Mittwoch, 28. September 2011

The Drug War – A Truly Silly One

While on a train from Berlin the other day (I was moderating a lecture by His Excellency Roger A. Meece, the current head of MONUSCO), I've had a chance to look into the current issue of the Foreign Affairs. Now, I am not among those who oppose any war out of some weird and misapplied principle, but I do oppose silly wars. And yes, I am still supporting the war in Iraq, so you might be wondering which war I find myself opposing? Its the war on drugs; a war that no one will ever win and that will never end, so maybe stop calling it a war is a pretty good idea for a start. But that isn't it. In the current Foreign Affairs' Mark Kleinman is making a rather persuasive argument calling the decades old war a failure. Instead of having been able to curb the influx of drugs, the supply is so plentiful that prices even for hard drugs have dropped by 80 to 90%. And even though the profits that can be made in the drugs business have dropped as well, the U.S. government is today imprisoning more people on drug-related charges than at any other time since prohibition. Kleinman is reaching the most important and convincing part of his case when talking about Mexico by making a small, but decisive note. Mexico, he argues, is fighting a war in which it has absolutely no stake. The war in Mexico, after all, is nearly entirely driven by the high demand on the North American illicit drug market. Would that demand drop or would the border indeed be fully secured, the violence in Mexico would be reduced or should the drug trade follow different routes, Mexico would become less important to the drug cartels virtually overnight. The war is threatening the foundations of the Mexican state, even though Mexico itself is neither the market nor the producer of the drugs. But the solution Kleinman is proposing is somewhat less compelling: he argues that instead of fighting the drug cartels altogether, the U.S. and Mexican authorities should introduce a scoring system and go after the most dangerous and violent cartel only. That strategy would reduce violence, he argues, because it deters drug cartels from fighting each other and killing innocents. I somewhat doubt that that is what would happen. It appears to me that drug cartels would play that system just as much as they have played any system so far. It only takes the first season of the Wire to realise just how futile that would be.  


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