Mexico’s armed forces are tasked with all sorts of law-enforcement missions that elsewhere would be handled by police or gendarmerie forces. As a result, they are incredibly under-resourced, as Iñigo Guevara recounts here. It is an excellent article; if you have any interest in Mexican issues, you should read it.
But he does say one interesting thing with which I think I disagree:
For the last decade — 2006 to date — Mexico’s entire defense procurement has been limited to supporting its internal security and civil defense roles. Only very few items are actually considered military ...
Mexico’s Air Force is running dangerously low in this capacity and requires a replacement for its obsolete F-5 supersonic fighters. Likewise the Navy will need to field a new generation of ocean going frigates and amphibious ships that can navigate beyond the exclusive economic zone and the Army will need to begin replacement of its museum-grade armor and artillery.
For those skeptics — I know you are out there — who will ask does Mexico really need a squadron of supersonic fighters? … or a squadron of blue water frigates? … or a brigade of armored fighting vehicles? … the answer is yes, absolutely yes. Mexico — like all other modern states of its size — needs at least a token defensive capability to provide a minimum deterrent against unknowns and uncertainties. Why? Because the best weapon in a country’s arsenal is the one that it never has to use.
I agree that the best weapon is one that never has to be used. But I do not understand why that means buying useless weapons! And it hard for me to envisage the circumstances under which supersonic fighters or an armored brigade would be useful for Mexico. (I can hazily see a use for blue-water frigates ... but only hazily.) Mexico pulled out of the Rio Treaty in 2004, but that treaty provided only the vaguest defense guarantees.* So nothing has changed. Mexico still falls under the American defense blanket in terms of extra-continental threats ... and cannot possibly defend itself against the United States.
Moreover, unlike Canada, the United States does not expect Mexico to help deal with extra-continental threats. And unlike Canadian voters, Mexican voters do not seem to expect their country to do so.
Sure, Mexico can afford an armored brigade, a blue-water navy, and modern fighter jets, but they would seem to be utterly useless even for deterrence. So why bother?
I wish Jussi Jalonen still came around here; I think he may have thoughts on this issue.
* Article 3 of the Rio Treaty reads “The High Contracting Parties agree that an armed attack by any State against an American State shall be considered as an attack against all the American States and, consequently, each one of the said Contracting Parties undertakes to assist in meeting the attack in the exercise of the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.”
That is a far cry from NATO: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force.”