I will give you the bottom line up front, in three parts:

  • First, the Mexican state is not a friend to the United States
  • Second, the Mexican state and the Mexican cartels exist in conscious synthesis
  • Third, as the relationship with Mexico no longer possesses a base of common interest, it must proceed from a base of transactionalism backed by American hard power.

These are not easy conclusions to reach. They are not easy because, like every Texan — and, I think, like nearly every American — my preferred approach toward Mexico has always been a position of charity and goodwill. That approach remains intact where the ordinary people of Mexico are concerned. My own modern-era roots in towns and settlements across Tamaulipas and Nuevo León — places like Mier, Agualeguas, and Nuevo Laredo — remind me that the goodness and industry of the ordinary Mexican remain signal and enduring virtues of that longsuffering nation.

Those same places, however, are now bywords for violence, murder, corruption, and — let us be forthright — war. That war now extends its reach into Texas, and much beyond. That isn’t because Mexicans abruptly lost their virtue: it is because their governance, in the Mexican state at large, lost its own. Mexican civics was never a metonym for good stewardship and good government, but neither was it always what it is today: a signifier of blood, suffering, criminality, and exploitation that rivals the very worst war zones, and the very worst atrocities, on the planet.