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War on Drugs vs. War on Terror

Ineffectual US anti-drug policy undermines stability in Afghanistan.

by
Josh Strawn

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July 7, 2008 - 12:11 am
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It’s been suggested that in the War on Drugs there are no winners, only losers.

But as the UN reports that the Taliban pulled in over $100 million from 2007′s opium trade, and still more from opium trade-related activities, that suggestion is being proven sorely incorrect. David Belgrove, head of counter narcotics at the British embassy in Kabul reports to BBC News that “a lot of [the Taliban's] arms and ammunition are being funded directly by the drugs trade.” Definitions regarding the terms of victory for our war efforts in the Middle East and Central Asia have always been contentious. But these findings and the manner in which they have been presented, make clear that debates surrounding definitions of the enemy, the war, and even definitions of public morality, need deeper resolutions before we can make sense of what progress might look like on any front.

Maybe it’s because the question of drug legalization so immediately conjures images of adolescent pseudo-politicized dope smokers that serious people seem disinclined to take the subject very seriously anymore. Conservatives tend toward disdain for such contingents while liberals want to be sure their politics are taken seriously, not as some extension of the free-wheeling 60′s.

But the War on Drugs has been undermining the War on Terror for long enough now that it’s time to reconsider both sides’ lack of consideration to what is an extremely pressing topic.

The conservative aversion to placating the druggie polity is, however, less warranted than some might initially think. While it may go without saying that libertarianism and conservatism are not uncomfortable bedfellows, and that libertarians often advocate drug legalization, what many conservatives may not know is what one of their great sages, the late William F. Buckley, had to say on the matter. In a statement to the New York Bar Association published by the National Review in 1996, Buckley said,

…more people die every year as a result of the war against drugs than die from what we call, generically, overdosing. These fatalities include, perhaps most prominently, drug merchants who compete for commercial territory, but include also people who are robbed and killed by those desperate for money to buy the drug to which they have become addicted.

When Buckley made this observation we were not yet engaged in a counterinsurgency against jihadist and non-jihadist opposition in the heartland of poppy country. He was only making inferences based on statistical evidence in regards to domestic policy. Today, we may now pause to consider a darker, more drastic iteration of Buckley’s point with international implications: a significant amount of casualties from the War on Drugs must be added to those from the War on Terror, and then compared to the statistics on death from possible drug overdose.

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