There was something tremendously refreshing about Secretary of State Clinton's statement yesterday taking some responsibility for the drug wars going on in Mexico. At one level, it is only stating the obvious to say that our country's insatiable demand for drugs leads to law enforcement headaches in Mexico, which is supplying the drugs. At another level, her recognition that American habits are causing problems in Mexico represents such a different, more constructive approach compared to the way we have dealt with drug enforcement and other issues of international relations, in the past. Instead of telling Mexico that we want them to do more to crack down on drug traffickers because they are causing drugs to flow into our country, we are now telling Mexico that we understand that we have caused a problem for them, and we want to help them solve the problem that we are in part responsible for causing. The net result, which will be a greater commitment of American military or police power to crack down on drug trafficking in Mexico, might be similar in some ways to what the Bush administration was doing. But there ought to be a lot less resentment of this kind of effort in Mexico after Clinton's admission of responsibility.
We are not used to hearing our government take responsibility for causing problems. We are used to hearing our government blame someone else for our problems. Even where the government clearly contributed to failures, whether in its abysmal response to Hurricane Katrina, or its failures to regulate the financial industry, or its disastrous handling of the occupation of Iraq, you rarely heard anyone in the Bush administration admit any mistakes or take any responsibility for anything.
The new administration is making one of its cleanest breaks with the past by accepting responsibility for just about everything. Republican critics have not been hesitant to heap blame on President Obama, even for things that occurred before he took office, and without ever acknowledging that the previous administration has any responsibility for any of our current problems. But he is out-foxing them by simply accepting responsibility, readily admitting to mistakes, and assuming the burdens of fixing the problems that he inherited.