In an article appearing in the Summer 2011 issue of Parameters Magazine, Paul Rexton Kan argues that the distinction in aims between political terror and criminal violence remains the determinative feature strategists must consider when formulating political and security policies to combat them. The first, Kan calls low-intensity conflict, where ideology, political grievance and altering the political system power the conflict. Sheer greed empowers the widespread criminal violence like that afflicting Mexico, which he calls high-intensity crime waged by violent entrepreneurs.
"For violent entrepreneurs," Kan writes, "the use of force is simply an extension of the profit, rather than the extension of the political agenda."
Kan says distinguishing between low-intensity conflict and high-intensity crime helps policymakers avoid pitfalls presented by employing counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism strategies. That is useful political advice -- we do not face a military problem generated by a violent political opponent, we have an internal police and judiciary reliability problem linked to political corruption. Kan points out that if "high-intensity law enforcement" (the counter to high-intensity crime) is to succeed in Mexico, Mexicans must "break the links between (drug) traffickers and politicians."
Calderon has recognized this problem, hence his attempts to reform the judiciary and the police. The drug cartels, however, are killing honest politicians and pumping millions into the campaign coffers of the corrupted -- trying to defeat the reforms with ballots, not bullets. In an ironic way, the cartelistas do have political goals. The irony, however, reinforces Kan's point. The decisive battles in the Cartel War won't be a shootouts between Mexican marines and Zetas, with the gunmens' corpses stacked high and their organization eliminated. Rather, the battlefield will be the Mexican presidential elections of 2012, 2018 and 2024, with Calderon-type reformers winning each campaign and building on the current president's anti-corruption programs.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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