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NATO Wages the Drug War

Fabrice Pothier says it's a bad idea to push NATO into the drug war:

No foreign army has ever succeeded in a counternarcotics effort of this kind. Drugs are fundamentally economic and law enforcement issues. At best, military force has made only a marginal impact, and in most cases, it has been counterproductive. Thailand, Burma and, to a lesser extent, Colombia succeeded in eliminating or gaining partial control of their drug trades only after decades of sustained political and economic development efforts. But Thailand, for one, had to offer its farmers a five-year amnesty to switch from illegal to legitimate crops.

And, the idea that some ISAF troops—mostly American, British, Canadian and Dutch—could engage only in “surgical interdiction strikes” against heroin labs and trafficking networks is more rhetorical than realistic. These facilities are embedded in a complex local environment, and any attacks will likely involve collateral damage. At a time when NATO is already struggling to minimize the civilian casualties of the coalition's air strikes, can it afford to engage in such a risky venture?

I'd say that the fastest way to dry up the Taliban's opium cash would be to legalize the stuff. In one fell swoop, Afghan farmers would have a legit cash crop to spur reconstruction and the Taliban could no longer hide in a black market economy.

But drug warriors never do seem to internalize the lessons of Prohibition.