Does Rick Perry really want to send U.S. troops to Mexico?

It’s been superseded in the national media discussion by the controversy over the name of his old hunting spot, but Rick Perry also generated some controversy over the weekend with comments over how he would respond to Mexico’s drug violence:  “It may require our military in Mexico,” Perry said in answer to a question about ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images
Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images
Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images

It's been superseded in the national media discussion by the controversy over the name of his old hunting spot, but Rick Perry also generated some controversy over the weekend with comments over how he would respond to Mexico's drug violence

“It may require our military in Mexico,” Perry said in answer to a question about the growing threat of drug violence along the southern border. Perry offered no details, and a spokesman, Robert Black, said afterward that sending troops to Mexico would be merely one way of putting an end to the exploding cartel-related violence in the region.

Black said Perry’s intention is to work with the Mexican government, but he declined to specify whether Perry is amenable to sending troops into Mexico with or without the country’s consent.

It’s been superseded in the national media discussion by the controversy over the name of his old hunting spot, but Rick Perry also generated some controversy over the weekend with comments over how he would respond to Mexico’s drug violence

“It may require our military in Mexico,” Perry said in answer to a question about the growing threat of drug violence along the southern border. Perry offered no details, and a spokesman, Robert Black, said afterward that sending troops to Mexico would be merely one way of putting an end to the exploding cartel-related violence in the region.

Black said Perry’s intention is to work with the Mexican government, but he declined to specify whether Perry is amenable to sending troops into Mexico with or without the country’s consent.

“If he were president he would do what it takes,” Black said. “The governor said, ‘I’m going to work with the Mexican government to do what’s necessary.’?”

As Brookings Institution scholar Michael O’Hanlon tells the Post, “It’s almost as sensitive as saying U.S. troops should go over the border into Pakistan.… It’s much more likely to cause a breakdown in our relationship with Mexico than make a difference in the drug war.”

One would hope that having met with Mexican presidents in the past, Perry is aware of how unlikely it is that any Mexican government would allow U.S. troops across the border and knows that, in practice, this idea is a non-starter. This isn’t the first time Perry has floated this notion, though it hasn’t come up much on the campaign trail, and it’s possible the governor may be trying to counter the emerging line of attack from Mitt Romney that he’s soft on immigration.

Of course, it’s one thing for the governor of Texas to engage in some tough-sounding bluster to get the crowd riled up; it’s quite different coming from a leading contender for the U.S. presidency. U.S. primary voters may be used to discounting some of the rhetorical excesses of campaign trail rhetoric, but I imagine it’s a little more difficult for viewers in Mexico (or Pakistan, or China) to know which statements they should and shouldn’t be taking seriously from the possible future leader of the free world.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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