Remember back in the 80’s, when hair was big and girls wore leg-warmers and Nancy Reagan “just said no”? As I can remember, that’s about when our country embarked on the long and perilous journey called The War on Drugs.
It is almost (but not quite) as meaningless and silly as The War on Terror, since you can’t really fight a “war” if you don’t have an “enemy”. Drugs are a product, and since they’re always in the underground markets (like the terrorists, hmm?) you can’t go around shooting them or whatever.
But no matter. Our government, along with the United Nations and several other brave countries, declared The War on Drugs and promised that in 20 years, worldwide illicit drug use would be all but eradicated. At the very least, it would be in a steep and steady decline.
Here we are, roughly 20 years later. How’s The War going? Here’s a nice summary from a New York Times article on the opium production of Afghanistan:
Afghanistan produced record levels of opium in 2007 for the second straight year, led by a staggering 45 percent increase in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand Province.
Last year, a 160 percent increase in Helmand’s opium crop fueled a 50 percent nationwide increase. Afghanistan produced a record 6,100 metric tons of opium poppies last year, 92 percent of the world’s supply. A sparsely populated desert province twice the size of Maryland, Helmand produces more narcotics than any country on earth, including Myanmar, Morocco and Colombia.
Poppy prices that are 10 times higher than those for wheat have so warped the local economy that some farmhands refused to take jobs harvesting legal crops this year, local farmers said. And farmers dismiss the threat of eradication, arguing that so many local officials are involved in the poppy trade that a significant clearing of crops will never be done.
Whee! It sounds like things are going swimmingly. Not only is drug use not in decline, it’s pretty much been climbing steadily for these past two decades. The $600 million (yes, million) we pump into Afghanistan alone to control the drug trade seems to be so ineffective that one wonders exactly what that money is supposed to do. Never mind the tens of billions of dollars we’ve spent in other countries– and within our own country, of course– to little or no effect.
When, oh when, will these smooth-talking Congresspeople realize that you can’t throw a bunch of money and resources at a problem that’s not tangible? Like The War on Terror, this is a fight we can never, ever win.