Hudson Institute

Taking the Fight to the Fentanyl Narco-Terrorists

President and CEO
A Mexican army anti-cartel operation in Mexico City on January 5, 2023. (Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A Mexican army anti-cartel operation in Mexico City on January 5, 2023. (Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The death toll from drug overdoses is now more than 100,000 Americans each year. Drug trafficking is the deadliest criminal activity in America today. Excluding suicides, total gun deaths in the United States were about one-fifth that number, 21,000, a figure that includes drug-related homicides.

The Biden administration’s current National Drug Control Strategy calls for “the number of drug overdose deaths [to be] reduced by 13 percent by 2025.” Translation: The administration defines success as 250,000 or more additional American deaths due to drug overdose by 2025. This is unacceptable.

To do better, we have to start with frank acknowledgment of the origins of our drug problem outside our borders. We need to meet this extreme danger with a strategy modeled on America’s defense against foreign terrorists.

Today, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is sending fentanyl and fentanyl precursors to Mexican cartels for production and distribution. The CCP is the driver of the threat; Mexico is its center of gravity.

US officials should make clear that Mexico has to destroy the narco-terrorist organizations now poisoning Americans. Mexico cannot remain a staging area and safe haven.

We can be Mexico’s partner. But a forthright statement of Mexico’s responsibility is the condition of genuine partnership.

The severity of this threat calls for the use of lethal force as necessary. Title 50 of the US Code provides such authority, and the United States government should make use of it, explaining the necessity of doing so to the American public. A broad initiative aimed at the cartels’ most senior leadership and their lieutenants, repeated as new leaders rise in the ranks, is likely to produce the greatest reduction in supply.

The CCP surveillance state has the capacity to eliminate the flow of fentanyl and its precursors. Doing so is a question of CCP political will. The United States has to find ways to cause harm sufficient to motivate the CCP to change its behavior.

The measure of effectiveness is simple and clear: when US overdose deaths decline rapidly—not merely by 13 percent over three years—our policies are working.