Both parties in Washington have failed to recognize the disastrous consequences to U.S. interests, should Calderon lose his fight, either with the cartels or leftist political opposition. If the U.S. procrastinates on increasing financial aid, eventually it may find itself in the position of having to invade the country to prevent a government overthrow. It is that serious.
Since 2008, the U.S. has allocated only $1.6 billion aid for Mexico in its drug war, as opposed to over $10 billion in Afghanistan for civil stabilization programs alone.
Mexican cartels are already active in California and other parts of the U.S., and Washington must move quickly if it is to stem the tide of the advancing cartels before they inflict widespread damage on Americans living in the Southwest.