Still, no. Invading Mexico is a bad idea. It would convert the problems of Mexico, created and perpetuated by Mexicans, into our problems. We tried that in the Middle East. It doesn’t work. Making Mexico better for Mexicans is not worth the life of one First Infantry Division grenadier.
But the consequences in America are our problem, and we must solve it. That brings us to the third option – Forward Defense. Think Syria in Sinaloa. We secure the border, with a wall of concrete and a wall of troops, perhaps imposing a no-fly/no-sail zone (excepting our surveillance and attack aircraft), and then conduct operations inside Mexico using special operations forces combined with airpower to target and eliminate the cartels. We would also identify friendly local Mexican police and military officials and support their counter-cartel operations outside of our relationship with the central government – they would be the face of the fight. We would channel Hernán Cortés and, in essence, we would allow friendly Mexican allies, with our substantial direct and indirect support, to create our buffer zone for us.
This avoids the problem of buying Mexico’s problems and making them ours. It’s somewhat deniable; everyone could save face by denying the Yankees have intervened. But the cartels would not just sit there and take it. They would target Americans and probably do so inside the United States. Yet that’s going to happen anyway eventually. This course of action risks the lowest number of US casualties, but perhaps the highest number of Mexican losses.