Vice Squad
Monday, September 04, 2006
First Afghanistan....

Pete Guither of Drug WarRant and many others have been protesting the DEA-sponsored exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. The connection between drugs and terrorism is an artifact of prohibtion -- note that there does not seem to be a connection between alcohol and terrorism. Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy has been making a similar point, arguing that prosecuting our War on Drugs in Afghanistan is bolstering the Taliban and hindering our ability to fight terrorists. Here's the final paragraph of today's post on this topic by Somin:
I recognize, of course, that it is politically unrealistic to expect the Bush Administration to abandon the War on Drugs completely. But I hope they can at least recognize the wisdom of stopping the poppy eradication campaign in Afghanistan. They need not even make a public announcement about it or admit that they were wrong. Reasonable people can differ about whether or not the War on Drugs is a good idea. But even those who support it wholeheartedly should consider whether it is really important enough to risk undermining the War on Terror.
Before I started working on vice policy I worked on Soviet/Russian reform, and one thing I learned from that exercise is that political constraints can shift quite quickly: look how many people forecast the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe even six months before it occurred. I have no insight into, or really any interest in, political strategy, but... presumably President Bush must think about his legacy. Right now it does not look as if history will treat his foreign policy as a shining success, though there are no guarantees on future judgments. What about his domestic policy legacy? Again, right now, I don't see it as being strewn with obvious success, and images of Katrina look like they will linger. In his final two years in office, why shouldn't President Bush take a few bold steps to relieve us from some of the worst of the War on Drugs? For instance, he could start by reclassifying marijuana and by calling off the DEA from harassing people operating legally under state laws with respect to medical marijuana. (OK, these aren't very bold -- they should be easy sells.) If political cover is needed, there are plenty of conservatives who are against the War on Drugs, including Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley, Jr.; indeed, de-escalating the drug war can legitimately be viewed as enhancing national security and being a form of compassionate conservatism.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006
Innovative Anti-Drug Strategy for Afghanistan

Sure, the recent news is that attempts to eradicate the opium crop in Afghanistan were wildly unsuccessful. But sometimes it takes a crisis like this to inspire bold new policy breakthroughs. Fortunately, Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, had a burst of insight, recounted in the linked New York Times story:
“I am pleading with the government to be much tougher,” he said. A new high-security prison block would be inaugurated in a few weeks, he said. “We have room for 100 people and I am asking the government to fill it within six months,” he said.
No word on whether the prison should be filled after trials and convictions, or by some less time-consuming method. Perhaps in terms of the impact on the Afghan opium crop, the precise prison-filling mechanism is immaterial.

Hmmm, another policy reform jumps to mind. Either eliminate the UN's "Office on Drugs and Crime" while turning drug policy over to the WHO, or open an "Office on Alcohol and Crime."

Libby at Last One Speaks noted the UN's refreshing new idea, too.

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