Look The Other Way, To Our Peril

Hundreds are dead this year alone as Mexico's drug wars intensify.
CBS
Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.
A friend of mine drove through El Paso, Texas not so long ago, and was stunned to learn that the weekend he was there, 28 people were killed - gunned down, actually - in Juarez, Mexico, just across the border.

More stunning was that most of the people took the news calmly - just another incident in a border town where such things now happen with increasing frequency.

With the United States so focused on the economic crisis, it has gone virtually unreported here, but Mexico is dealing with a crisis of its own - a war among drug cartels that has left nearly 7,000 people dead just last year.

The drug business in Mexico has become so big, it is turning a $25 billion annual profit.

The cartels have become so powerful that in some areas, they have all but replaced the Mexican government. Just last week, the State Department warned U.S. citizens to exercise caution when traveling in the border areas, and noted that the cartels sometimes engage each other and government forces in firefights that resemble military combat operations.

As the new administration plans strategies to deal with threats to America's national security, we hear the usual far-away names and places - Iran, North Korea, al Qaeda, the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Well, now add a new worry - the drug cartels in Mexico. They've been getting worse for a while now. We've just been looking the other way.