Plazas for Profit
Mexico's Criminal Insurgency
by John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus
Small Wars Journal
In August 2008, we published an essay in Small Wars Journal called "State of Siege: Mexico's Criminal Insurgency." We were concerned at the lack of attention and policy discussion paid to the growing cartel violence in Mexico, which we called a "criminal insurgency." Now it is hard to escape discussion of Mexico's drug war. While we are heartened that security commentators are now focusing on Mexico, we feel that the "failed state" debate is at best a distraction that diverts discussion of the issue and a concrete discussion of the conflict's political-military dynamics would be more productive. We have updated our earlier assessment to include new events and trends in Mexico's criminal insurgency, and we will continue to periodically revise our assessment as the dynamics of the conflict evolve.
In broad scope, US policy should focus on helping Mexico rebuild the rule of law while hedging against cartel actions on the border. To do so, the US must engage both informal Mexican governing networks and help construct new cross-border partnerships that can act as policy shops for coordinating policy response and military/law enforcement cooperation against the cartels. At the same time, revamping of domestic security approaches also are needed to guard against overflow of drug war violence.