Following my involvement in Wikistrat‘s When Putin Falls simulation, I was also fortunate enough to be asked to lead their policy-oriented Winning Mexico’s Drug War crowd-sourced exercise. Over a week, some 70 analysts brainstormed options to address the country’s present narcotics-fuelled woes, coming up with policies that ranged from the enlightened to the bloody, from the purely local to the global. (Here’s one, for example.)
Here is the introduction from the final report, which I wrote on the basis of all the hard work of the experts, analysts and contributors involved, ably marshaled by Dr Amanda Skuldt:
Mexico is burning. Over much of the last decade, Mexican drug cartels have conglomerated and made moves to challenge the central government (and each other) for control over territory and drug markets. The cartels have improved their organization and capabilities despite the massive crackdowns by the Mexican government and the flood of U.S. security assistance, which has totaled more than $1.9 billion since 2008. Drug-related violence and kidnapping remain a constant threat, even in previously “safe” areas of Mexico, with an estimate of over 40,000 people killed since 2006.
Like his predecessor, President Enrique Peña Nieto was elected on a platform of fighting organized crime. The previous Calderon administration chose directly to confront the cartels, especially by using the Mexican armed forces. Instead of calming the country, this policy caused violence within the cartels to increase and to spill over into Mexican society. In addition, the armed forces are increasingly viewed as corrupt. While Peña Nieto’s administration has claimed some successes as it moves to shift the drug war policy toward protecting civilians rather than attacking cartel leaders, these appear illusory and the death toll continues to climb with an average of 35 Mexicans killed every day. Now even Mexican politicians are being targeted with alarming regularity.
Furthermore, this struggle is taking place in the context of high unemployment, increased poverty (according to the World Bank, half of Mexico’s population of 115 million lives below the poverty line), and widespread disillusion with the government. Meanwhile, Mexican dissatisfaction with the current form of U.S. assistance is growing. It is clear that the Mexican and American governments must chart a new course of action, but what will actually restore law and order?
In April 2013, Wikistrat ran a week-long crowdsourced simulation in which 70 analysts from around the world collaboratively developed Policy Options for the Mexican government, the U.S. government and other actors to respond to the escalating drug war in Mexico. The goal was to provide a plausible range of strategies and techniques that could stem the tide of violence and could restore control of the country to the authorities.
Analysts were encouraged to tackle this not only from a geostrategic angle, but also to take a tactical “boots on the ground” approach in which they explored social, political and economic options as well as “kinetic” law enforcement/military ones. They addressed not just the intended outcome but also the actors who would be involved, the details of how the option would be implemented, and the circumstances under which it would be most likely to succeed – as well as the potential consequences of failure.
The full report has now been released, and you can read it here: Winning+Mexico’s+Drug+War.