Pirates prowling the shores, kidnappings and abductions, the murdering of American citizens on our own soil. A borderland in chaos, full scale anarchy, lawlessness and armed gangs ruling the borderlands.
Such a description certainly fits today with our border with Mexico. Stories of murder, mayhem, abductions, drugs and trafficking fill the news on a daily basis. The border area and the cities of Juarez, Tijuana and Nogales are war zones, the violence spreading across the border at a frightening rate.
But the description is not for today alone. In the aftermath of the War of 1812, with the defeat of the British and New Orleans secure, only Spanish Florida remained out of American hands, the last European colony east of the Mississippi.
But Spain was weak, its once great Global Empire a faded memory as it struggled to hold on to its prize colonies in the Western Hemisphere. Florida however, like most of Spain’s other colonies in the present day United States, was not considered significant. Outside of a few military outposts and scattered missions, the disease infested swamps and marshlands were left uninhabited.
By the early 19th century, Florida had become the home of ruffians, outlaws, buccaneers, runaway slaves, and Indian bandits. The Spanish garrisons in Pensacola were hard pressed to protect their own settlers, much less patrol the anarchy on the border of the U.S. By 1817, with Americans being attacked and murdered on our side of the border, the crisis had reached a boiling point. It was one thing to have chaos across a border, but when it spilled over to our side, endangering American lives and property, it became a crisis that had to be dealt with.
Fortunately, America at that time had the strength of General Andrew Jackson, fresh off his victory at the Battle of New Orleans. He was a national hero. Politicians in Washington, as is often the case, were hesitant and adverse to conflict, even in the case of protecting American lives. But President James Monroe, sensing that something had to be done, gave orders to U.S. troops to chase raiders across the border. Jackson took his cue, and within a short period of time, Florida was cleared of trouble. Spain meekly retreated and paved the way for annexation and later statehood for the territory. Most critical, Americans were safe.
What is the lesson? There are many and though history never runs a straight line to the present, we can draw from the parallels. The first and most important lesson of course, is that the protection of American lives and property is paramount over any other consideration. All options go on the table in the defense of protecting our citizens against harm. Second, we should not be afraid, averse, or even hesitant to use force, including military force to interdict, across the border if necessary, those committing crimes against American sovereignty.
If the Mexican government cannot control the border, much as the Spanish government could not control Florida in 1817, it is incumbent on the Federal Government of the United States to take whatever steps are necessary to curb the violence. And let’s call this what it is. When foreign nationals with weapons cross a border and murder, destroy property and kidnap Americans, that is an invasion. We have every right to defend ourselves; now the only relevant question is where has America’s pride gone when we don’t care enough for protecting Americans from violence being committed across an international border. That is singly the Federal Government’s responsibility.
Does this mean we should invade northern Mexico? Probably not yet, but we do need to militarize the border and prepare for whatever actions become necessary. As history shows, the precedent is there.
America can and should not stand by and allow a lawless borderland to continue. The drug cartels have taken control of the border and murdered thousands of Mexicans and now that violence has come north. Call it what you want, but it is a war. And if Mexico won’t or can’t fight this war, we will. If we can send hundreds of thousands of American troops to protect the life and liberty of Iraqis, Afghans, Vietnamese, Koreans, Bosnians, and millions of others, then we can surely do the same for our own American citizens.
It is time to heed the call of Andrew Jackson. “The conduct of this banditti is such as will not be tolerated by our government, and if not put down by Spanish authority will compel us in self-defense to destroy them.” Such were the words given by Jackson to the Spanish Governor at Pensacola. Such words should have been spoken by our President instead of the cowardly and treacherous apology that he gave President Calderon last week in Washington and his arrogant elitist blather about shopping for ice cream cones. Has he forgotten the oath that he took just a year and a half ago?
A message needs to be sent to Washington and to Mexico City. American lives deserved to be protected from foreign invasion. It is the one duty of the Federal Government above all others. It is time this warning is heeded.