As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Nexus Of Drug War Failure And War War Failure

In Afghanistan, we may be adding troops to an already chaotic situation with little chance of them being able to dislodge the Pashtun insurgency from their isolated villages, but we do seem to be trying some new things. A vow to curtail civilian airstrikes can't hurt if implemented effectively (although almost all the airstrikes that have yielded civilian casualties have been mistakes anyway, so how will this help?), and now this positive step:

The United States announced a new drug policy Saturday for opium-rich Afghanistan, saying it was phasing out funding for eradication efforts and using the money for drug interdiction and alternate crop programs instead.

The U.S. envoy for Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, told The Associated Press that eradication programs weren't working and were only driving farmers into the hands of the Taliban.

"Eradication is a waste of money," Holbrooke said on the sidelines of a Group of Eight foreign ministers' meeting on Afghanistan, where he said it had been warmly received, particularly by the United Nations [...]

In a report released earlier this week, the U.N. drug office said opium cultivation had dropped by 19 percent last year, but was still concentrated in three southern provinces where the Taliban insurgency is strongest.

Holbrooke said the previous U.S. policy, which focused on eradication programs, hadn't reduced "by one dollar" the amount of money the Taliban earned off opium cultivation and production.

"It might destroy some acreage," Holbrooke said. "But it just helped the Taliban."

Exactly. It increased their share of the market, and didn't cut into their profits at all. I don't know that interdiction works all that well either, but the focus on alternate crops is interesting. If we can give the subsistence farmers in Afghanistan another way to survive, we can at least develop the country in such a way that doesn't fatten the wallets of the insurgency. In the end, we can extricate ourselves from Afghanistan faster using pomegranates than using guns and bombs.

I still question the troop increase, but this is a smart move. the way, can we admit now that eradication doesn't work in Latin America, either, and stop that as well?

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