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Greed and Grievance and Drug Cartels: Mexico's Commercial Insurgency

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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After ten years of sending its military into domestic combat, Mexicos drug cartels are as powerful, profitable, and violent as they have ever been. Along with the deployment of Mexican troops, the US and Mexican governments have spent nearly 100 billion in government funds to counter this threat. The apparent lack of progress has driven many analysts and academics to reconsider both the logic of the violence in Mexico and the effectiveness of government responses. While some analysts have argued the cartels are insurgents, carving out territory for control, others contend these groups are purely criminal, and motivated only by profit. Still other analysts have offered an alternative approach, commercial insurgency, to understand and address these groups as both criminal and political actors. This monograph examines the potential for more effective understanding and approach to countering Mexican cartels by viewing the problem through the framework of commercial insurgency. This study is divided into four sections. The introductory section explores the current context and framing of the problem. The second section tracks the development of commercial insurgency theory and introduces the commercial insurgency framework. The third section examines the Los Zetas, as an example of commercial insurgency. The last section draws upon lessons learned and offers recommendations for US and Mexican government policy and strategy aimed at countering drug cartels and drug trafficking. The outcome of this study is analytical support for the thesis that the US and Mexican governments can develop a more comprehensive approach to understanding, and thus countering, Mexican cartels by incorporating concepts from commercial insurgency.

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Technical Report



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Approved For Public Release;

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