We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

A War that Can’t Be Won

Binational Perspectives on the War on Drugs

Edited by Tony Payan, Kathleen Staudt, and Z. Anthony Kruszewski

Publication Year: 2013

More than forty years have passed since President Richard Nixon described illegal drugs as “public enemy number one” and declared a “War on Drugs.” Recently the United Nations Global Commission on Drug Policy declared that “the global war on drugs has failed with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” Arguably, no other country has suffered as much from the War on Drugs as Mexico. From 2006 to 2012 alone, at least sixty thousand people have died. Some experts have said that the actual number is more than one hundred thousand. Because the war was conceived and structured by US policymakers and officials, many commentators believe that the United States is deeply implicated in the bloodshed.

A War that Can’t Be Won is the first book to include contributions from scholars on both sides of the US–Mexico border. It provides a unique breadth of perspective on the many dimensions of the societal crisis that affects residents of both nations—particularly those who live and work in the borderlands. It also proposes practical steps toward solving a crisis that shows no signs of abating under current policies. Each chapter is based on well-documented data, including previously unavailable evidence that was obtained through freedom-of-information inquiries in Mexico. By bringing together views from both sides of the border, as well as from various academic disciplines, this volume offers a much wider view of a complex problem—and possible solutions.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (63.1 KB)
p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (151.9 KB)
pp. 2-5


pdf iconDownload PDF (58.5 KB)
pp. v-vi

read more

Preface and Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF (105.0 KB)
pp. vii-xii

We three coeditors come from different parts of the world: Tony Payan from Mexico, Kathleen (Kathy) Staudt from the United States (specifically Wisconsin, which seems like a different world), and Tony Kruszewski from Poland. We have crossed many borders in our pathway to this book. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (94.8 KB)
pp. xiii-xvi

read more

Introduction: The Many Labyrinths of Illegal Drug Policy: Framing the Issues

pdf iconDownload PDF (236.4 KB)
pp. 3-30

From the United States–Mexican border, the war on drugs looks increasingly futile. Illegal drugs continue to flow through what is nearly a sealed border at rates unprecedented by all estimates in the history of drug trafficking, engulfing in their path more young people and creating one of the most violent strips of land in the history of the border since the 1910 Mexican Revolution. ...

Part I. Framing the Issues

read more

1. Cartels, Corruption, Carnage, and Cooperation

pdf iconDownload PDF (265.6 KB)
pp. 33-64

Few problems regarding the U.S.–Mexican border offer more challenge than those pertaining to illicit drugs. Trafficking in marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and other psychoactive substances involves tens of billions of dollars, intricate networks of criminals in both countries, and cooperative arrangements with government agents, ...

read more

2. President Felipe Calderón’s Strategy to Combat Organized Crime

pdf iconDownload PDF (219.4 KB)
pp. 65-92

To understand criminal patterns in Mexico, it is crucial to acknowledge the importance of its geographic position as a neighbor of the United States. Mexico shares a land border of two thousand miles with the United States, an ideal geographical position for criminal groups to operate powerful transnational networks. ...

Part II. Current Strategies and Casualties

read more

3. Drug Wars, Social Networks, and the Right to Information: Informal Media as Freedom of the Press in Northern Mexico

pdf iconDownload PDF (257.2 KB)
pp. 95-118

In the last few years, and in the context of the United States’ and Mexico’s wars on drugs, violence in the southern country has reached unprecedented levels, particularly since the launch of military operations against drug trafficking organizations—today known as transnational criminal organizations (TCOs)1— ...

read more

4. Political Protection and the Origins of the Gulf Cartel

pdf iconDownload PDF (244.5 KB)
pp. 119-148

The official narrative of organized crime in Mexico attempts to convince the public that (1) the environment is generally hostile to criminal organizations; (2) government officials as a whole have no knowledge, except in unusual cases, of the illicit activities of the criminal groups they are in charge of prosecuting; ...

read more

5. Organized Crime as the Highest Threat to Mexican National Security and Democracy

pdf iconDownload PDF (240.6 KB)
pp. 149-173

During the authoritarian governments of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), from the 1930s to the 1990s, the security agenda and the security decision-making process in Mexico hardly changed. The effects of illegal activities, particularly those of drug trafficking, went largely unnoticed by Mexican society. ...

read more

6. A Federalist George W. Bush and an Anti-Federalist Barack Obama?: The Irony and Paradoxes behind Republican and Democratic Administration Drug Policies

pdf iconDownload PDF (193.6 KB)
pp. 174-192

Policy debates concerning the war on drugs often revolve around topics such as combating organized crime, militarizing the U.S.–Mexican border, and employing punitive approaches to substance abuse. Alternatively, scholars, pundits, and the public have also debated the pros and cons of drug legalization— ...

read more

7. Caught in the Middle: Undocumented Migrants’ Experiences with Drug Violence

pdf iconDownload PDF (204.1 KB)
pp. 193-214

The Arizona–Sonora section of the U.S.–Mexican border continues to be the most active sector for unauthorized border crossings and marijuana seizures.1 These two activities have historically coexisted peacefully without much overlap. The economic interests involved in human smuggling and drug trafficking were quite distinct for a long time, ...

Part III. Ending the War: Alternative Strategies

read more

8. Challenging Foreign Policy from the Border: The Forty-Year War on Drugs

pdf iconDownload PDF (223.6 KB)
pp. 217-238

With Operation Intercept, President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1969 (Grayson 2010, 28), and forty years after adopting this drug policy, U.S consumption remains as high as ever and violence in Mexico is worse than ever. Ironically, the primary successes in the war involve the growth of multibillion-dollar bureaucracies, ...

read more

9. The Role of Citizens and Civil Society in Mexico’s Security Crisis

pdf iconDownload PDF (199.2 KB)
pp. 239-257

As has been noted throughout this volume, since at least 2005, Mexico has confronted an acute security crisis that has resulted in tens of thousands of organized crime-related killings. A central theme has been the inability of the Mexican state to stop the violence affecting the country in general and the border cities in particular. ...

read more

10. Regulating Drugs as a Crime: A Challenge for the Social Sciences

pdf iconDownload PDF (226.8 KB)
pp. 258-284

In this chapter we examine the problem of drug trafficking and drug use with an eye to decriminalization and legalization. We analyze the current legal and regulatory framework built around psychotropic substances and present some key challenges to the prohibitionist framework that has prevailed for the last forty years. ...

read more

11. The U.S. Causes but Cannot (or Will Not) Solve Mexico’s Drug Problems

pdf iconDownload PDF (246.0 KB)
pp. 285-310

Most of the world’s illegal drugs are exported across international boundaries. It is common to ask how interventions in source and/or transit countries affect drug use and drug-related problems downstream, but one can also ask how drug policies in final market countries affect problems upstream in source and transit countries. ...

read more

Conclusion: A War That Can’t Be Won?

pdf iconDownload PDF (191.3 KB)
pp. 311-330

In this volume a group of both Mexican and U.S. scholars analyzed the war on drugs and presented nuanced evidence from both sides of the border about the complexity of “fighting” clean wars on drugs. The chapters written by these scholars bring a special vantage point to the study of drug wars that heretofore has not existed, ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (112.8 KB)
pp. 331-336


pdf iconDownload PDF (76.5 KB)
pp. 337-341

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599158
E-ISBN-10: 0816599157
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816530342
Print-ISBN-10: 0816530343

Page Count: 357
Illustrations: 5 illust, 3 maps, 21 tables
Publication Year: 2013