Drug Policy and Counterinsurgency


Mmm...poppies (cc photo by adactio)

Mmm...poppies (cc photo by adactio)

Mark Kleiman previews an upcoming DC talk featuring him, Jon Caulkins, and Jonathan Kulick at which “We’re hoping to make a splash, as the basic claim – which I think is fairly bullet-proof analytically – is that current policies provide material support to the Taliban.”

To—I think—preview what they’re going to say, the basic problem with current drug policies in Afghanistan is that we don’t have effective control over the bulk of the country. Consequently, attempting to curb poppy production amount to putting the Taliban’s competitors out of business, boosting their fortunes. To draw an analogy, in the 1970s and 80s we were engaged in Cold War competition with the USSR. The USSR drew substantial strengths from oil exports. So we might have reasoned “oil production is important to the USSR, so we should therefore declare war on oil production.” This would lead us to shut down wells in Texas and Alaska and other places under our control, but the Soviet wells would remain beyond our grasp. The result would, of course, be a bonanza for our enemies and not at all a means of hurting them.