Lawmakers Fuel Border War Fire

Diplomacy over U.S.-Mexico border junked with calls for another Black Jack Pershing to head south.

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By Alex Kingsbury, Washington Whispers

Mexico is quite particular about its sovereignty, particularly when it comes to cooperating with its northern neighbor. Chalk that up to the legacy of land grabs and armed conflict. Yet it may be the ongoing cartel wars that finally bury those grudges—with diplomats picking their words carefully on both sides. "Some of the old biases against cooperation between our militaries and so on, I think, are being satisfied," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently, discussing the drug violence that has killed 1,000 people this year alone.

But we found this week that some members of Congress are less tactful. "We need to send another Black Jack Pershing to patrol the U.S. side of the southern border," Rep. John Culberson of Texas said this week, during a hearing on the ongoing chaos south of the border. His suggestion was met with silence from the panel of border patrol, customs, and Department of Homeland Security witnesses briefing lawmakers. One later told U.S. News that the reference was a "poorly chosen allusion."

Perhaps Culberson, a history major from Southern Methodist University, should have found another hero to reference. In 1916, Brig. Gen. John Pershing led a military expedition after Francisco "Pancho" Villa. Deploying some of the most advanced technology of the day, 10,000 U.S. soldiers chased after the Mexican revolutionary in his own country, to no avail. Not only did they fail to capture their man, but the U.S. troops infuriated the local population, angered the Mexican government, and fought open battles with the Mexican Army. Villa escaped capture, and raids by his followers against the United States continued. Pershing later said that the entire effort "will not be a very inspiring chapter for schoolchildren, or even grown-ups, to contemplate."

Photo (ALEX KINGSBURY FOR USN & WR): David Aguilar, chief of border patrol, briefs members of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security Appropriations at a hearing titled "Mexican Drug Wars."

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