US Military Involvement in Mexico’s Drug Wars


The relationships of the United States and Mexico are developed in different directions and regulated by a number of laws and regulations. The presence of intermixed cultures and economies promotes the dependency of these countries on each other, and the events that happen in one country influence the events of another country regarding diplomatic, economic, and military sectors. The drug war in Mexico remains to be a serious issue with a number of outcomes that can be observed in business affairs of the chosen countries. Although during the last several decades, the US-Mexico relationships have undergone considerable changes and improvements, certain tensions caused by drug policies cannot be ignored.1 This paper aims at discussing the way of how the US military can or has to be involved in Mexico’s drug wars regarding the historical development of this problem the confrontation of military and diplomatic issues, and the necessity to resolve transnational threats and achieve positive outcomes from international relationships.

Mexican Drug War Background

Mexico is a country with the rich past, impressive present, and unpredictable future. The stability of the country is one of the crucial aspects of the US government because of the existing 2,000-mile border and the level of violence that is still hard to control and decrease.2 Millions of Mexico’s citizens are exposed to direct threats of the violent landscape, including the production and high traffics of drugs. Another challenge of the country is the presence of corruption and the inability to influence government decisions and political affairs. For example, in 2017, three journalists were killed with their intentions to cover the drug crime and the participation of the government representative in this case.3 Brutal violence in Mexico does not have boundaries and can easily spread from the US borderline.

Sometimes, Mexico citizens have to deal with serious drug-related issues. For example, in 2009 and 2011, the cases of violence turned in several war zones with a number of crime groups being involved into kidnapping, theft, and smuggling.4 During the Calderon government, Mexico faced many extraditions and anti-crime strategies which promoted US security cooperation and the possibility of arresting more than 60,000 people recognized as drug kings and crime leaders.5 In fact, drug wars have many faces in Mexico, but the participation of the United States is the same characteristic of these wars that has to be admitted.

American Attitudes to Drug Wars

Despite the existing level of threats caused by drug wars in Mexico, the United States always demonstrates rather friendly and respectful attitudes to this country. US-Mexican cooperation continues developing in different ways, improving security, creating new laws, and developing projects.6 The involvement of the United States in Mexico’s drug wars is inevitable, even if Mexicans demonstrate their concerns and doubts about the necessity of strict strategies and policies. President Calderon began cooperation with the United States to support extraditions and showed a good example of how to communicate and introduce goals at the international level. President Peña Nieto promoted the Merida Initiative in terms of which the United States supported the supply of hardware and other equipment that is necessary for Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) in Mexico.7 The US government finds it normal and even crucial to fund billions of dollars annually to improve counternarcotics efforts in Mexican relationships.

The reasons for why America wants to participate in drug wars also include the intentions to protect and educate children on how to improve their strategic thinking and succeed in decision making. Sometimes, it is enough to talk and discuss all burning issues with people instead of believing that negative outcomes may be avoided. Fortunately, military and diplomatic powers of the United States are impressive so the country can use its growth and development aid and encourage practical improvements in the lives of ordinary Americans and Mexicans.

Diplomatic vs. Security Implications

Diplomatic and military implications have serious effects on the relationships that are developed between the United States and Mexico. For example, when some Mexican drug cases spillover in America, questioning security and underlining transnational threat, the US government has to think about new ways of cooperation with the Mexican government and re-evaluate the role of its power in drug wars developed in the neighbor country. There are four elements of American national power, including diplomacy, information, military, and economic, also known as DIME.8 At this moment, it is important for the countries to make sure that their diplomatic and military activities are in proper relations with no evident priorities either to military power or diplomacy, meaning that the letter “M” has the only size that is similar to the other letters’ in this abbreviation.

In drug wars, the role of the Department of Defense (DOD) is considerable for the United States, as well as for other nations. It was 1989 when drugs were officially identified as a national threat to American security, and the DOD was introduced as the main agency to detect and monitor all illegal traffics of drugs in the country.9 DOD functions include the support of federal and local law enforcement agencies and counterdrug priorities established with the help of the Armed Forces of the United States.10 The participation of such organizations proves that the United States aims at establishing fair and trustful diplomatic relationships with Mexico to support its intentions and decrease the number of drug-based deaths and crimes through regular donations and support. It is wrong to neglect that military operations do not influence ordinary lives. Although many crime fractions were identified and removed, many of them were able to hide and re-emerge with time. As a result, military forces were used to find new sources of violence and promote new combats.

Effects of Diplomacy and Military

The effects of diplomatic and military involvement of the United States in Mexico drug wars have to be mentioned. The US readiness to donate cash and support military cooperation using the conditions of the Merida Initiative serves as one of the main and strongest outcomes in US-Mexico relationships. However, it is necessary to admit that such funds and participation are also regarded as serious harm to human rights and the promotion of corruption and impunity. Many cases like the disappearing of 43 students in Iguala or the deaths of 12 journalists in Mexico are still unpunished proving that impunity is a question to be discussed.11 Regarding such facts and numbers, it is hard to say if diplomacy is enough to solve drug problems in the country, or if military actions have to be better developed to make sure that every citizen is protected and safe.

Nowadays, drugs’ transportation from Mexico to the United States gains new qualities. The results of the National Drug Threat Assessment by the US Department of Justice show that Mexican criminal groups continue expanding their presence in American heroin markets and establishing new transportation routes.12 Therefore, the effects of diplomatic and military efforts are not as effective as they are expected.

Future Prospects on the Role of US Military in Mexico Drug Wars

Regarding the current state of affairs in the United States and Mexico, drug wars and trade relationships cannot be stopped in one day or even several years. To avoid social complications and threats, the United States has to continue developing new policies and improve its diplomatic responsibilities. However, military attempts to stop drug wars should never be stopped as well because till people are afraid of being punished and imprisoned, they try to control their actions.

The future of drug wars is not clear for both countries. Still, military (even if it is limited) involvement of the United States in Mexico policies is evident. Drug dealers and cartels cannot be removed and eliminated using the power of word only. Military power has to be definite and strict. It is a part of efforts made by Mexico and America to protect their citizens. Such involvement cannot be stopped but has to be regulated.


In general, the role of the US military is high in Mexico’s drug wars today. In addition to the necessity to provide clear and effective steps, the United States has to remember the importance of diplomacy in such international relationships. The participation of military people in the solution of drug problems may lead to the limitation of human rights and freedoms, as well as promotion corruption and impunity. Military powers are used to remove all doubts and demonstrate how serious and definite the intentions of the US government are. Though Mexico is a friendly neighbor whose relationships are always respected and promoted, the fact that this country is the main source of drugs for American citizens usually creates certain doubts that may gain power with time.


Biettel, June S. “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations.” Congressional Research Service. Web.

Cole, Reyes Z. “Drug Wars, Counterinsurgency, and the National Guard.” Military Review 85, no. 6 (2005): 70-73.

“Joint Counterdrug Operations.” Joint Publication 3-07.4. Web.

Seelke, Clare Ribando. “Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations.” Congressional Research Service. Web.

Seelke, Clare Ribando, and Kristin Finklea. “U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Merida Initiative and Beyond.” Congressional Research Service. Web.


  1. Clare Ribando Seelke, “Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations,” Congressional Research Service, Web.
  2. June S. Biettel, “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations,” Congressional Research Service, Web.
  3. Biettel, “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations.”
  4. Ibid.
  5. Seelke, “Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations.”
  6. Clare Ribando Seelke and Kristin Finklea, “U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Merida Initiative and Beyond,” Congressional Research Service, Web.
  7. Biettel, “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations.”
  8. “Joint Counterdrug Operations,” Joint Publication 3-07.4, Web.
  9. Reyes Z. Cole, “Drug Wars, Counterinsurgency, and the National Guard,” Military Review 85, no. 6 (2005): 70.
  10. Joint Counterdrug Operations,” Web.
  11. Seelke, “Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations.”
  12. Biettel, “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations.”

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DemoEssays. "US Military Involvement in Mexico’s Drug Wars." February 21, 2022.