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Abstract

Blurring the lines between criminal and civil war, factional conflict in Mexico has escalated since 2006 and claimed more than eleven thousand lives. This article assesses the viability of Mexico's military offensive against the nation's drug cartels by analyzing the effects of this strategy on destructive conflict escalation. It is argued that the enforcement strategy of arresting key druglords has become a proximate factor in escalating Mexico's violence by promoting intercartel competition and intensifying leadership struggles. A set of viable third-party alternatives to the “war on drugs” is explored.