South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Sunday that he would be willing to send U.S. troops to Mexico as a “last resort” to fight drug cartels.
Buttigieg was speaking at a Latino candidate forum after attending a convention of the state’s Democrats, whom he has been courting aggressively ahead of California’s March 3 primary, in Long Beach.
The Golden State, which has the largest delegate haul, has traditionally voted in June, but state leaders chose to shift it earlier to give voters a bigger role in determining the winner of presidential primaries.
Q: Mr. Mayor, after a number of Americans were murdered in Northern Mexico, President Trump suggested sending U.S. troops to help Mexico deal with the cartels. With your military experience, is there a way to deal with the cartels that doesn’t violate Mexico’s sovereignty?
Buttigieg: Well, one of the biggest things I learned during my time deployed abroad is the importance of our alliances, our friendships. And this president, needless to say, has destroyed just about every relationship he can find. That makes America less safe. Whether it is turning our back on Kurdish allies, who put their lives on the line to help us fight ISIS, or right here in our own hemisphere, alienating those very countries that we need to have a better partnership with. Remember, it is in the interest of both the United States and Mexico for Mexico to prosper with greater economic success and security then they have right now. So, if it is in the context of a security partnership, then I would welcome ways to make sure that America is doing what we can to ensure that our neighbor to the south is secure. But doing it in a way that calls into question Mexican sovereignty completely misses how we got here. By the way, a lot of this is a question of the demand side on the United States. Part of what we do is make drug trafficking less profitable by walking away from the failed war on drugs here in the United States. That is a policy that we know through experience hasn’t worked. We have got to do our part here at home, and partner with countries abroad.
Q: But Mayor, specifically — do you see a time when troops can go into Mexico, if Mexico welcomed it, for instance?
Buttigieg: There is a scenario where we could have security cooperation — as we do with countries around the world. Now, I would only order American troops into conflict if there were no other choice, if American lives were on the line, and if this were necessary for us to uphold our treaty obligations. But we could absolutely be in some partnership role if, and only if, it is welcomed by our partner south of the border.
Buttigieg seems to have missed the point of the question: that American lives are, in fact, on the line.
The Sacramento Bee reports that Buttigieg was the only candidate who faced a direct question about sending troops to Mexico.
Other candidates were sharply critical of Buttigieg’s remarks. Aggressive rhetoric about Mexico is taboo in the Democratic Party, ever since President Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 on building a wall along the border — and making Mexico pay for it.
(Since then, Trump has ordered the military to build new portions of “wall” — heavy bollard fencing — along the border, over congressional objections, and secured an agreement with Mexico to place thousands of troops at its southern border, at its expense.)
Buttigieg remains in single digits in most nationwide polls, occupying fourth place, the first of the second-tier candidates, well behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at the front of the pack. He is leading in recent polls in Iowa, however, and is focusing his resources in early primary states.
Meanwhile, delegates to the convention were reportedly suggesting that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) drop out, given that she is polling poorly in her own home state.
Harris has focused her campaign’s dwindling resources on Iowa, rather than on nearby Nevada, the third primary state, where she has a geographical advantage.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.