Cartels at War: Mexico's Drug-Fueled Violence and the Threat to U.S. National Security

Article excerpt

CARTELS AT WAR: Mexico's Drug-Fueled Violence and the Threat to U.S. National Security

Paul Rexton Kan, Potomac Books, Dulles, VA, 2012, 192 pages, $29.95

Cartels at War is must-read for professionals needing to understand the crisis emerging on the U.S. southern border. Paul Rexton Kan, an associate professor of national security studies at the U.S. Army War College, offers a concise, but comprehensive analysis of the cartel violence in Mexico, and illustrates why this phenomena may become the primary threat to U.S. national security in the future.

Kan demonstrates how two major structural changes, the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the shift in domestic political power from the Partido Revolucionario to the Partido Accion Nacional, established the conditions for cartel expansion and conflict. The former removed barriers for both licit and illicit trade between the United States and Mexico, and the latter ended the cozy "live and let live" agreements between the Partido Revolucionario and the drug lords. The result was increased shipments of narcotics to the north and amplified violence in Mexico.

A valuable aspect of the book is its explanation of what is actually transpiring in Mexico. Many academics, military officers, and journalists conflate cartel violence and activities with insurgencies and terrorism. While they use similar means, Kan demonstrates that the cartels are not striving for a strategic political objective such as the overthrow of a government or the implementation of an ideology. …