Reading Admiral Kurt Tidd’s 2017 Posture Statement for U.S. Southern Command, two things jump out at me. First, there are repeated mentions of budget constraints. Second, there are repeated mentions of Middle Eastern terrorists, including ISIS. In short, at least from the outside this sounds like a way to get Donald Trump’s (or at least Jared Kushner’s) attention at a time when he is talking about increasing military budgets and ISIS.
Right off the bat:
Threat networks engage in a range of destabilizing illicit activities that further dangerous ideologies or generate profit. Violent extremist organizations like ISIS seek to radicalize and recruit vulnerable populations in the Caribbean and parts of Central and South America. Hezbollah members, facilitators, and supporters engage in licit and illicit activities in support of the organization, moving weapons, cash, and other contraband to raise funds and build Hezbollah’s infrastructure in the region.
That’s some serious red meat right there. When John Kelly (who of course is now Secretary of Homeland Security) did his last posturestatement, he definitely discussed Middle Eastern terrorism but couched it with phrases like “we have not yet seen evidence of this occurring.” But if you need money and money might be available, you do away with the nuance.
So we have a gradual expansion of SouthCom talking about such terrorists as more of an imminent threat in Latin America, which gets both the right and the alt-right excited. Go ahead and work with allies; go ahead and disrupt the financial networks. Just don't make this an excuse for ill-conceived intervention.