Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 101

BOOK REVIEWS CARTELS AT WAR: Mexico’s Drug-Fueled Violence and the Threat to U.S. National Security Paul Rexton Kan, Potomac Books, Dulles, VA, 2012, 192 pages, $29.95 C artels at War is must-read for professionals needing to understand the crisis emerging on the U.S. southern border. Paul Rexton Kan, an associate professor of national security studies at the U.S. Army War College, offers a concise, but comprehensive analysis of the cartel violence in Mexico, and illustrates why this phenomena may become the primary threat to U.S. national security in the future. Kan demonstrates how two major structural changes, the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the shift in domestic political power from the Partido Revolucionario to the Partido Accion Nacional, established the conditions for cartel expansion and conflict. The former removed barriers for both licit and illicit trade between the United States and Mexico, and the latter ended the cozy “live and let live” agreements between the Partido Revolucionario and the drug lords. The result was increased shipments of narcotics to the north and amplified violence in Mexico. A valuable aspect of the book is its explanation of what is actually transpiring in Mexico. Many academics, military officers, and journalists conflate cartel violence and activities with insurgencies and terrorism. While they use similar means, Kan demonstrates that the cartels are not striving for a strategic political objective such as the overthrow of a government or the implementation of an ideology. Instead, their activities are considered high-intensity crime, which is “a war waged by violent entrepreneurs who seek to prevail over one another and the state in a hypercompetitive illegal market in order to control it or a particular portion of it.” The war is waged for control over the business supply lines and distribution nodes of the illegal narcotics trade. This difference strongly implies that the solutions to the problem are often not military in nature, but require other elements of national power. In fact, among the policy recommendations he offers at the end of the book, several stand out for their clarity of thought and strategic purpose: avoid further MILITARY REVIEW  July-August 2014 militarization of the situation, strengthen the Mexican state and civil society, concentrate on cartel finances, and tackle U.S. drug usage. Given the constant level of U.S. drug demand over the past years, cartel spillover violence into American cities and towns beyond the border region, and millions of dollars invested in counter narcotics measures; this book deserves a place in the professional library for critical thinking on the subject. Like recent publications in the same genre such as National Defense University’s Convergence: Illicit Networks and National Security in the Age of Globalization, Cartels at War provides relevant insights into what is developing as the key threat to U.S. national security in the next decade. Lt. Col. Kevin D. Stringer, Ph.D., U.S. Army Reserve, Zurich, Switzerland KIEV 1941: Hitler’s Battle for Supremacy in the East David Stahel, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012, 468 pages, $35.00 udged by its scale, the Battle of Kiev was the Wehrmacht’s greatest victory. By encircling Stalin’s forces in the bend of the Dnepr River, the German First and Second Panzer Groups ripped a vast hole in the enemy line, destroyed an entire Soviet Front along with its four component armies, and captured—according to the German propaganda machine—665,000 men. By any standard, the German triumph in the Ukraine in September 1941 was mind boggling. David Stahel’s new book, Kiev 1941, gives us a new and insightful account of this titanic battle, yet it is hardly a celebration of Nazi military expertise. Instead, the author builds on the analysis of his earlier work, Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East, which argued that Germany’s plan to subjugate Soviet Russia in a single campaign was doomed from the start by poor planning, insufficient resources, and dysfunction at the highest levels of command. In his previous book, Stahel focused attention on the difficulties encountered by the campaign’s main effort, the two panzer groups of Army Group Center. In his new book, the author continues that theme by showing how the panzer groups that linked up east of Kiev in late 99