Drugs, Terrorism and Myopia

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Following up on Chuck's mention of the John Kerry profile in the New York Times Magazine, one passage is striking, and picks up on an idea later defended by Kerry.

In the liberal view, the enemy this time–an entirely new kind of "non-state actor" known as Al Qaeda–more closely resembles an especially murderous drug cartel than it does the vaunted Red Army. Instead of military might, liberal thinkers believe, the moment calls for a combination of expansive diplomacy abroad and interdiction at home, an effort more akin to the war on drugs than to any conventional war of the last century.

Kerry is described as having "said that many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror."

Fascinating, really, but is the hapless war on drugs really a context in which Kerry and Co. want to frame the war against terrorism? Other than the fact that it takes much more than policemen and good intelligence to fight a phenomenon intimately tied in to social developments in faraway countries, other than the fact that it creates an absurd analogy between drug users and Al Qaeda henchmen, the war on drugs is, quite simply, a Sisyphean task–or to paraphrase Oscar Wilde on second marriages: It is the triumph of hope over experience (not to mention of imagination over intelligence).

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  1. Hey here’s a thought. In order to stop terrorism why don’t we stop doing things that make people mad at us? How about removing our troops from the 133 countries they are currently in? How about stop the support of tyrannical regimes (i.e. Saddam)? While we’re at it, how about ending the “war on drugs”.

  2. to paraphrase Oscar Wilde…

    You mean, “to quote Samuel Johnson…”

  3. “other than the fact that it creates an absurd analogy between drug users and Al Qaeda henchmen”

    It doesn’t. It sets up an analogy between drug cartel lords and their henchman and Al Queda henchman.

  4. It is the triumph of hope over experience (not to mention of imagination over intelligence).

    Kind of like this whole “transformation” non-sense going on in the middle east.

    Tim Cavanaugh,

    Ahh yes, the oft-quoted English lexicographer. 🙂

    My favorite remark of his concerns the American revolution:

    “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”

  5. In re comparing the War on Terror to the War on Drugs, wasn’t there a link posted to H&R just a few days ago in which a DEA official was announcing that the US was on the verge of final victory in the War on Drugs? I don’t actually believe that myself, but if officials in the Bush administration are going around announcing how successful the War on Drugs has been, then it certainly seems like a legitimate tactic on Kerry’s part to ask why the strategies that have allegedly been successful there shouldn’t be applied to the War on Terror.

  6. Saying you will fight the WOT the same as the drug war is basically saying that you will lose the WOT, isn’t it?

  7. SR,

    You are right; slamming Kerry for this stupid analogy while ingoring Bush’s own efforts regarding illicit drugs demonstrates Michael Young’s hypocrisy regarding. A pox on both their houses.

  8. You’re overlooking some critical differences between the WoT and the WoD.

    After all, it’s all demand side and supply side. In the War on Drugs, the US has tried to hammer the “supply side” pretty damn hard, but making drugs isn’t terribly difficult and rising prices didn’t put much of a crimp in the demand side, did they?

    Is there reason to suspect that this is true of terrorism as well? I’m sure arguments can be made either way, but offhand I’m not so sure that part of the analogy holds. I certainly wouldn’t assume it’s the same. Sounds like dangerous waters.

    I mean, people WANT cocaine…need it. They’re addicted to it. Alcohol, sex, pot….probably not going to fix it. They’ll pay what they have to pay. Their goal is to acquire whatever drug they want, any way they can.

    On the other hand, terrorists don’t really need terror. Terror is their tool, not their goal. Break that tool, make that tool too expensive to use, and they’ll turn to another one.

    I’m not saying we’ll like the new tool any better…

  9. When I hear comments like that from Kerry my theory starts to fall into place—it’s a generational thing!

    Clinton, Bush, Kerry= Atrocious baby boomer leadership.

    No BOOMERS in ’08!

  10. Just another artifact that the Kerry mouth is working very hard to lose him the election. Speaking as one who is going to vote for this loon I can only hope that his mouth is actually working faster than his mind, and that its possible for him to eventually get it under control.

    This entire election has got to leave a really bad taste in the mouth of anybody with half a brain.

  11. Morat,
    here is meaningless thought that occurred to me when reading your post.

    Both drugs and terrorism arise out of needs not met by a culture. Drugs fill the void of adrenaline and fear and whatever that modern humans don’t get in boring ass jobs. And for some reason it appears that humans seem to need a religion for the most part. So you get cults and religious terrorists.

    So for the drugs we get the DEA, and Kerry want a TEA for the terrorists I guess.

    I wonder if drugs and religion affect a similar part of the brain.

  12. “can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror…”

    So let me get this straight: Kerry contends that the “tools” were already available to counteract the flow of money to terrorists.

    Then why did he vote for the PATRIOT ACT?

  13. I’d think Drug War techniques might actually be much *more* effective against terror.

    After all, we’ve seen terrorist movements give up their methods, or fade into irrelevance.

    That hasn’t yet been seen of the narcotics industry. The Colombian cartel hasn’t gone legit, with a rump faction (the “provisional Cali cartel”) doing the occasional deal or assassination but generally lacking support.

    Profit is an eternal motivator. Ideological movements come and go.

  14. Of course the “War on Drugs” and “War on Terrorism” have something in common… both involve the US demand for commodities (narcotics, oil) and blaming brown people for U.S. created problems. The “War on Drugs” blames suppliers for your addictions; the “War on Terror” blames former allies (Al Quaida, the Taliban, Saddam Hussan) for fighting against U.S. control of their supplies.

  15. steve, thanks for leading off this thread on exactly the right note.
    What the WOD has in common with the WOT, is that neither can be “won.”
    Other wars that cannot be won are defending borders and eliminating weapons of mass destruction. There must more I can’t think of at the moment.
    The negative aspects of terror, drugs, borders, WMD, etc. can only begin to be ameliorated after governments stop the insane warring.

    That Kerry would say what he did confirms what I’ve said earlier, namely, that while he can speak in complete sentences his mental wattage is rougly the equal of Dubya’s: low.
    How can anyone honestly believe they are doing their patriotic, civic… whatever duty by voting for either of these two?

  16. The patriotic duty is to vote for better leadership. In this case, it’s not that much better to put Kerry in charge, but it’s better enough for me.

    And the War on Drugs is an okay thing upon which to model the War on Terror. We already have the Homeland Security Czar, so why not make him just another permanent doofus in the government? We won’t solve the problem, quell all the anger at us, or stop every suicidal nutcase with a bomb, but at least we all want to. If we all wanted to end drug use in this country, that problem would be gone. I think fighting terrorism like we fight drugs is a good step forward toward realizing that the drug war is a huge waste of time, money, lives, and trust in government (not that they don’t do enough other things to do that).

    And I don’t think that wanting to think of terrorism as a nuisance is tantamount to giving up. It’s wishful thinking, but it’s a shared dream.

  17. Wait a second. There’s a reason the War on Drugs is unwinnable – because the activity at the center of the issue, acquiring intoxicants, is a normal part of human behavior, and thus can never be rooted out effectively. Ditto with prohibition, prostitution, migration, and gambling. Attempts to stamp out these activities just drive them undergound and thus make them more lucrative, without really reducing the volume of activity. In a sense, everybody does it.

    Organizing the slaughter of innocent people is different. I agree that the tactics being used in the Drug War aren’t, and can’t be effective in reducing the harm from drugs. But applied to a more appropriate target, like terror cells, they are likely to be a lot more effecitve.

  18. If I remember right, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the FBI issued a public statement that the agency wouldn’t be handling drug cases any more in order to focus more on counterterrorism efforts.

    Considering the DEA engage in a lot of cross-border surveillance and what not, I was assuming a similar reallocation of manpower was underway.

    Then, literally WEEKS after 9/11, a DEA ninja-assault team raided a Prop. 215 clinic (The Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center).

    The Center was considered the most scrupulous med mar dispensary in the state and operated with the full cooperation of the West Hollywood City Council, LAPD, and West Hollywood Sheriffs.

    Despite protests from state and local officials, agents drew their guns and raied the place. Assets were seized and the building which housed the center was seized as well—despite the fact that the City of West Hollywood had extended a loan to the club to purchase the buidling.

    But we were all informed by a DEA flack that this was an important moment in the war on terror because we were sending a message to radical Islam that we “uphold morality” in this country.

    So I guess the DEA have been fighting the WOT all along…

  19. Wow, the DEA as counter terror warriors!

    Just like that comercial with the high school kids confessing to financing killing drugs and blowing stuff up.

    I wonder if you could make a retro commercial, and you have a bunch of old fogies, confessing about all the financing of terrorism that they did by drinking booze.

  20. You know, those drug/terror commercials made me think … wouldn’t it be great to do a commercial where you saw people make these confessions?

    Person 1: “I helped bomb and maim children.”

    Person 2: “I helped police give an old man a fatal heart attack because they broke into the wrong house at night looking for drugs.”

    Person 3: “I rigged food prices in a poor African country so that local farmers couldn’t make a living by feeding their fellow citizens.”

    Person 4: “I forced children to go to a school where they were taught their parents’ religious beliefs were stupid and wrong.”

    Person 5: “I stole an old woman’s home and gave it to a rich developer.”

    Person 1: “I pay taxes.”

    Person 2: “I pay taxes.”

    Person 3: “I pay taxes.”

    Person 4: “I pay taxes.”

    Person 5: “I pay taxes.”

    Announcer (voice-over): “If you pay taxes, you’re helping to pay for a system that oppresses, terrorizes, steals, and kills…DON’T PAY TAXES.”

    (fade to black)

  21. Also … shortly after 9-11 it occurred to me: If Osama bin Laden was motivated by a desire to get the USA to stop meddling abroad, and if he had a better understanding of American society, he probably could have achieved most of his goals by using his fortune to (1) hire a savvy American PR firm and (2) place a series of full-page ads in the NY Times, the DC papers, etc. pursuading people to sympathize with Palestinians instead of the Israelis, stop supporting the Saudi monarchy, or whatever.

    I know I was becoming more sympathetic to the Palestinian side prior to 9-11, and would have been susceptible to this kind of persuasion. (Seeing Palestinian women and little kids celebrate and dance in the streets after the Towers went down tended to dampen my sympathy, not-entirely-rational as that may be.)

    If he wanted to get US foreign policy to change course, OBL screwed up big time.

  22. “motivated” should have been “TRULY motivated” — too tired to HTML or preview properly.

  23. My favorite remark of his [Samuel Johnson’s] concerns the American revolution:

    “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”

    The Wayans brothers’ chauffeurs???

  24. Stevo,
    Your commercial should end:
    “I’m Mike Bednarik. I don’t pay taxes, but I do approve this message.”

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