Lose One to Win One
By streiff Posted in War — Comments (77) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
A lot of people don’t believe there is actually a War on Terrorism underway or even possible. We’re told it is just a “tactic” and you can’t fight a tactic. I’m not one of them. Just as the civilized world waged a war on piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries, though piracy was only a "tactic", I believe we can wage a war on terrorism. Not only do I think we can and should wage that war, I don’t believe there is another issue confronting the nation that comes close to the importance of winning that war.
But you can only do so much. There are times when military and political necessity forces you to conclude an unsatisfactory peace with one enemy in order to destroy a still more dangerous foe. I believe we are at that juncture in the global war on terrorism where me must consciously choose to lose one war in order to win the more important one.
Contrary to popular belief, terrorism is not fueled by poverty, alienation, or Islamic fundamentalism. It is fueled by exactly one thing: money. Without money there would still be angry and alienated Islamic fundamentalists but they would be living in mud huts and much more concerned with staving off starvation than flying airliners into buildings.
Money buys weapons, identity documents, and sanctuary. Money is necessary to provide terror cells in target countries with food, lodging, transportation, and the means to carry out their missions.
Prior to 9/11 a good portion of the annual budget for Islamic terrorist groups in the Middle East, Southwest and Southeast Asia arrived legally through a network of Islamic charities which specialized in assisting wealthy Muslims, especially Saudis and Gulf Arabs, to meet their religious obligation of almsgiving. Since 9-11 that network has been largely closed down and the remaining charities are heavily monitored.
Nothing if not ingenious terrorists have turned to the largest producer of untraceable cash on the planet for a sugar daddy: illegal narcotics.
Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, and erstwhile Kerry toady, Rand Beers testified before Congress in 2002 on the connection between illegal drugs and terrorism.
The destruction of the Taliban has seen opium production skyrocket in Afghanistan making Hamid Karzai’s task of extending the government’s writ into the hinterlands much more difficult and, ironically, funding the Taliban who has suppressed the opium trade. The only upside in this turn of events is that Iran is rapidly becoming a junkie nation thanks to cheap Afghan heroin.
Indeed, the narcotics trade has kept a viable nation, Columbia, in a near state of perpetual warfare for some thirty years and is slowly but sure forcing another semi-successful state, Mexico, into failed state status. Many of the Caribbean nations are wholly owned subsidiaries of various cartels and much of West Africa is slipping into that camp. For the failed and failing states in and along the edge of the non-integrating gap, as described by Thomas Barnett, their ability to cater to the drug trade may well be their only competitive advantage.
Since 9-11 the relationship between terrorist groups and narco-traffickers has become more symbiotic. IRA bomb makers have assisted the Columbian FARC and have trained in Lebanon’s Beka’a Valley with Hezbollah and the PLO. Hugo Chavez is an ally of the FARC, Lebanese Hezbollah is essentially an arm of the Pasdaran and heavily involved in heroin and cocaine trafficking. Now Hugo Chavez is initiating ties with Iran. Iran is arming insurgents in Iraq to kill American soldiers.
In the words of the Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Karen Tandy:
Drug money "buys power to destabilize countries," she told the audience of more than 300 leaders from the political, law enforcement, and corporate worlds in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. "It's a marriage of convenience. Drug traffickers benefit from the paramilitary skills, access to weapons, and the links to other clandestine groups that terrorists provide. Terrorists, for their part, gain an enormous revenue stream and an expertise in money laundering that's essential to hiding their assets."
While I have no doubt of our ability to prevail against terrorism, I believe the war will be longer, bloodier, and more dangerous than necessary if we cannot stem the flow of narco-cash to terrorist groups. It is a war that we cannot afford to lose.
I have long had doubts about the War on Drugs, the war I am about to propose we lose. The damage done to our civil society through asset forfeiture laws and the militarization of our police forces, the social cost to communities targeted by drug cartels, and the foreign policy implications of creating failed narco-states has always appeared to me to be at least as harmful as the effects of drug addiction.
In the current environment where these failed states become harbors for terrorists and the money garnered on our streets through the sale of narcotics is converted into roadside bombs to kill young Americans in Ramadi and Baghdad I believe we have to be willing to accept the individual tragedies this policy shift would entail as a cost of war.
I am not a libertarian and I don’t generally subscribe to “consenting adults” or “right of privacy” as the basis for an argument. This case is no different. There is no doubt that narcotics, such as heroin and cocaine, impose a huge social cost. They will impose that cost whether they are legal or illegal. Indeed, in some ways they may impose a greater social cost if legalized. What legalization will do is remove a multi-billion dollar income stream from the grips of terrorists and narcotics cartels. It will provide poor farmers in the Andean highlands and in Afghanistan and Burma, or whatever they are calling it this week, with above board cash income that will pass through legal banking channels and not be used to buy weaponry to arm militias to protect the growers and sellers of narcotics.
Drug use and addiction is not a good thing and legalizing these substances is not something we should undertake cavalierly, but if we cannot choke off the flow of capital to terrorists we will be engaged in shooting wars throughout the world for decades to come.