|Hercules battling the Hydra|
While depressing, this of course is hardly news. In 2007, the federal Government Accountability Office concluded that the strategy of targeting kingpins "does not appear to have significantly reduced drug trafficking in Mexico, [although] it disrupted the cartels’ organizational structure. However, the disruption caused by the removal of some of the leadership presented opportunities for other drug traffickers to take advantage of the changing balance of power, and, in particular, to gain control of important transit corridors leading to the United States, such as Nuevo Laredo. Such struggles led to increased violence throughout Mexico."
Five years and 30,000+ Mexican murders later, we're pursuing the same strategies with worse results than ever.
In Greek mythology, Hercules famously fought the Hydra - a massive snake with many heads - and discovered that when he cut off one head, two would grow back in its place, allowing the beast to inflict even more violence. Hercules eventually won by changing tactics, but drug warriors in the US and Mexico continue to hew to the same, failing strategies while mostly ignoring the white-collar money laundering infrastructure that feeds the snake and allows the "heads" to multiply.
Grits doesn't know whether it's possible to definitively "win" the drug war, but it's certainly possible to ignominiously lose it, which by any metric one cares to examine is what's going on now.
MORE (Oct. 26): From the Houston Chronicle's Baker Institute blog, see a related item on Mexican drug-war "kingpins."