Afghanistan's (and Our) Dumb War on Drugs (Veiled Choice: The Best of Reason Pitch)


Writing in Slate last week, Christopher Hitchens zeroes in on the likely effect of current U.S. policy toward poppies in Afghanistan:

[W]e learned from the New York Times of Dec. 11, in a front-page article bylined by Eric Schmitt, that a secret "assessment" by Lt. Gen. David Barno, the senior American officer in the country, has concluded that poppy cultivation is the main threat to the creation of a decent society, and the main avenue by which former Taliban and al-Qaida forces can hope to return from their crushing defeat.

Any attentive reading of the report, however, shows that it is the campaign against poppy cultivation that constitutes the threat. This point was underlined, perhaps coincidentally, by an op-ed essay in the same edition of the Times, written by Afghanistan's tireless and talented finance minister, Ashraf Ghani. "Today," he wrote, "many Afghans believe that it is not drugs, but an ill-conceived war on drugs that threatens their economy and nascent democracy" (my italics). Ghani went on to point out that a third of Afghanistan's GDP depends on the crop and that "destroying that trade without offering our farmers a genuine alternative livelihood has the potential to undo the embryonic economic gains of the past three years." As he further emphasized, these highly undesirable consequences arise from the control of the trade by a "mafia" with links to Islamic nihilism.

Whole story here.

If you find Hitchens' judgment compelling and interesting, consider this: He wrote the intro to our new anthology, Choice: The Best of Reason, which pulls together our greatest hits of the past decade into one handy-dandy volume. "I find that Reason," he notes, "keeps my…arteries from hardening, or from flooding with adrenaline out of sheer irritation, because in the face of arbitrary power and flock-like comformism it continues to ask, in a polite but firm tone of voice, not only 'why?' but 'why not?'"

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