US declaring “war” on Mexican cartels will increase violence & harm on both sides

Dear Editor:

In the recent opinion piece, “To Solve the Opioid Crisis, Go to War,” Matt Mayer issues an incendiary and dangerous proposal for US Congress to declare war on Mexican cartels in order to prevent fatal opiate overdoses of Americans. Such a proposal would not just be ineffective in countering cartels and reducing opiate overdoses, but would be extremely dangerous. It would drive cartels and corrupt Mexican officials to even more extreme acts of violence and increase the murder of thousands of Mexican civilians, not to mention American combat personnel.

Mexico had the second-highest number of murders in 2016 with over 23,000 intentional homicides second only to Syria. Civilians – including journalists, family members of victims, and advocates – unaffiliated with cartels or seeking justice have been targeted. This was driven by their ill-implemented war on drugs. Mayer’s proposal would not only double-down on such an ineffective and disastrous strategy, but put it on steroids.

If Mr. Mayer is truly concerned about the rate of fatal opiate overdoses in the United States, he and Congress should look to support evidence-based harm reduction approaches, such as greater distribution of naloxone to peers, opening of drug consumption rooms, and seeking to address the underlying social and political determinants, such as poverty, alienation, and personal trauma, that drive problematic use.

The only merit Mr. Mayer’s opinion article has is his comparison to the US government’s war in Vietnam and support to the South Vietnamese government. However, while he views this effort positively, most Americans know the truth: it was a failure and thousands of lives, including Americans, were unnecessarily lost.

[Written in response to Opinion piece published in US News & World Report on July 17, 2017.]


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