Despite assertions to the contrary, the violence, drug trafficking and lawlessness that we see in northern Mexico does not constitute on insurgency. Drug cartels have no ideology beyond profit, no political aspirations other than to be left alone, and no popular support beyond that which can be purchased with money or intimidation. They are classic criminal organizations. A counterinsurgency strategy based on the now-famous Field Manual 3-24, written under the auspices of then-LTGs David Petraeus and James Mattis in 2006, is therefore inappropriate for Mexico. Some COIN principles and practices - what the author calls COIN a la carte - can, however, support the current U.S.-Mexican law-enforcement strategy aimed at weakening or destroying the cartels, much as was done with the Medellin and Cali cartels in Colombia. The effectiveness of these efforts will depend more on deepening bilateral trust than on applying the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq to Mexico.
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