There are periodically instances of violence that question our understanding of what constitutes a conflict. The Mexican government’s four-year war on drug cartels, which they consider a direct threat to the state, is one of those.
The levels of violence are staggering and are certainly comparable with major inter-state conflicts. An estimated 28,000 people (Mexican security and drug cartel personnel plus unfortunate civilians) have lost their lives since the beginning of the Mexican government’s offensive. By contrast during the same period, from the beginning of 2007 to end June 2010, 20,000 fewer international forces and civilians lost their lives in the war in Afghanistan (civilian casualty figures at 7,324 as reported by UNAMA Human Rights; military casualties at 1,510 as reported by icasualty.org; casualty figures for anti-government forces in Afghanistan are not available to complete this comparison).
Whilst the Mexican government remains on a war footing against the threats to the state from within, at the same time they have mooted the controversial question of how to deal with the transnational threats that span the wide-ranging drug supply chain. Would a change in the law, bringing the drug trade out into the light and regulating it as well as changing how we manage the demand for drugs, be more effective in dealing with this wider threat than a ‘war’?