Strategy for Military Counter Drug Operations

Strategy for Military Counter Drug Operations

 

by Robert Culp

Download The Full Article: Strategy for Military Counter Drug Operations

The Mexican Army's counter-drug (CD) operations are making a limited impact on narco-trafficking in Mexico. If they continue their current CD tactics, they will not be effective in the long run because SEDENA is not approaching CD operations like a counter-insurgency (COIN) mission, nor are they effectively attacking the Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) Center of Gravity (COG). SEDENA operations are currently centered along two principal lines of operation - source control (drug eradication/seizure) and HVI interdiction (arrest). By weighting these two lines of effort, SEDENA operations are not focused on what is the key terrain in any counter-insurgency environment - the population. Additionally, SEDENA targeting efforts are not focused on attacking the critical vulnerabilities that directly affect the DTOs strategic COG -- the revenues derived from drug sales.

Download The Full Article: Strategy for Military Counter Drug Operations

LTC Robert Culp is a career Officer in the US Army with extensive experience in special operations and low intensity conflict. He is currently in battalion command at Camp Zama Japan.

0
Your rating: None

Comments

This is a very interesting article

How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico's murderous drug gangs
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/03/us-bank-mexico-drug-gangs

A few quotes to pique your interest:

"...what law enforcement agencies and politicians hope to achieve against the cartels is limited, and falls short of the obvious attack the US could make in its war on drugs: go after the money."

"If you look at the career ladders of law enforcement, there's no incentive to go after the big money. People move every two to three years. The DEA is focused on drug trafficking rather than money laundering. You get a quicker result that way - they want to get the traffickers and seize their assets."

"For the time period of 1 May 2004 through 31 May 2007, Wachovia processed at least $$373.6bn in CDCs [Casas De Cambio], $4.7bn in bulk cash"

"Criminal proceedings were brought against Wachovia, though not against any individual, but the case never came to court. In March 2010, Wachovia settled the biggest action brought under the US bank secrecy act, through the US district court in Miami. Now that the year's "deferred prosecution" has expired, the bank is in effect in the clear. It paid federal authorities $110m in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50m fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine."

cabdriver(myself, the comment writer, the person attached to the screen name):

Chet, the late Herbert Asbury was a career newspaper reporter who also authored many books, more of them non-fiction than fiction.

http://herbertasbury.com/HerbertAsburyFamily/HerbertAsbury/tabid/182/Def...

His best-known book is The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld, which Martin Scorcese used as a basis for a film. Gangs Of New York is a non-fiction history book.

His other non-fiction histories include The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld; All Around the Town: Murder, Scandal, Riot and Mayhem in Old New York; Sucker's Progress: An Informal History of Gambling in America; Gem of the Prairie: An Informal History of the Chicago Underworld; and The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition.

Asbury's crime histories are not "anecdotal"- they're extensively documented. Rather than use footnotes or endnotes, he attributed the sources for his material he researched within the text of the books itself. Most frequently, his information resources consisted of contemporary newspaper accounts, which are considered primary sources by scholarly historical researchers.

You would know this, if you had ever bothered to crack the covers on any of his works.

You're purposefully mischaracterizing Asbury as a "fiction writer", i.e., a fantasist, in an attempt to impeach his credibility as an author, dismiss his works, and discourage others from reading the book that I recommended.

That's a deception that's easily refuted. It's also plainly a tactic of desperation. You don't challenge any of the claims in the book- or in any of the other material that I've referenced and linked thus far- because you're unable to do so.

More later...

hmmm... what do you call someone who appeals to unpopular desires and prejudices (drug legalization is still rather unpopular and prejudiced is it not?) rather than rational argument... could that person be called a non-demagogue?

In support of full disclosure... I am in favor of drug legalization because I "once" smoked herb in high school... I also feel obligated to share with you that I came up clean on my last urinalysis...

For sake of cordial conversation... not that incendiary comments (argumentum ad hominem... or circumstancial ad hominem arguments) don't have a place in this free exchange of ideas... but it is irrelevant that Borgois is a MARXIST or an anthropologist or that his field of expertise is in medical anthropology... even a blind squirrel will find an acorn every now and then... take me for instance... What is more important to me and maybe others following this conversation is what substantive things the man has to say about the effects the war on drugs has on our liberties, citizens, communities, commerce, social and fiscal costs, etc, etc...

Surferbeetle is right... more chai, cigarettes, and manhugs might lighten the conversation a bit... and please don't light up in the house... the herb smell lingers way too long...

Finally, I am available to work the war on drugs if anyone is interested in hiring....

Mucho manhugs...

r/
MAC

carl,

"An informal history" is another way of saying anecdotal. Otherwise it would be titled "A history"

Chet:

Hebert Asbury wrote number of true crime type books that were subtitled along the lines "an informal history of". I don't know how reliable they are as history but they weren't billed as novels. Mr. Asbury died a long time ago.

cabdriver,

In case you didn't know, Asbury writes fiction crime novels. Not really a great source. Borgois is a MARXIST anthropologist whose field of expertise is in medical anthropology. The book "selling crack" was about living next door to a crack house. Full of anecotes, but not really research.

Why don't you just say "I am in favor of drug legalization just because". At least it would be honest.

You're a demagogue and are going to say whatever you want anyway. I'm finished with you.

I've returned.

(I'm going to preface my remarks by saying that the formatting conventions here are different to what I'm used to- I'm not in the habit of opening a comment by repeating my screen name at the top of the page, followed by a colon. In other discussion sites that I frequent, that usually signifies another poster being quoted.)

Now, to the issues at hand:

cabdriver (that's me):

Chet, you said

I have spent the better part of twenty years on the other end of that chain working with LATAM police and military eradicating and interdicting the product where it is produced and in transit, so I have a special appreciation for the business, especially our interdiction policy and its execution that I would wager neither of you two has. First of all, slapout9 is/are only seeing the end result of narcotics. They leave a trail of tears from beginning to end. The exploitation of the poor in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, CENTAM and Mexico in the production and distribution of cocaine and other drugs is on a scale that you have likely never seen.

Both of you argue in favor of legalization and against our current policy. Got it and I don't entirely disagree. What we are doing now isn't working. Knowing crooks, I just don't see legalization as being the resolution.

On a final note. Cabdriver your assertions are made as fact. I won't go point by point because everything you said was an anecdote or an opinion. You did not provide one shred of proof (scholarly source, research or study) to back up you claims about "drugs being the cornerstone of economic power for criminal gangs" or "prohibition" or "legalization and its effect on drug sales" to name a few. if you are going to argue a point, at least tell the reader what your experience in the field is or your academic background or where you get the information that you are passing off as fact from.

Sorry, Cabdriver, but the table pounder here is you. You come across as an idealogue with the agenda of legalization. The difference between me an you, from the little I read, is that I have some background in the topic but am also open minded on the discusssion of legalization. You have neither.

Chet, I just got here. You don't know what I have or don't have, as far as erudition, expertise, or experience.

I have no interest in turning this discourse into a personal rank-pulling contest. I'll strive to keep this about facts, logic, evidence, and references.

Now, to the matter at hand:

Cabdriver your assertions are made as fact. I won't go point by point because everything you said was an anecdote or an opinion. You did not provide one shred of proof (scholarly source, research or study) to back up you claims about "drugs being the cornerstone of economic power for criminal gangs" or "prohibition" or "legalization and its effect on drug sales" to name a few. if you are going to argue a point, at least tell the reader what your experience in the field is or your academic background or where you get the information that you are passing off as fact from.

There's an ever-growing body of literature about illegal underground economies and the way that they influence communities, cultures, and societies.

The patterns to which I alluded earlier first became apparent during alcohol Prohibition. For a highly readable and trenchant critique of the era, I recommend Herbert Asbury's The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition.

Asbury, whose other works include such books as Gangs Of New York and The Barbary Coast, is well-known for the exhaustive documentation and eye for telling details. Both are the result of his signature research style: spending hours in public libraries delving into old newspaper archives, page by page.

The Great Illusion is his last book, and perhaps his most well-researched and comprehensive.

(As with many of the works that I'll be referencing, I'm unable to share any fair use excerpted quotations from the book at present. My own personal library is in storage right now, and I'll need to make a few trips to nearby research libraries in order to find the most relevant material to support my arguments.)

I find Asbury's work especially important because it's so resonant with the phenomenon of today's Drug Wars. It reads like study in miniature- you know, multiply the errors and follies of alcohol Prohibition by 1000 or so, and imagine that it had been allowed to grow into an inter-generational phenomenon instead of being contained entirely in a period of only 14 years, and the present situation becomes a lot more comprehensible.

That makes Great Illusions pretty much required background reading for students of Drug War history, in my view.

If you're a Questia subscriber, it's available on-line through them- non-subscribers are also allowed a limited free trial

http://www.questia.com/library/book/the-great-illusion-an-informal-histo...

a review

http://www.hoboes.com/Politics/Prohibition/Notes/Illusion/

More recently, the landmark anthroplogical fieldwork on the power of the illegal drug economy to influence those communities where it plays an overriding economic role is In Search Of Respect: Selling Crack In El Barrio, by Philip Bourgois.

The introduction and opening chapters are available on the Amazon site, and they provide an eloquent exposition of what I've been referring to:

http://www.amazon.com/Search-Respect-Structural-Analysis-Sciences/dp/052...

You can also download the entire book through Usenet, with an account.

http://ebookee.org/search.php?q=In+Search+of+Respect%3A+Selling+Crack+in...

After perusing that work that, I recommend Mike Gray's book Drug Crazy- available in complete form on-line, for free

http://www.libertary.com/book/drug-crazy

I particularly recommend Chapters 1 and 2 to support my previous statements about the impact of the illegal, unregulated market created by Drug Prohibition on the surrounding society and culture.

For the next entry in this impromptu syllabus, I recommend Return Of The Dangerous Classes: Drug Prohibition and Policy Politcs, by Diana R. Gordon, an emeritus professor in political science and criminology at the City University of New York.

http://www.amazon.com/Return-Dangerous-Classes-Prohibition-Politics/dp/0...

That should be sufficient for a preliminary survey of the literature, to indicate that I'm not talking through my hat on this issue. There are many other books that I can cite to back up my contentions. I hope to have the opportunity to pull some quotes from a few, over the weekend. And I can pull up some academic studies as well, if requested. The literature on this subject is not abundant thus far, but it continues to increase.

I'd like to thank the other comment writers in advance, for paying the authors that I've referenced the respect of actually reading their reading their works before offering their reviews.

Surferbeetle,

I don't mind my point of view challenegd (that is what one would expect on a forum). If you read cabdrivers initial response to my posting, you can see that he wasn't debating a point, he was being self-righteous and dismissive while stating, as fact, his own opinion. One should expect that sort of behavior to be challenged. Finally, I agree with your overall point in that other points of view are important. However, I stand by my point. Cabdrivers may be astute observers of human behavior, but that doesn't make them psychologists. Does a non-mechanically inclined, data entry technicians mechanical opinion count to a master mechanic who is rebuilding a porche engine?

Chet,

Appreciate your background, work, and comments on a variety of subjects.

Your last paragraph motivated me to make an observation. In my opininon responses and observations from outside the 'official' system/paradigm are particularly valuable. I look to them for azimuth checks as well as ground truth. To wit, cab-drivers are some of the many great sources of information readily available if one is willing to slow down a bit and let go of preconceptions - it's rare that the view from a single fighting position provides complete understanding of the battlefield.

I have learned much from Slapout and look forward to learning more from Cabdriver.

Chai, cigarettes, and manhugs ;)

cabdriver,

You're obviously not reading my e-mails. If you read from the top down, you will see some of my credentials. In short, I spent 26 years on active duty, 3 years in 1/75 (Ranger), 3 years in the Regular Army and 20 years in Special Forces working in Latin America. My deployments and assignments were about an even split between some version of assistance to military and police forces in counter guerrilla and counter narcotics operations. I was assigned in Panama for 1 year and Colombia for 4 years. I worked on MANY shorter deployments (2-6 months) in most of the major conflict nations of the Cold War (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and even Argentina). I also have a Master of Arts in International Relations with a concentration in Transnational Security Issues. I am currently employed as a Counter Narcotics / Terrorism Specialist for the Department of Defense. I'd say I have a very special appreciation for US counterdrug policy and its execution, especially on the supply side.

As one of the unconventional warfare types on here, I can say that driving a cab gives you absolutely zero credibility when speaking about narcotics, narco-trafficking or US government counterdrug policy.

To all readers:

Mea culpa. My apologies for the confusion. My remarks were addressed to Chet. I thought that slapout was being quoted by him. I've arrived late to the discussion, and should have familiarized myself with the comments at least thoroughly enough to align the participants with their views accurately before commenting.

Chet, I was in fact a cab driver in a medium sized city for many years. (Perhaps the unconventional warfare types around here can appreciate the sort of perspective that might provide in this particular subject.)

I've also studied the drug trade extensively over the years, and I'm prepared to back up what I say with references when I have more time.

I'll make the time.

And, Chet, since you've made such a show of demanding references, expect them to be demanded of yourself.

Carl,

E-mails are not the best venue to get ideas across. too many misunderstandings. Slapout9's point of view is one of the few who i do appreciate becasue he made clear up front where he drew his experince from. my last post was intended for "Cabdriver", who did not, nor did he provide any proof to his assertions, yet stated them as if they were fact. Is till feel that way. Slaps view is from the street here and mine is from the production and transit point of view. in order to appreicate the problem set, the entire process has to be assessed. I'll bet that where we agree is that the current interdiction (supply) centric appoach has failed. Something new needs to be tried. Legalization should be fairly debated and I am open minded to it, I just am not sure that it will resolve much. The underlying problem with drugs is societal, I believe, and I don't think government can do much about that. I also don't think that legalizing anything other than Marijauna is even possible given our culture (at least not in my lifetime), and that won't solve other drug problems. Yes, I do think we should militarize our border and leave Mexico to their own devices just as I believe we should leave all other nations to their own devices. I do not, however, think that that is ever going to happen either.

Chet:

I think you underestimate Slap's ability to appreciate what harm the drug business does to individuals south of the border. He may or may not have the special appreciation you have but his is pretty good. That appreciation is perhaps what motivates him and others to support various forms of legalization/decriminalization, it will remove a lot of the money that allows the harm to be done and "would help to eliminate the most vicious forms of violence which I say again are related to "Drug Dealing" not drug using." in the US. I am guessing but I would bet Slap says that based upon experience, probably common to most American cops, the nature of which makes it self-evident.

You stated you don't entirely disagree. How so? I am asking because it seems like you do. Nobody said it would solve all problems, just reduce them. Slap knows crooks pretty good too.

Lastly, you stated above "If we were smart, at least in my opinion, we would militarize our southern border and leave Mexico to its own devices." Are you being serious when you say that or are you making an exaggeration for effect?

Cabdriver, dude, you're a little confused. Slapout9 "is silly and he's ignorant, but he's got guts and guts is enough." :) In all seriousness, slapout9 is obviously a police officer. Not sure what you do, cabdriver (unless your screen name is an indicator), but you must have not read all the posts. I have spent the better part of twenty years on the other end of that chain working with LATAM police and military eradicating and interdicting the product where it is produced and in transit, so I have a special appreciation for the business, especially our interdiction policy and its execution that I would wager neither of you two has. First of all, slapout9 is/are only seeing the end result of narcotics. They leave a trail of tears from beginning to end. The exploitation of the poor in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, CENTAM and Mexico in the production and distribution of cocaine and other drugs is on a scale that you have likely never seen.

Both of you argue in favor of legalization and against our current policy. Got it and I don't entirely disagree. What we are doing now isn't working. Knowing crooks, I just don't see legalization as being the resolution.

On a final note. Cabdriver your assertions are made as fact. I won't go point by point because everything you said was an anecdote or an opinion. You did not provide one shred of proof (scholarly source, research or study) to back up you claims about "drugs being the cornerstone of economic power for criminal gangs" or "prohibition" or "legalization and its effect on drug sales" to name a few. if you are going to argue a point, at least tell the reader what your experience in the field is or your academic background or where you get the information that you are passing off as fact from.

Sorry, Cabdriver, but the table pounder here is you. You come across as an idealogue with the agenda of legalization. The difference between me an you, from the little I read, is that I have some background in the topic but am also open minded on the discusssion of legalization. You have neither.

Cabdriver, I don't if you meant to, but all your quotes came from Chet not from me? What you are saying is pretty much in alignment with what I believe.

slapout9, I'm going to unpack your comment line by line, irony by irony:

"How would legalizing drugs solve the underlying social problems that drugs cause? You know that a heroin, crack or meth user is not going to be a model citizen. He is not going to be gainfully employed nor will he take care of himself or his family (if he has one) or his property."

Point #1: "Meth"- methamphetamine- is already legal in the U.S., by prescription.

That makes it a lot more legal than cannabis products like marijuana or hashish, which I assumed that you left off of the list because of the low abuse potential. Well, despite that, they're still illegal, and they still account for a large portion of the profits for Mexican drug cartels- although as a long-time northern California resident, I personally saw very little demand for anything but the domestically produced product. I presume that the Mexican imports are going to the more hard-line Zero Tolerance states of the Union.

I can also tell you that it's inaccurate to assume that everyone who uses "heroin, crack, or meth" is automatically a dysfunctional loser and an addict. I agree that those are very hazardous drugs, and I don't endorse their use, even by adults. But hard booze takes down a lot of people, too. Despite that, it's generally acknowledged that attempts to prohibit it are ineffective, and lead to more harm than good.

"The best legalization will do is MAYBE make drugs more affordable for him and cut down on theft. What about other effects such as, potentially, more drug abusers, blighted neighborhoods and an increase in users of our welfare system?"

You're making a basic error here: assuming that the benefits of legalization relate primarily to the phenomenon of drug use and abuse.

They do not. They principally affect the phenomenon of drug sales. And the real "drug-related" harm in impoverished areas of this country comes from criminal-controlled illegal drug markets, not from the drugs themselves.

Drugs are the cornerstone of the economic power of criminal gangs in this country, whether they're urban street gangs or rural biker gangs. And where those gangs are the most powerful economic interests in their communities, they drive out legitimate businesses and replace them with criminal power. In terms of job opportunities. In terms of community status. In terms of pathways to upward mobility. In terms of corruption- including police corruption: shall I make a list of major U.S. cities with massive drug corruption scandals, most of them in their "elite" narcotics squads, along with the jails, prisons, labs, and evidence lockers? Here are a few I know about, off the top of my head: Key West. Miami. Baltimore. Philadelphia. New York City. Boston. Detroit. St. Louis. New Orleans. Los Angeles.

If I were to run a quick (and almost certainly incomplete) Internet search using "drug corruption" and a list of U.S. cities over 100,000 people, how many more do you think I'd find reference to, in the space of an hour?

How does anyone expect people living on the edge of nothing, and their teenage kids, to withstand the corruption of drugs- when even veteran police have shown that they're unable to do it?

Reform the drug laws to deprive the criminals of that revenue stream through controlled legalization, and you pull the plug on that entire game.

"None of this even addresses the supply side. Criminal Organizations outside the reach of US efforts will figure a way out to manipulate the new system."

Now you're just table-pounding. The only way for criminal organizations to "manipulate the new system" is if the sources of supply remain criminalized! Does the mafia run Anheuser-Busch these days, or Smirnoff? Are there still turf wars over liquor distribution, and Federal income tax evasion prosecutions levelled against distillery owners as the only possible way to force a prosecution, due to the fact that they've bought off the local cops and the judges?

Of course not.

We didn't get rid of alcohol problems with the repeal of Prohibition. We arguably didn't even begin to make a dent in addressing them until the mid-1970s, when Betty Ford put substance abuse recovery on the screen as a medical problem remediable with therapy, and MADD began their successful campaign to get people to behave more responsibly when drinking alcohol by refraining from driving- efforts that focused on individual responsibility rather than targeting the substance itself.

But repealing Prohibition was able to stop the problems associated with criminal control of the alcohol market. By legalization.

To be strictly accurate, all of those problems didn't disappear. They merely shrank to a relatively trivial concern, where previously they had been threatening to topple the social and political order in wide regions of the country. We still have booze bootlegging today, and an ATF to take care of it. And we'll probably still need some sort of DEA after drugs legalization. But their enforcement duties- like shutting down unregulated street markets and furnishing to minors, and busting impure and unauthorized sources- will at least have some semblance of efficacy.

"So you are saying that there is no nexus between drugs and crime but there is between poverty and crime? Sorry, but that denigrates every poor person out there who is law abiding. Or are they all criminals?" by Chet

Yes, there is a nexus between poverty and crime,always has been. Walk into ANY police department in the US and look at the call sheets(request for police service) then look at the economic demographics. Poor neighborhoods will always have a higher request for service. Criminal activity is often used to subsidize economic survival. People who have access to a better future are less likely to fall victim to the quick release from pain that drugs offer. Toffler was one of the first people to write about the Heroin Structure of daily life in his first book "Future Shock."

As I pointed out in my earlier response legalization/decriminalization is not a panacea,but it is a good place to start. The evidence is overwhelming....what we ARE doing IS NOT working. You can't(afford)to build enough jails and hire enough cops to handle the whole problem in a purely LE way. Legalization/decriminalization would help to eliminate the most vicious forms of violence which I say again are related to "Drug Dealing" not drug using.

As for hitting them in the pocket book (one of the most effective tactics) government control and taxation would really kick them where it hurts.

Much as I would like to see it happen, legalization of various drugs isn't going to happen in the US. There are too many advantages for too many people with the current arrangement for that to happen. Nor will we get serious about changing social attitudes toward drug users for the same reason. The people who are paying the high price for our actions are south of the border.

The importance of LTC Culp's idea is that it is something that can be done now that will help the Mexicans now. It isn't now being done and it should. And it can be done without changing the overall scene. It won't solve the our drug problem but it will help the Mexicans with their violence problem.

So you are saying that there is no nexus between drugs and crime but there is between poverty and crime? Sorry, but that denigrates every poor person out there who is law abiding. Or are they all criminals? How would legalizing drugs solve the underlying social problems that drugs cause? You know that a heroin, crack or meth user is not going to be a model citizen. He is not going to be gainfully employed nor will he take care of himself or his family (if he has one) or his property. The best legalization will do is MAYBE make drugs more affordable for him and cut down on theft. What about other effects such as, potentially, more drug abusers, blighted neighborhoods and an increase in users of our welfare system?

None of this even addresses the supply side. Criminal Organizations outside the reach of US efforts will figure a way out to manipulate the new system.

"Ever been to a low income, drug infested neighborhood? Drugs beget crime and that is a fact." by Chet

Yea,I have been to quite a few low income,drug infested neighborhoods. Put my fair share in jail and didn't really see any good come from it except on a temporarily basis. Low income...poverty,no way out of the misery begets crime and drug use, not the other way around. Drug dealing for economic support is far more deadly then drug usage. The only "fact" is what we are doing is not working. Some type of rational legalization (treat it like DUI..drunk driving)is not the final answer but it would be a start.

Your inflammatory language aside, I kind of agree with you. The law of supply and demand will keep drugs flowing into the US. Our demand is a larger statement about declining US culture and values, I believe, and there isn't anything the government can do about that. However, don't you think that a society has a right to determine what it believes to be acceptable behavior and what is not (i.e.-drug use)? Do you really think that looking the other way or legalizing it will actually reduce the problem? Ever been to a low income, drug infested neighborhood? Drugs beget crime and that is a fact.

A large part of the drug problem is demand for the product in the USA.You have seen the failure of prohibition with regard to alcohol so what makes you think the same tactics will work against drugs?Counter insurgency,counter whatever is a failure and has merely created a thriving 'industry' based around the failed idea that drug use can be stopped.Involving the military merely corrupts that military,be it Mexican or American.You must accept that you are fighting a losing battle and either give up or drasticaly change your tactics.How long have you been fighting against drugs?Peoplw in the USA want their drugs and shall have their drugs regardless of the fight against them.Get used to it or get out of this losers game.

A (significantly) disproportional amount of the Intel Community resources are devoted tracking the shipment of drugs into the US to assist in interdiction efforts. Sadly, interdiction does little/nothing to reduce drug use in the US. Seized loads of dope are a cost of doing business for the DTOs. A more productive use of IC resources would be to collect on and analyze the DTOs plans to smuggle bulk cash out of the US. Of course, smuggling the money out of the US is probably the most clandestine/compartmentalized operation that the DTOs conduct. Similarly, the DoJ should focus the preponderance of it's resources on developing a source network inside the cash smuggling end of the DTO operation -vs- the drug smuggling side of the business.

This is the first article I've read that relates small war theory in a practical way to the current situation in Mexico. Going after the money seems to be a technical matter of currency control. And technical matters may be easier to arrange than reforming the whole of government or getting the Americans to be sensible drug laws.

It should be noted that since a large majority of the COIN theory does not apply to Mexico--the author is correct in the assumption that there must be a new direction but it needs to have a Mexican face on it, has to match the Mexican culture and at the same time address the "conflict ecosystem" surrounding the DTOs.

Currently there needs to be a intensive conversation on the unity of effort between DoD and the IATFs which even the GAO critiqued in 2010.

Would guess that about 60% of COIN either does not or only partially applies to Mexico.

Thus the drive towards a Whole Government Approach of DoD and IA TFs.

Let me make sure I am clear about one thing. While I disagree with contemporary COIN theory (resolve root causes of insurgency through a holistic government approach where the military role is in providing security), I will say that LTC Culp's article did what most should do and that is spark debate (a good thing). Without going into great detail, I will say this. I have spent about a total of six years working in Colombia beginning in 1990, typically on 2-3 month trips to different places in the country and working with different units, both police and military. I was fortunate enough to spend four years assigned to Colombia as an advisor to a, now non-existent, Colombian CN JTF for about 1.5 years. I then spent 2.5 years as the program manager and senior operations officer for the Planning Assistance and Training Teams (no longer in existence either) that fielded advisors with a CT JTF, several Army Divisions and a Marine Brigade in support of Plan Patriota.

I tell you this because, though I am not a policy maker nor have I ever been close to that field, I have a special appreciation for Colombia's problems. I now work in a position focused on Mexico and, while I also agree that there are similarities between the current Mexico situation and that of Colombia, there are also stark differences. Too often do people like to draw parallels between LATAM nations and their conflicts, perhaps because one may assume that, because they have similar values and a shared language, that they are more similar than different. Say that to a Venezuelan about Colombia (or vice versa), or El Salvadorans and Honduras or Ecuadorians and Peru. And you will get my point. As was previously mentioned, Colombias insurgent movements were rooted in the New Left wave of modern terrorism rooted in communist ideology. They still espouse this ideology and still advocate for regime change though, it is true that this is likely propaganda. In this, they are more similar to Mexicans DTOs than not. Neither Colombian insurgents nor Mexican DTOs wants to be in charge of the government. They both prefer status quo chaos that enables them to continue to make money. Since I believe that both nations are steeped in cultural and institutional corruption, I would ask how on earth would contemporary COIN doctrine hope to resolve this? At the end of the day the "plata o plomo" philosophy is an easy direction for a peasant to take when that is all they now and all their fathers and grandfathers knew. Colombia also has much more un or under governed space that facilitates the re-constitution of the bad guys when the government is hard on them (like now). The truth is, at least in my opinion, Colombia will be at war with some version of these bad guys, as will Mexico for years to come.

As Kevin Casas-Zamora states in an article he wrote for Foreign Policy on 22 Dec 10, Mexicos Forever War:

"Calderón should begin by rethinking his diagnosis of what ails Mexico. He has based his approach on the notion that Mexico suffers from waning control over its territory, as was the case in Colombia until recently. However, the Mexican government is far from absent in the areas most afflicted by drug-related violence. Of the 10 states with the highest intensity of violence in 2010, the majority receives more money from the federal government than the average Mexican state. Remarkably, with a couple of exceptions, all have ratios of police officers to population that are virtually identical or greater than that of the United States."

He also states in the preceding paragraph:

"Calderón has justified his military confrontation with the cartels by arguing that the rule of law cannot thrive where organized crime rules. However, it is equally true that the rule of law can never take root in a situation of widespread bedlam like that of Mexico this past year. The Mexican government's inability to consistently bring down drug-related violence anywhere since the military campaign began is looking less like the inevitable price of success against organized crime and more like the symptom of a strategy in dire need of revamping."

I think hes right. However, our problem is that we always presume that our way is the right way and that is both ethnocentric and arrogant. If we were smart, at least in my opinion, we would militarize our southern border and leave Mexico to its own devices.

Thanks to everyone that took the time to read the article and provide thoughtful feedback. I am glad that the ideas in the article have stimulated some debate on these topics. I wrote the article in May 2009 at the end of my two-year tour at Army North in San Antonio TX. I hesitated submitting the article so long after drafting it over 18 months ago, however I felt it was important to submit the article given the deterioration of the situation in Mexico - despite a significant investment by both the US and the Government of Mexico. I do believe that the analysis and recommended prescriptions remain fundamentally sound. I only wish I had pushed harder back in May 2009 to publish the article.

I completely agree with the comments/assessments that simply directing our targeting efforts to interdicting the flow of profits from drug sales to reduce the war chests of DTOs is not a panacea. The demand side of the equation must be addressed too. Legalization of marijuana in the US would very likely serve to significantly reduce the revenue that DTOs realize from marijuana smuggling. Typically, approximately 70% of revenue flowing back to Mexican DTOs comes from marijuana smuggling. Attacking the demand side of the drug economic equation was not the focus of the article.

Regarding Mr. Haywoods assertion that the drug war in Colombia is not a model for success - I completely agree; however the article does not suggest that Colombia is the model we need to follow. Military support to counter-drug operations in Colombia followed much the same model that current counter-drug operations in Mexico are currently following. Both of these models place law enforcement in the role of lead federal agency with the military in support. The traditional law enforcement CD strategy is to focus on source control through eradication, interdiction and targeting kingpins for arrest. US law enforcement efforts consistently seek to satisfy US Attorney requirements to prosecute cases in court. While I do not disagree that source control and law enforcement has a significant role in CD operations, the plain fact is that this current model has gotten us all to where we are today. CD operations in Colombia and interdiction efforts in the Caribbean essentially displaced traditional smuggling routes/methods, such that most of the cocaine smuggled out of Colombia now comes into Mexico overland through Central America or via Pacific maritime routes. Hence the growth of Mexican DTOs and the current narco-insurgent state that Mexico is in. Hubris is to assume that our current strategy is successful and continue the effort. Let's hear the prescriptions borne from Mr. Haywood's extensive special operations experience in Latin America.

Finally, while I commend SEDENA and SEMAR for the sacrifices in lives and risks to reputation that they have made for taking a lead role in the war on drugs in Mexico, the fact is that their efforts are not producing lasting results. Despite some high profile interdiction efforts supported by US intelligence and advisors, the fact that 200,000+ residents have fled Juarez leaving schools and businesses closed is testimony to the failed efforts of SEDENAs main effort in the war on drugs. The population of Juarez that remains must be mobilized to reject the presence of DTOs in their community and support the governments efforts to restore order. To achieve this, SEDENA must apply COIN-like counter insurgency techniques that are are part of an integrated, whole of government approach to defeating the narco-insurgency in order to be successful.

It is true that SEDENA is cooperating with an inter-agency US effort to provide assistance to counter drug operations in Mexico. There is MUCH more that the US could do to assist the Government of Mexico with developing a comprehensive, whole of government strategy. SEDENA could allow the US military to do MUCH more in assisting them in developing a campaign plan to support this strategy. Currently, Mexico will only accept very small scale, low-visibility support focused on achieving tactical effects against discreet targets. More must be done to change the approach.

LTC Culp,

Why are all of the references in this article over two years old?

The situation in Mexico withe the Transnational Criminal Organizations has changed quite a bit in the last few years. The TCOs are no longer purley DTOs, they are involved in a mayriad of crimes and have a global reach.

Additionally, SEDENAs appraoch ahs changed and adapted to align with U.S. policy and strategy.

converting illegal dollars to legal dollars; illegal jobs to legal jobs; government funds from Law enforcement and corrections to infrastructure and job development all combine to make the government stronger.

All the US need do to assist Mexico is decriminalize this market and clean up our own house first. (laid out in more detail in a parallel thread in the discussion area of SWJ).

Diverging from the topic a bit, one might want to be careful for what one wishes for.

Narco dollars are so tangled with Mexico's national economy, that a complete disruption were it possible, could very well see our southern neighbors economic collapse, and with that, the grave ramifications it would have for North America. . . .something I will assure you isnt lost on some in the U.S. government.

LTC Culp states: "Effective COIN operations, supported by a comprehensive, integrated strategic communications plan, will result in the local people rejecting the presence of narco-traffickers in their neighborhoods." I have spent my entire adult life in Special Forces working in Latin America and I find the certainty of this statement incredulous. I mean no disrespect to LTC Culp, but I am not sure what he base's this anecdotal statement on. Colombia has been at war for over forty years and while they have been corrupted by the drug trade, they certainly have not disappeared from the scene and have proven themselves fairly resilient. It is probably premature to use them as a success story. It pains me to hear intellectuals state that this or that policy, if only employed now by the right person or for the right period of time, would work.
Ultimately, as others have stated, the desire for supply will always create and sustain a demand. Where it comes from may change but, if it were as simple as applying contempoary COIN doctrine, the problem would have already been solved. This is hubris at its best.

It's not the money....it's the relationships that money buys or influences that is their real strength. Mexico is largely a collection of powerful families IMO that have know interest in solving the drug problem. Follow the wealthiest Families in Mexico...follow their lawyers....their accounts....their bankers...that is where the real power is. You want like what you find but that is the real problem. But when you start to bring a lot of grief on these families you might just get somewhere until then we will just keep rounding up a bunch of low level or mid-level dealers.

Although the author makes his case for viewing organized crime and illicit drug production as an insurgency, I'm not sure the case is sufficiently convincing. I agree with the comments of other bloggers that if the key terrain in the CD fight is the population, we in the US have been been largely ineffective in reducing America's insatiable appetite for illegal drugs...the whole basis for the supply and demand principle that is the engine of Latin American drug production and distribution. Secondly, the FARC in Colombia was a "legitimate" insurgent organization in the '60's, but this is no longer the case as the organization also succumbed to the temptations of cocaine drug production and the revoltingly outlandish revenues of the drug trade. If you accept the premise that the FARC is now a drug cartel, a counterinsurgent strategy may be wasting its efforts at targetting the population and classic nation building. It may be more effective to focus resources on attacking the criminal and organized crime infrastructure through "hearts and minds-like" well managed alternative crop programs and building rural road infrastuctures that make this a viable economic option. Then you can add the words, "bill folds" to the hearts and minds trilogy. The Colombian counterdrug problem should remain primarily in the hands of the Colombian National Police, while the armed forces of Colombia play, albeit a critically important, but supporting role. No hearts and minds here, only what the Colombians are fond of saying: "Deles plomo"...give them lead. After years of watching the ebb and flow of the Colombian drug war, I tend to also agree with this premise that drug organizations need a strong dose of the "lead" theory...Hearts and minds versus "plomo" (lead) and bill folds. You decide what works when dealing with money grubbing criminal enterprises versus revolutionary political organizations or movements.

Anon,

No, the Author makes that assessment, and my comment was just in regard to his position.

I agree more with you. I would probably phrase it as "U.S. demand for illegal drugs." But I've never sat down and done a full COG analysis, so that is my instinctive position on the topic.

Mr. Jones, you say revenues are the COG? I say the Mexican government's actual COG is the North American population which fuels the narco trade.

Admittedly, I could be wrong, and in that case, I would fall back and say at a minimum, North America's appetite for illicit drugs is the critical factor sustaining the COG.

Either way, the Mexican government cannot exploit this critical weakness, even indirectly.

If revenues are the COG, why not simply shift the COG from the outlaw community to the government? That can be done by simply changing the law; but no amount of law enforcement can defeat that COG if left outside the law. So long as there is demand there will be supply and revenues. The problem is that these are ILLEGAL revenues.

(And in general, I believe that few COGs are best defeated by engaging directly, but rather by engaging indirectly by determining what things are both critical to sustaining the COG AND vulnerable to engagement. Attack those points of weakness to degrade or defeat the COG indirectly)