Creating Wealth in Afghanistan


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld worries that opium money is undermining peace, stability, and democracy in Afghanistan. "The enormous wealth that comes from dealing drugs can be put to uses that are adverse to our interests or the interests of the Afghan government," Rumsfeld notes. "To the extent that millions of dollars are available to criminals and to people who are not democratic, it puts at risk the entire system." If so, why does the U.S. work so hard to make sure that thugs, warlords, and terrorists continue to enjoy this windfall?

NEXT: "I am not qualified."

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  1. Drug money is undermining peace, stability and democracy over there? That’s funny; I thought something had to exist before it could be undermined.

  2. Could we call Rummy a Bizzaro “flower child”?

    When will someone start the group “Poppies against poppies”?
    Or wait… that’s what Rummy IS starting.

  3. … and another thing…
    How much of the tulip trade in Holland, Michigan, funds terrorism?

    Tulips, poppies… what’s the difference?

  4. Ruthless-
    I have no idea what opium does to one’s mood, but if we could get them all to smoke marijuana I bet they’d mellow out. Let’s all start a charity to help the Afghans! We could call it “Potheads for Peace.”

  5. Jen,
    I know what poppies do to ones mood thanks to reading of Wang Lung’s relatives in The Good Earth by Pearl Buck.

    I’m for keeping my lungs pink and Wang’s too, for that matter, but to my liver I show no mercy!

    I think the strategic mood alteration is to simply calm down. I’m referring to those afflicted with drug hysteria who have delusions of being in a crowded theater on fire.

  6. Opium does that? I thought it just made you write crappy poetry about Xanadu.

    Doesn’t matter, though. If folks want to take it then let ’em. Besides, for all Rumsfeld’s talk about the possibility of this stuff making money for scumbags (as it no doubt does) there are also plenty of poor, honest, harmless farmers who just need to make money.

    Besides, if I lived in Afghanistan I would do my best to spend my every waking moment hallucinating, and if I couldn’t do it via opium I’d suffocate myself in my burka.

  7. Not to change the subject by much.
    I recently read the US drug czar declared our secret war in Colombia to be a flop, yet the Wall St Journal says there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

  8. now this is another big issue where we can use some choice in the coming elections – unfortunately there is no real choice 🙁

    yeah, yeah, we should support the LP and all that stuff; but I wish one of the major parties had the gonads to declare the ‘war on drugs’ a failure and promise to give it up.

    Oh the possibilities …

  9. He said it was a flop but he is going to stay in anyway, and gave reasons that were basically a gussied-up version of “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” Christ, when this administration isn’t talking like a subliterate Legion of Doom they sound like a glorified Hallmark card.

    If and when we beat this Islamic fascism thing it won’t even fucking matter, because by then we’ll have pissed-off South American terrorists who have a silly little grdge against America just because we dumped poison all over their farmland and now they’re starving to death. Say forty or fifty years from now. I plan to be dead by then.

  10. Zorel-
    A member of a major party having the guts to admit the failure of the War on Drugs? Pffft. You must be having one of those opium hallucinations Ruthless was talking about. A nice one, though.

  11. Why not buy the dope?

    Have a major US pharmaceutical company buy the dope. They could use the opiates for pain killers around the world. (No more Oxycontin-!)

    Plus the money would fund farmers to buy stuff. Attacking fields only takes away money from farmers.

    Buying dope would raise the world price plus dry up the pipeline.

    Too much sense to be done?

  12. Andy,
    Nothing personal, but hysteria about drugs coupled with economic illiteracy has done got us in the fix we is in.
    In other words, your plan flunks Econ 101.


  13. Opium is more soothing that a single malt scotch over the rocks. I might watch more TV if I could smoke it a little more frequently.

  14. Thanks, Zorel!

    I think somebody fluent in legalese, bureaucratese, and think-tank-ese should draft legislation to repeal drug prohibition without ever once saying “cocaine will be legal.” Something about “sentence iv of section 8 of the Smith-Johnson-Whoozit Act is modified to entail no penalty for chief agricultural exports of emerging underdeveloped economies as per the provisions of WTO Treaty Article V in accordance with all relevant statutes thereof.”

    I have no idea if the previous sentence makes any sense, but if it was all packaged neatly with some great title like “Saving Orphaned Americans Puppies Act” (SOAP Act) it would be funny to see how many politicians vote for it.

  15. I have absolutely no problem with US pharmaceutical companies buying opium to process and resell in whatever processed form consumers prefer. In fact, if opium were allowed to be sold on the open market rather than the black market I suspect that many consumers would prefer reputable brands rather than street dealers.

    And the Afghans would be better off if this were done on an open market. The price would certainly drop, but the farmers would probably deal with fewer middle-men taking their share of the price (less need for smugglers, armed guards, bribes, money launderers, and all of the other parasites who drive up the cost of business in the black market). And with less risk in an open black market (as opposed to a black market) the middle-men would command lower risk premiums. Moreover, farmers would no longer face the risk of their crop being targeted by drug warriors with herbicides.

    Finally, Afghanistan’s economy would no longer be driven by gangsters and smugglers. That alone certainly wouldn’t be enough for the emergence of peaceful and democratic institutions, but it also wouldn’t hurt.

    Overall, drug legalization would probably yield net benefits to your average Afghan, even factoring in the loss of the black-market risk premium attached to their main agricultural export.

  16. Looking at what I just wrote, I wonder if some economists at a think tank could dress it up in lots of jargon and pitch it to the people in DC. Call it “Freeing up markets of chief agricultural exports in Central Asia to yield net benefits from reduced risk premiums and the emergence of democratic institutions.” (The preceding phrase might not actually make sense, but who could tell without very careful parsing?) If cast in sufficiently dense jargon, some people might read the entire report without realizing that it’s a call for drug legalization.

    Come to think of it, since Congress doesn’t even read legislation before passing it (for more info see Act, Patriot), maybe this has a shot after all! 🙂

  17. “To the extent that millions of dollars are available to criminals and to people who are not democratic, it puts at risk the entire system.”

    Is he saying that criminals are not democratic, or that they’re not people?

    And if the criminals were democratic, would that be all right then?

    Or did he really mean: “To the extent that millions of dollars are available to criminals and to people who are not Republicans, it puts at risk the entire system”?

  18. Did anyone think that Rummy’s reaction would be any different. You all know far more about the war on drugs than I do.

  19. Did anyone think that Rummy’s reaction would be any different? You all know far more about the war on drugs than I do.

  20. And raymond m wins the cigar

    “To the extent that millions of dollars are available to criminals and to people who are not democratic, it puts at risk the entire system.”

    just like it has here.

  21. thoreau and andy,
    If opium were completely legal, it’s hard for me to imagine Afghanistan would have any part in producing it.
    But, at least Afghan farmers wouldn’t have Rummy at war with them.

  22. Christ, when this administration isn’t talking like a subliterate Legion of Doom they sound like a glorified Hallmark card.

    Jennifer, you very nearly made me spew my coffee with that one! BTW, I’ve always suspected a link between Hallmark and the LoD.

  23. jennifer,

    I admit it is wishful thinking (I actually said so). Read thoreau’s post a little later explaining how it can actually be packaged to be marketed to a majority of Americans (and the rest of the world). It is not far-fetched.

    thoreau, that was a great post!

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