The Urgent Call to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

It’s no secret that the opioid crisis has escalated into a national emergency, deeply affecting about 25% of Americans through personal or familial addiction struggles. I personally know of too many people who have lost their lives due to this, and I’ll bet you do as well.

The staggering death toll, with over 110,000 Americans lost to fentanyl overdoses in 2023 alone, spotlights the critical need for a radical shift in strategy. The financial backbone of this epidemic, fueling Mexican cartels with billions from the drug trade, underscores the magnitude of the challenge at hand.

Rethinking Strategy: The Role of the US Military

Given our military’s unparalleled capabilities and strategic versatility, it is a beacon of hope in this dire situation. Past endeavors to curb the flow of fentanyl, in partnership with Mexico, have fallen short, highlighting the necessity for the US military to step into a central role. This strategy would involve a multifaceted approach, from securing key maritime routes that funnel precursor chemicals from China to employing precision strikes against cartel operations. It’s going to take a massive global effort. 

Use of Special Operations Forces

I’ve found that many Americans don’t realize the role that American special operations forces have played in counter-narcotic missions over the years. We have been involved in direct action missions involving raiding drug production facilities, disrupting transportation networks, and capturing or eliminating key figures within drug trafficking organizations. These high-stakes operations were designed to directly dismantle parts of the drug trade infrastructure. And it worked a little, for a while. Somehow, the cartels seem to keep bouncing back stronger than ever.

Drug interdiction missions frequently involve cooperation with other U.S. agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Coast Guard, as well as with military and law enforcement agencies from other countries. This collaboration ensures a unified approach to tackling international drug trafficking.

SF in colombia
A US Special Forces soldier on a training mission with a Colombian anti-narcotics unit in Larandia, a military base a couple hundred miles southwest of Bogotá, Colombia. Given its strategic location, Larandia is instrumental in efforts to intercept and disrupt drug trafficking routes within Colombia.

Army Special Forces often engage in training and advising local military and law enforcement agencies in countries that are major drug-producing or transiting areas. This capacity-building approach aims to enhance the local forces’ ability to combat drug trafficking independently. Training covers a wide range of topics, including jungle warfare techniques, surveillance and reconnaissance, and legal aspects of drug enforcement.

Gathering and analyzing intelligence is a cornerstone of effective drug interdiction. Special Forces conduct surveillance missions to identify drug production sites, smuggling routes, and key traffickers. They also employ advanced technologies, including drones and satellite imagery, to monitor drug trafficking activities and plan interdiction operations.

DEA’s Warning and Mexico’s Political Landscape

The DEA’s declaration of fentanyl as the leading cause of death among Americans aged 18-45, primarily fueled by the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels, raises alarms. This crisis is exacerbated by the current Mexican government’s lenient stance towards cartels, embodied in President López Obrador’s “hugs, not bullets” policy. This approach has not only failed to stem the tide of violence but has also seen the disbandment of cooperative security measures like the Merida Initiative, leaving a gaping void in the fight against cartel violence and drug trafficking.