To those paying attention to the dire consequences caused by extreme vacillation in the Americas on a myriad of political issues and violence, the quintessential oxymoron of "intelligence" raises its ugly head.
The last eight years in Latin America alone clearly demonstrate a US failure to promulgate a clear and secure message of support to the democratic nations to the south and in the Caribbean basin that are besieged with transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, human/sex trafficking, and related acts of robbery, kidnapping and extortion. And the death tolls are staggering.
Of course the quick fix architects of nimble decision making reach deep into the treasury coffers over and over again and throw massive funds into the turbulent winds of despair.
But what about positions on issues affecting those democracies? And what about positions regarding the leftist dictators in the Americas, especially the mindset of the two US Presidential candidates before the election of last week?
Although Mexico's war with drug trafficking organizations has been reported ad nauseam, it too should be noted that Mexico is the US's third largest trading partner. Yet these facts, along with immigration issues and border security, were essentially ignored by both parties as viable issues of concern during much of the campaign in the US.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez continues to dismantle what is left of democracy in that nation, while continuing to spew hatred against the US at every opportunity. The lack of US attention in the face of Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, and Venezuela's refusal to cooperate with US drug enforcement officials, shows a critical lack of diplomatic dialogue on all sides. Crime, drug use and trafficking are exploding throughout South America in locations previously of low consumption.
Throwing money, equipment, and training to Latin America's military and policing is not enough. The US must show its concern and aggressively demonstrate diplomatic attention to those regimes that continue to seek the destabilization of other countries in the region.
Hugo Chavez's continued systematic deconstruction of the Venezuelan state will allow neighboring dictators in Bolivia and Ecuador to continue to emulate their mentor. Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega remains a staunch loyalist of Chavez, with an eye towards Honduras and a hopeful reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya, deposed in 2009, was allowed to return legally to Honduras in 2011 -- with Hugo Chavez announcing, "Zelaya's return is a great victory for the people of Honduras."
US leaders and policy makers must come together in a unified consensus to agree that Latin America is not the nation's backyard, where one can just shut the door and stand behind a fence. The potential to totally destabilize a hemisphere is not farfetched. Fragile economies, scarce resources, weak policing infrastructure, and the lack of the rule of law are realities to be faced -- and they must not be ignored any longer.
In January 2013, President Barack Obama will again take an oath for another four year term. And he will once again face the true impact and responsibility on issues of terrorism, drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, and human trafficking, as well as nuclear proliferation and capable delivery systems.
As well, intelligence must be a key component of chief policy makers in assessing threats to the United States, as well as other free nations in this hemisphere.
Mexico is a true reminder that they were not prepared for such an onslaught, and authorities were forced to utilize the power of the military in the face of superior weapons, intimidation, and internal corruption, made possible by the massive wealth and power of the organized criminals, and the facilitation by rogue foreign governments in the region. The hemisphere has suffered immensely.
The necessary intelligence to effectively reach our national leaders for strategic and tactical decisions must be enhanced. There have been numerous serious failures. Intelligence is not a toy and its sources and methods must be protected, as well as those abstract truths properly synthesized through exceptionally vigilant and capable analysts within proper collection protocols.
The paradoxical nature of "risk assessment," as an abstract truth, renders the decision-making process difficult for a national leader. Further complicating those efforts is the desire to politicize the intelligence collection process. The tendency to consciously or unconsciously ignore intelligence demands or product contradictory to their personal or political interests is critically detrimental to national security interests and perfunctory in nature.
The U.S. is the major target of those who do not share our interests, values or beliefs, and we cannot have an uneven engagement in the Americas like we have had elsewhere, in which we are guided tactically more than by strategy. We must have comprehensive strategies to avoid paralysis, and be proactive in the achievement of our national goals.
We now must also see to it that our intelligence community understands and performs in a systematic framework of cultural intelligence. We must be adaptable, and capable of performing intelligence gathering and processing in global affairs within new cultural contexts. This identifies and expands our own diversity.
**Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia. His website is located at http://www.cjiausa.org/.