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Narco wars: an analysis of the militarisation of U.S. counter-narcotics policy in Colombia, Mexico and on the U.S. border

Benneyworth, Iwan 2016. Narco wars: an analysis of the militarisation of U.S. counter-narcotics policy in Colombia, Mexico and on the U.S. border. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The U.S. War on Drugs has been underway for several decades. Since it was declared by the Nixon Administration narcotics have been understood as a growing security threat to the American public, their health, economy and society. Illicit drugs have gradually become a securitised issue. From the Nixon Administration onward, the law enforcement and eventually military assets of the United States government were increasingly deployed in an effort to counter this drug threat. While initially regarded as a minor issue, as the potency and addictive qualities of illicit drugs increased during the 20th Century, so too did the concerns of influential actors from the political and public spheres. Nixon's actions did not represent the high-water mark of U.S. counter-narcotics. There was growing violence on American streets linked to the drug trafficking cartels out of Colombia, especially in Southern Florida where traffickers battled each other for lucrative drug markets. In response to this national security threat, the Reagan Administration – followed by the successor Bush and Clinton Administrations – gradually increased the involvement of the U.S. military in counter-narcotics policy. This occurred both at home in the form of greater militarisation of police forces, and abroad in support of several Latin American countries’ security forces. In 2000, drug-related instability in Colombia resulted in the launch of the Plan Colombia initiative, a dedicated package of American financial and security assistance, with counter-narcotics the primary purpose. In 2008, as drug-related violence in Mexico reached epidemic proportions and threatened to spillover across the American border, the U.S. launched the Merida Initiative in an attempt to aid Mexican counter-narcotics efforts. This thesis uses qualitative research methods to examine the militarisation of U.S. foreign counter-narcotics policy by analysing the case studies of Colombia and Mexico and their American-backed efforts. It also examines domestic policy, by considering the historical development of U.S. counter-narcotics, the progressive militarisation of law enforcement as a consequence of the drug war, and the security situation on the southern border with Mexico. This empirical research is facilitated by the development of a militarisation analytical framework, which builds upon the securitisation framework. Based on the findings of the case studies, the processes that drive militarisation are explored, and the framework itself is further developed and refined. The research possibilities for counter-narcotics policy and future direction for militarisation research are also explored in the Conclusion. Ultimately, this thesis offers a detailed analysis of militarisation in U.S. foreign and domestic counter-narcotics policy, the processes behind this, and develops a militarisation framework applicable to any security situation, contributing to the overall securitisation debate.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Publication
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F001 United States local history
F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1201 Latin America (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Colombia, Mexico, United States of America, counter-narcotics, drug war, military, security, securitisation, militarisation
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 June 2016
Date of Acceptance: 31 May 2016
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2017 05:50

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