At one point in the debate, John Kerry made great play of the return of opium production to Afghanistan. Well, in the course of a fascinating piece in the current NRODT (you know what you have to do), Radek Sikorski, who has been traveling to Afghanistan since the late 1980s has this to say:
“The third and most likely threat to Afghanistan’s future is the drugs whose production has spread from the Afghan-Pakistani border and the traditional heartland around Kandahar to most provinces. According to some reports, drugs constitute up to half of the Afghan economy and they finance much of the private construction, particularly in the capital. The interweaving of Taliban and al Qaeda politics with drug-related crime networks could create a deadly base for a continuing insurgency for years to come. As we’ve learned elsewhere, the only way to fight the drug trade is to eat into its profit margins–by legalizing the stuff in the West, or in the producing country, and taxing it appropriately–which is, of course, politically unacceptable.”
Radek is right, of course. It cannot be repeated enough. Not only is the war on drugs counterproductive at home, but it also provides a mechanism by which the terrorists can find an invaluable source of funding. The Bush administration seems incapable of recognizing this simple fact, but Kerry, we know, would be no better.