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Opinion: While U.S. focuses on Africa, Middle East, it's being outgunned in the Americas

Jul. 3, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
SCT Honduras MWM 20140603
Honduran marines from the Batallón de Infanteria de Marina depart their base June 3 in La Ceiba for an unexpected security mission. The marines often perform missions more aligned with police work than a typical military role. (Mike Morones / Staff)
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With terrorist cells spreading across Africa, Russia’s confrontational resurgence in Eastern Europe and China’s continued quest for dominance throughout the Pacific, the U.S. has its hands full, to say the very least.

Meanwhile, a menacing problem festers to the south. In South and Central America, and even in Mexico, a ruthless insurgency is hell-bent on maintaining a $60 billion per year drug trade that threatens to destabilize several countries throughout the region, thus posing enormous risk to the U.S. Yet compared to other flashpoints worldwide, the Americas often are seen as a low priority when it comes to funding because drug trafficking, per se, seldom sets off the same alarms as do traditional notions of terrorism.

That’s a very dangerous assumption to make.

Consider that Honduras, population 8.5 million, has the world’s highest murder rate. Consider also that in 2010the major cartels in the Mexico-Central America corridor spent $1 billion paying bribes to local municipalities. That’s $400 million more than U.S. Southern Command’s entire 2013 budget for counter-narcotics operations.

This is a grave concern for SOUTHCOM’s commander, Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, whose 2014 posture address to Congress in February included the word “budget” 27 times — often paired with words like cut, uncertainty or constraints. With less money and oversight from the U.S., our allies will be less capable to fight the drug war themselves. This leaves the U.S. vulnerable to spillover violence.

The U.S. can’t afford to be outspent and outgunned by an enemy so close to our border.

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