Conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will demand President Obama's attention as soon as he takes office, but he also must make time for the war on our border, where the Mexican government is fighting narcotics traffickers. Drug violence has claimed more than 6,800 lives in Mexico in the last two years, and has seeped into scores of U.S. cities that are marketplaces for illegal drugs. This war is as ugly as the others, with beheadings, kidnappings and urban shootouts that threaten the stability of Mexico and the national security of the United States.
The toll is stunning, as documented by Times reporters: 1,300 dead in Ciudad Juarez this year and 350 killed in Tijuana since September. Drug corruption has reached the highest levels of law enforcement in Mexico City, where the country's top counter-narcotics chief was found to be on the payroll of traffickers. And in suburban San Diego, alleged members of a Tijuana drug gang are accused of at least a dozen murders and 20 kidnappings over three years.
Forbes magazine recently asked whether Mexico is a failed state, given its inability to stem the flow of blood and drugs. The state is weak, but not failed. After 70 years of one-party rule, Mexico's executive and legislative branches are evolving, and the country is trying to build an independent judiciary. The problem is that President Felipe Calderon is fighting to retake control from the cartels before ending corruption and impunity. Strong law enforcement agencies and the rule of law have not been fully established.