The Bush administration is ready to seal a major deal with Mexico to provide scads of money for Mexico to fight its drug cartels. It's supposed to be the biggest drug-fighting foreign operation since "Plan Colombia," which has wasted $5 billion over seven years without affecting the street price of cocaine. Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, a major cheerleader for the program, giddily anticipated is will be "hundreds of millions of dollars" in the first year.
There's little question Mexico is experiencing problems with its drug traffickers. There's something of a war among major cartels underway that has cost maybe 3,000 lives in the last year. But pouring more money into enforcement will almost certainly make matters worse. Some will be funneled into official pockets, of course, and some will go to favored cartels. And it will run up against what the invaluable Arnold Trebach deemed the "iron law of prohibition."
The more money and effort is put into anti-certain-drugs enforcement, the more violence is ratcheted up. The upshot of bursts of conspicuous enforcement is to eliminate the weaker competitors among the cartels and strengthen the strongest -- those most adept at concealment, violence and bribery. Another result is to push the drug trade into goods that are more easily concealed and more compact. So they'll deal less in marijuana and more in heroin, cocaine and meth. It's absurdly predictable. Some progress!