Organized crime related to the drug trade has stabbed a deep wound into the belly of Mexico. More than 23,000 people have been slain in drug-related violence since January 2007. Four times the amount of American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Like the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no end in sight to the raging violence in Mexico.

Unlike the Islamic battlegrounds of the Middle East and Western Asia, Mexico is not a radically foreign culture we struggle to understand. The nation is a part of our cultural fabric, their people a weave of our historical bloodlines and daily life.

The global demand for illicit drugs combined with rampant political corruption and a faltering economy has devastated entire regions in Mexico. The victims reach well beyond the young men who are murdered over trafficking routes and splintering alliances, as does the array of crimes perpetrated. The various syndicates don't just murder and move narcotics; they kidnap and extort. They control the smuggling of illegal immigrants into the United States. They control judges; police, politicians and US border agents. The iron rule of Mexican mafias penetrates deep into Central America and as far north as Canada. According to the U.S. Justice Department, Mexican organized crime groups now have operations in at least 230 American cities, a 500% increase over the last five years.

Thousands of Mexican soldiers and federal police have been tasked to fight President Felipe Calderon’s “war on drugs,” yet the death toll continues to climb alongside the amount of American financing. Nothing has worked. Our two nations can barely comprehend the problem, let alone construct any plausible solution.