Michael Ware


TSR: "We need new strategies on both sides of the border."

Length: 6:12

LARGE (86.3 MB) ----- SMALL (7.6 MB)

Michael talks to Wolf about the current plans to help Mexico fight the cartels. The need for a counterinsurgency-style rethinking of the situation makes a lot of sense -- but how do we cut the demand for illegal drugs here in the US? Sure, there are renewed discussions about legalizing marijuana, but cocaine? I don't see that idea forming a sentence, let alone a dialogue. (Hey, we could always nationalize the Afghan poppy fields; that way we could undercut the cartel sales AND fund the wars all at once!)

Also, not sure what Michael is talking about at the end of the piece when he cracks that something Wolf says is libelous -- as a former lawyer, he would certainly know that libel is written defamation, not spoken. I suspect it is some sort of inside joke; he even seems to be imitating someone else's voice as he says it.

WOLF BLITZER: The Obama administration is ramping up a plan to move federal agents and equipment to the border to help Mexico in its desperate struggle against ruthless drug cartels. Mexico says the drug wars claimed some 6,500 lives last year alone.

Let's go to CNN's Michael Ware.

He's just spent some time in Mexico -- I know you're heading back, Michael, as well.

Is this going to make a difference, the beefing up of the U.S. border with Mexico?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you certainly have to applaud any measure. But I have to say, from what I've seen so far in Mexico -- and I'm about to be spending a lot more time there -- this is a drop in the bucket, finger in the dike stuff.

I mean let's not forget what's driving this war. It's two things. One is the profit motive of the cartels. And beefing up the border even more hasn't stopped them so far. When they closed the routes through Florida and the Caribbean for the Colombian cartels, that's when the Mexican cartels took over and said we'll get it in.

I don't see that being stopped. We can disrupt it, make business more expensive, but it's not going to stop.

BLITZER: Because they have...

WARE: The other...

BLITZER: They have all that coastline. Ships could easily be bringing in weapons into Mexico if that border -- the land border, for example, were shut tight.

WARE: Well, you'll never shut it tight, is my opinion.

And have you seen the drug subs?

The guerrillas in Colombia actually built drug submarines that were able to skim just under the surface of the water, carrying as much as a ton of cocaine. And in the last couple of years, there's been increasing interceptions of those.

BLITZER: These drug cartel troops, if you will -- the guys who are actually involved in working for these various drug cartels -- first of all, do we have any idea how many they are, and, secondly, how well-armed are they?

WARE: Oh, boy, Wolf. Conservative estimates that I've been reading in the last couple of weeks say 100,000 foot soldiers divided amongst all these fiercely warring cartels, armed with fully automatic weapons, grenades and, indeed, they're even intercepting, in the hands of the cartels, .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifles.

Now, these are a military weapon that I've only ever seen in the hands of the Marines and the U.S. Army.

BLITZER: It sounds, Michael, like -- you're painting a picture of more foot soldiers working for the drug cartels, heavily armed, than insurgents in the al-Anbar Province -- the Sunni insurgents. And all of us remember the years you covered the war in Iraq.

Give us a comparison.

WARE: Well, I'm very shy of making comparisons between a holy war or a political insurgency in Iraq and a profit-motivated drug war in Mexico.

However, I have to say, when I was in Juarez -- the city that's right on the border with El Paso, the front line town -- I couldn't shake the feeling that I was in the midst of an insurgency.

Now, for my mind, there's two extreme options that are currently available to the Obama administration. One is cut the demand for the drugs. America is what's fueling this war. That demand is never going to go away. So you either legalize or somehow you cut the demand.

The other option is move in and fight this war seriously. Scattering DEA agents and ATF agents and increasing intelligence-sharing and trying to watch cars crossing from America with the guns that the cartels are fighting with just ain't going to do it.

BLITZER: Doesn't the Mexican government -- the Mexican Army -- don't they have that capability and...

WARE: Oh, Wolf -- Wolf, please. Please. Look, already the Mexican military has as many as 45,000 troops in the field, in their own country, fighting their own citizens. Now, this is a military trained like anyone else's military, to defend the sovereign territory of their country. And now they're being turned into super armed policemen, because you can't trust the local police. They're riddled with corruption. You can't...

BLITZER: But you're not really saying, are you, Michael, that you -- you think the United States should send in thousands of American troops onto sovereign Mexican soil to fight this war?

WARE: Well, good -- heaven forbid that that should ever happen. But you either legalize these things and cut the demand or you're going to have to intervene.

Now, what I'm looking to the White House and President Obama for is a third way. Now, that's what he's going to have to find -- some measure between those two things, because America is responsible for this war, Wolf. It's American demand for the illicit drugs that's fueling it. It's being fought on both sides with American weapons. And it's been neglected by the United States pretty much since 9/11.

BLITZER: Well, as you know, the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will be in Mexico later this week. The president is planning a trip there next month. The Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, will be going over there pretty soon for meetings with the Calderon government. I assume they're coming up with some sort of new strategy.

WARE: Well, we also know that the head of Southern Command, Admiral Stavridis, went down there, as well. And then -- just a couple weeks ago. And then he went to the White House the next day and briefed President Obama.

What I sincerely hope that the Admiral told the president is that the way this war is being fought, it cannot possibly be won. We need new strategies on both sides of the border, because you have a Mexican president who is not beholden to the cartels, who had to send the military into his own cities because he had no other choice. And that military is outmanned and outgunned.

BLITZER: It's a sign of the times that we're sending Michael Ware to cover this war in Mexico.

WARE: That's libelous, Wolf!

BLITZER: Good luck, Michael.

We'll be talking to you from Mexico.

Michael Ware reporting excellently, as he always does.