Saturday, February 5, 2011

Is Mexico's fight against organized crime a war?

McClatchy has a good piece about the debate over the use of the word "war" to describe Mexico's conflict. Indeed, it's worthy of a discussion:

Calderon himself has never used the word war. He prefers "lucha contra el crimen organizado" or "lucha contra el narcotrafico." The military, too, uses these terms, rather than "war" (guerra).

But as they say, a picture speaks a thousand words: if it's just a struggle, or fight, then why has Calderon donned military garb on more than one occasion? Why has he so often been pictured alongside the military when surveying what can only be described as battlefields?

Some experts argue that it can't be a war because the end result won't bring about a clear winner or loser. "With a war, you either win or lose. And with this one, how are we going to win it?" asks security analyst Jorge Chabat in the McClatchy piece.

But he's not exactly right in this argument, in my opinion. After all, war isn't as black and white as that. In Iraq and Afghanistan, which surely must be defined as wars, there is no clear winner or loser. There are multiple elements to these wars – invasion, regime overthrow, counterinsurgency, reconstruction, peacekeeping, and so on – that take time, prompt the evolution of strategies, and often don't produce clear and tangible results immediately. There are other players in the game, too, who cannot be considered the enemy in a conventional sense. The same goes for Mexico's lucha against the drug cartels and organized crime.

Standard definitions of war boil it down to a state of armed conflict between different nations/states or different groups within a nation/state.

Some 50,000 Mexican soldiers are currently using force to fight some extremely well-armed drug trafficking organizations. I think this is a war, personally.

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