War on Drugs versus War on Terrorists:

During the recent war against Israel, Hezbollah used night vision equipment which had been supplied by Iran, as detailed in a new article by the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs. Iran had obtained the equipment from the United Kingdom to "bolster Iranian efforts to combat heroin smuggling across the Afghan border as part of the UN Drug Control Program." The U.K. was extremely foolish to expect the Iranian tyrants to keep their promises not to divert the equipment to military use.

This is far from the only example of how excessive zeal in the drug war undermines the national security interest of democracies. A similar problem is evident in Latin America, as Mike Krause and I wrote in "A Foreign Policy Disaster," a chapter in the book The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War (Accurate Press, 2004).

Third Party Beneficiary (mail):
Unless there's something new that I'm unaware of (and there's nothing in the JINSA article that elucidates this point), it's unknown whether the night-vision goggles were part of the anti-drug aid that the UK provided to Iran. The goggles were undoubtedly UK-made, yes, but news accounts yesterday were indicating that the UK was still checking the serial numbers to figure out if they were part of the officially supplied equipment.
8.23.2006 5:17pm
Dave: I don't this counts as excessive zeal as just plain stupidity.
8.23.2006 5:41pm
Ubertrout (mail) (www):
This reminds me of when the Atlee gov't in the UK gave the Soviet Union jet engines as a gesture of good faith after WW2. The engines in the Mig-15 were the direct descendants of reverse-engineering those gifts.

Not a demonstration of the perverse consequences of the War on Drugs, but certainly a demonstration of the danger of giving (more or less) enemy regimes high-tech weaponry in good faith.
8.23.2006 6:02pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Well, pretty much the same can be said about blindly supporting radical islamists against the Soviets in Afghanistan without a thought to the consequences of what might happen if they won.

Narcoterrorism is just as bad if not worse than islamic terrorism. Opium funded warlords are as much a destabilizing force, if not more, in Afghanistan, as the Taliban. To pretend that Islamic terrorists are the only threat to democracy in Afghanistan is to completely deny reality. In other parts of the world (e.g., Central and South America) narcoterrorists are the primary terrorist threat. What on earth do you think the Mafia is, a social club?
8.23.2006 6:51pm
Brett Bellmore:

Opium funded warlords are as much a destabilizing force, if not more, in Afghanistan, as the Taliban.

Of course, absent the war on drugs, opium funded warlords would be about as much of a threat as cabbage funded warlords.
8.23.2006 7:20pm
eddie (mail):
I think the simple lesson to be learned is this:

Both terms "War on Drugs" and "War on Terrorism" are meaningless. Unless the money involved in both activities is tracked and those handling it (viz. the banking community) are held accountable, no amount of military action will ever produce a victory. If the drug trade did not produce such a tremendous amount of cash no one would participate. And needless to say the the military-industrial complex generates billions of dollars also.

The real point is this: if someone wants to abuse drugs, they will find a way, no matter what the military does (or any so-called war against drugs might produce); and if someone wants to blow themselves and others up, they will find a way (even if "we are fighting them there to avoid fighting them here"). War is about vanquishing an enemy that has a recognizable identity and cohesion (in order for victory to be recognizable) and not about changing the behaviour of individuals.

But then, maybe I'm just an originalist when it comes to the use of the term "war".
8.24.2006 1:22pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Of course, absent the war on drugs, opium funded warlords would be about as much of a threat as cabbage funded warlords.

I know David Kopel, an apparently you, envision a perfect world where everyone (except terrorists and criminals, although how he will differeniate between "law-abiding" citizens and those is beyond me) carries an AK-47, a couple hand-grenades, their heroin kit, and lives independently in their bunker, free from all government interference (he'll probably have the yard laced with landmines to blow up all intruders and the occasional neighbor's trespassing kid or dog). But most people live in the real world and realize that this country is not going to decriminalize, let alone legalize, even marijuana. Opium and cocaine derivatives are a complete nonstarter. Even if the hard core libertarians took over tomorrow, you would still have to convince the rest of the industrialized world to "liberalize" (or should I say "libertarianize") their laws. Only after there was a worldwide free market in opium and cocaine derivatives would the problems of the warlords be moderated. Even then it would still be greater than that of the cabbage lords. After all, a smack high is a lot more fun than flatulence.

Unfortunately, we just don't have time for the miracle of the market to drive down the worldwide price of heroin and opium. People are dying and killing and the government of Afghanistan is being destabilized by the drug warlords right now. Ignoring the problem or advocating unobtainable, unrealistic, and fantastical policy changes really doesn't advance the debate in a worthwhile direction at all.
8.24.2006 5:32pm