I'd like to find out if indeed the NRA's accusation is true, that people came up with a scheme to allow guns to get into the hands of cartel members primarily to bolster the idea that guns from U.S gun stores were arming the Mexican cartels - as a prelude to calling for stricter gun control laws.
Well, to my mind the only two possible explanations for F&F are either the NRA's accusations, or an incredible degree of stupidity within DOJ. To understand this, let's look at the history prior to F&F.
The precursor to F&F was Operation Wide Receiver which was undertaken during the Bush (43) Administration. Key differences between Fast & Furious and Wide Receiver are than "walked" guns from WR had tracking devices installed in them and WR was coordinated with the Mexican Gov't. WR was a failure because the cartels discovered and removed the tracking devices and thus the "walked" guns were lost. WR was shut down in 2007 due to the "walked" guns being lost.
F&F, on the other hand, did not begin until 2009 after the Obama administration had taken over. Rather than attempt to find better ways of tracking the guns and coordinating with the Mexican Gov't, the ATF under the new administration decided to abandon the two attributes of WR that allowed the guns to be tracked at all.
Now, I fail to see how anyone of even moderate intelligence can think that repeating a failed sting operation without any attempt to track the contraband will work any better than the original operation, or even as well for that matter. While government bureaucrats aren't exactly known as shining beacons of genius, I have a hard time believing that so many people so far up the proverbial food chain could be so abjectly stupid.
Add to the fact that both Secretary of State Clinton and Attorney General Holder called for gun control due to violence in Mexico in early 2009 and were "hushed" about the issue by the administration, the famous quote of former Chief of Staff (and current mayor of Chicago) Rahm Emmanuel "never let a good crisis go to waste", and the allusion by the President that new gun control efforts were in the works (though he characteristically failed to mention specifics) and I think that the true intent of F&F becomes fairly obvious.
The problem is, intent is an extremely difficult thing to prove. Unless evidence of someone very high up in the administration or DOJ specifically stating that F&F's goal was to drum up public support for gun control can be produced (unlikely), then the President, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Homeland Security all still have a certain degree of plausible deniability.