Author: David A. Shirk, Associate Professor, Political Science, and Director, Trans-Border Institute, University of San Diego
Council on Foreign Relations Press
Council Special Report No. 60
The drug war in Mexico has caused some U.S. analysts to view Mexico as a failed or failing state. While these fears are exaggerated, the problems of widespread crime and violence, government corruption, and inadequate access to justice pose grave challenges for the Mexican state. The Obama administration has therefore affirmed its commitment to assist Mexico through continued bilateral collaboration, funding for judicial and security sector reform, and building “resilient communities.”
David A. Shirk analyzes the drug war in Mexico, explores Mexico’s capacities and limitations, examines the factors that have undermined effective state performance, assesses the prospects for U.S. support to strengthen critical state institutions, and offers recommendations for reducing the potential of state failure. He argues that the United States should help Mexico address its pressing crime and corruption problems by going beyond traditional programs to strengthen the country’s judicial and security sector capacity and help it build stronger political institutions, a more robust economy, and a thriving civil society.
David A. Shirk is the director of the Trans-Border Institute and associate professor of political science at the University of San Diego. He conducts research on Mexican politics, U.S.-Mexico relations, and law enforcement and security along the U.S.-Mexico border. Dr. Shirk received his PhD in political science at the University of California, San Diego, and was a fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies from 1998 to 1999 and from 2001 to 2003. In 2009-2010, Dr. Shirk was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC. He is currently the principal investigator for the Justice in Mexico project (www.justiceinmexico.org), a binational research initiative on criminal justice and the rule of law in Mexico. Recent publications by Dr. Shirk include Shared Responsibility: U.S.-Mexico Policy Options for Confronting Organized Crime; Justiciabarómetro: Estudio de la policía municipal preventiva de la Zona Metropolitana de Guadalajara; Judicial Reform in Mexico; Drug Violence in Mexico; Justiciabarómetro: Resultados de la encuesta a la policia municipal preventiva de la Zona Metropolitana de Guadalajara; Police and Public Security in Mexico; Contemporary Mexican Politics; Reforming the Administration of Justice in Mexico; Evaluating Accountability and Transparency in Mexico: National, Local, and Comparative Perspectives; and Mexico’s New Politics: The PAN and Democratic Change.