The Corner

Drugs, Wars, Etc

Andrew, I don’t want to get into a whole drug war thing late on a Friday (in part because pro-legalization emailers can be dismayingly obnoxious), but a few random quick points:

1. I’m just not persuaded by your mantra: “War on terror or war on drugs? Choose one. You can’t fight both.” As a general proposition I don’t see how it’s any different than the countless declarations from liberals along the lines of “War on terror or tax cuts, you can’t have both.” In other words, I don’t think it’s sufficient to take a policy you’d want to get rid of anyway and then say the war on terror justifies getting rid of it. I am perfectly willing to concede that the war on terror makes the war on drugs more difficult, and vice versa, but the war on terror makes pretty much all public policies more difficult. That doesn’t automatically mean it’s not a worthwhile project. Ditto the war on drugs.

2. Now today you do offer something more than the mantra, but even here I’m not sure I see how it makes legalization obviously correct. So, according to you and Hitch, we should legalize heroin because if we did so it would make heroin producers into legitimate business men? Encouraging — or at the very least not discouraging — millions of Americans to become dope fiends and smack addicts in order to put warlords out of one lucrative business seems like a pretty odd national security argument to me. If we legalize heroin, should we offer the Afghans preferential treatment in the heroin trade, even if it harms our more deserving American poppy growers? I’m patriotic enough to believe that if you’re going to buy H you might as well buy it from the US of A.

3. More seriously, who says Afghanistan wouldn’t be hurt by legalization? Surely other nations — not to mention the biotech and agribusiness industries — which are now out of the heroin business would jump in once America lifted its trade and legal barriers against the product. Once that happened, presumably the price would drop, even as demand (and potency) increased. This might be good or bad, depending on your point of view, but it wouldn’t be a great boon to the average poppy grower in Afghanistan. I don’t know a lot about the agricultural issues here, but it seems to me that once poppies become just another crop in the global marketplace, Afghanistan’s competitive advantages disappear.

3. Hitchens calls the demand for a ruthless crackdown on the Afghan mafia a “non-sequitur.” Maybe this is a wrong proposal, but it’s not an illogical one. The warlords and mafia are bad people, regardless of what you think of the drug trade. They murder people. Crushing them would be a good thing.

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