Lose One to Win One

By streiff Posted in 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.

Read on.

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.

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I've had many of the same thoughts, but I'm troubled by the question of how you actually remove the terrorist/cartel middleman. Your Afghan poppy farmer or Colombian coca grower isn't going to be able to suddenly switch buyers when the current buyer has an army of people with AK-47s ready to shoot him.

A government cartel much like we have with tobacco licenses or even handle it the way that bourbon distillers buy corn on the spot market.

Right now the grower isn't forced to sell to the guys with AKs, the guys with AKs are his only buyers.

If he can sell legitimately there is little reason to sell illegally. In the long run a legalization of heroin and cocaine will drive the costs down to the point where the opium or coca leaves sold illegally will be more expensive to the user than the legally sold product.

I think there are decided downsides socially because I have no doubt that addiction will increase, etc. But of the economics of it I have no doubts whatsoever.

for the Bush Doctrine?  

That is, does the shift in financing from charity to narcotics negate the effectiveness of holding host countries responsible for the actions of terrorists which are based in them?

but in most of the nations that are large scale narcotics producers there really isn't much of a government to hold accountable.

What percentage of the worldwide market for illicit drugs can we hope to influence?  Do you think that market segment is big enough to influence the overall drug trade, and if so, is that influence worth the negative effects of legalized heroin and crack?  

Keep in mind that it isn't the illegality of cocaine that makes its addicts devote themselves singleheartedly to it, giving up property, friendships, and children not just to secure it, but to make time for its use.  While I'm fully aware of the Prohibition and Netherlands arguments, I can't bring myself to endorse tacit governmental approval of its effects.

That said, if some kind of legalization obviates fighting an endless war against narc-funded enemies while we also create the conditions for their wealth, then it bears further analysis.

What I really wanted to ask was: does the Islamic proscription against alcohol apply to recreational drug use of all kinds?

Re: I think there are decided downsides socially because I have no doubt that addiction will increase

I'm not so sure about that, assuming we include alcoholism in the addiction stats. Only certain people (granted, a significant percentage of the population) is prone to addiction. Though whether this is due to chemistry psychology or a mix of factors is unclear. Right now anyone who is an "addictable" adult probably already is, except those who have gotten help through AA or other such groups. So we may well see more people addicted to opiates, cocaine etc., but this will be balanced out by a decrease in alcohol addicts (or maybe we will see alcoholics continuing to be alcoholics but also getting hooked on other things.) But the fraction of the population that is hooked on something will probably not change. After all, it's not as if there's really anything stopping people from doing drugs right now. The laws are honored only in the breach and narcotics are readily available to anyone who wants them.

the mind, according to what I have read. I can't cite any Koranic passages or anywhere in the Hadith that focuses on anything other than alcohol, though. That doesn't mean there aren't any such proscriptions. I do know hashish use is endemic in the Islamic world, but whether this is in violation of the faith I can't say.

The Taliban, if you recall, took the intoxicant ban one step further and prohibited music and other activities that would interfere with the mind's focus on God.

What a great diary.

It obviously took a lot of courage to write.

It saddens me to think that the Feds will see this as a threat to their power (how much money does the WoD bring in?) rather than an elegant solution to a gordian knot of a problem.

Others will legalize.  That will open enough Market Share to make a difference.

There are a great many US investors that will be willing to sink Billions into it once they can legally.  In the end, the power of the almighty dollar will trump the power of the almost almighty AK.

I'm not a big fan of legalizing, but I am a big fan of allowing people to commit suicide, whether slow or fast.  In the end, it leaves more resources for me and my family.

A couple of things you wrote, I'm not exactly sure about.

You seem to be saying that there are "addictable" personalities that will be addicted to something regardless. Look I'm no expert on narcotics, but I've always understood that cocaine and especially herion are highly addictive to all people (not just certain personality types) in a way that alcohol is not. It is possible to causually enjoy alcohol and not become addicted- I'm skeptical that the same applies for heroin.

Also, I don't entirely agree that "it's not as if there's really anything stopping people from doing drugs right now." I agree that if someone really wants to do drugs, they can eventually find a source, but I grew up in a middle class area and drugs (other than marijuana) were not that prevalent, if I wanted cocaine for example I basically would have had travel some distance into the inner city and seek out drug dealers. If you legalize drugs, you take away the stigma and challenges of procurement that put off let's say the teenager with the passing curiousity. I'm leery about doing that.

maybe we don't have to legalize completely, but "misdemeanorize" drug abuse along the lines of public intoxication laws and maybe change the tax laws concerning drug profits- i.e. low tax rate for profits on the small business scale, confiscatory taxes and prison for drug moguls.  This could break up the cartels.  Just a thought...

...is, it's a lot easier to find and collect one brick of pure cocaine crossing the border, than to find and collect one thousand baggies of crack cocaine scattered allover a big city.

If you have a choice between getting cheap drugs legally buying drugs more expensively illegally I think cheap and legal wins. So I think by providing a legal buyer for the coca leaves, the marijuana, the raw opium you can put the illegal trade out of business.

How many moonshiners are left? Sure there are some but I, who come from a three generations of moonshiners, wouldn't buy the stuff because good liquor is readily available and relatively inexpensive.

The point being that you can get rid of the the drug cartels and the risk to legitimate governments they pose by taking away their income. They could even go legal and they would no longer have to finance private armies.

On the Islamic issue, apparently using drugs is against the rule but selling them to infidels is quite alright. Apparently using money from crime to finance Islamic activities is okay, too. see pages 50/51 for more on this.

the past.

problem is now you don't have to go to the inner city to get the bad stuff.  the gangs have figured out that they can bring it to the burbs, to the kids, and sell more.... a lot more.  a main reason why herion has enjoyed an upsurge in usage.( and it's cheap)

in fact, for gangs to partner w/kids in the burbs to help sell is pretty commen

Re: Look I'm no expert on narcotics, but I've always understood that cocaine and especially herion are highly addictive to all people

I don't know about cocaine specifically, but I do know this is not the case with opiates or even tobacco.

In the case of opiates it's well documented that people who must use high doses of morphine (and similar pain killers) for medical reasons do develop a physical dependency but once the medical need for extreme analgesia is over most of them can taper off and quit--they are not addicted. And with tobacco I'm living proof not everyone gets addicted. Every once in a blue moon I smoke a cigarette (usually when I am out with people who smoke--but rarely more often than once a month). But I have never started smoking habitually and never crave the stuff.

Oh, and ditto with alcohol. How many people drink moderately without becoming drunks? Most of us I think.

Re: If you legalize drugs, you take away the stigma

Just because something is legal doesn't mean it can't be (successfully) stigmatized. Think tobacco these days.

And to some extent there's also a reverse (perverse?) glamour in law-breaking. Speak-easies, bathtub gin, bootleggers and moonshiners are remembered fondly by our culture.

 Very heartening to see you post this. It will take a lot of respected voices from all across the political spectrum to actually speak up with conviction about the counterproductive nature of the "war on drugs" before politicians feel like they have the freedom to move in a direction most of them (I think incorrectly) view as political suicide.

I have long had doubts about the War on Drugs, the war I am about to propose we lose.

 Terminating the "war on drugs" is by no means a loss if in fact it leads to a more free and efficient society and a stronger nation acting in accordance with a rational, limited set of priorities. A net positive gain for America is a win in my book. What we've been doing so far in terms of drug control is perpetually losing, one slain police officer, one jailed drug user, and one SWAT-team-to-the-wrong-address at a time.

 Let's win one to win another.

is that I believe, unlike Aleks311, that there will be a dramatic increase in addictions, lost productivity, medical care, years of life lost, etc.

I see changing our drug policy as being a negative that might only be off set by the greater negative of retaining it.

Our country is saturated with drugs already. Heck when I was a teenager (OK, that's a while ago) it was easier for kids to get hold of pot than beer.

Still, I wonder if there isn't a third way out here. How about the US government, perhaps in partnership with some other countries who would have an interest in the matter, busy up the coca and opium crops (apart from whatever percentage is needed for valid purposes) and then destroys them? Peasants get money, terrorists don't, and drugs are kept in short supply.

and IGO cartel to buy coca, marijuana, and opium. Perhaps issue licenses like we do for tobacco growers.

and I'll post this again:

Legalize Drugs

Legalization does not mean approval. America spends at least $20 billion a year to fight a losing battle against drugs. (Research by William F. Buckley places America's direct and indirect costs of this "war" at more than $200 billion a year.) Experts say that worldwide, the annual drug trade may be as high as $500 billion! "Just say no" ain't gonna stop that. The drug trade provides an economic incentive for children and teens to drop out of school and earn fast money. It accounts for 50 percent of all street crimes and perhaps 30 percent of the prison population. Tax drugs, and use the money for drug treatment and additional police protection.

Drug legalization would free up prison spaces, vacancies that could be used to lock up violent criminals. What about the harm to society? Drug abuse would have to increase well over fivefold to match the deaths caused by cigarette smoking (allegedly 400,000 a year).

Along with the benefits internationally, articulated above, I see this not only as a viable option but just maybe the right thing to do.    

 we do then differ on the magnitude of the consequences. A net positive is a net positive. Current drug control policies create enormous costs (enforcement, incarceration), corruption (cops on the take, border personnel on the take), lack of focus (versus higher priorities ala terrorism), and reduced opportunities for treatment (prison does nothing to resolve the health issue of drug addiction/abuse). It's speculative to suggest addicition will dramatically increase, but with a focus on education and treatment as opposed to somewhat selective incarceration, it's fair to also speculate that an increase in addictions may be a short term phenomena from "early adopters" whose subsequent problems, more sanely dealt with in the light of day rather than in the confines on a prison cell, may well in itself help persuade people to make wiser choices.

 With economists like Milton Friedman backing decriminalization on the basis of a cost savings then I just can't agree that decriminalization is not the smarter move in and of itself. But take one step further in all directions and as you point out, the benefits in other areas push the issue even further.

look at China's experience with opium in the early 19th century and not forsee huge social problems but having said that, I'm willing to give it a try.

Logic agrees that the WoD is Prohibition redux.  The direct savings in reduced incarceration, corruption, policing costs, etc., plus the disruption (for a time, at least) in terrorism funding flows make a compelling logical case for some shade of legalization, decriminalization, misdemeanor downgrading, or something similar.

But, like most Americans who've accumulated some life experience, my heart aches at the awful human toll I've witnessed from addiction, the lives lost and wasted, and the families destroyed.  Yes, I've seen the squalid shooting galleries in Amsterdam and Vancouver (the latter only an hour drive from my Washington home), and my emotional reaction is that those pathetic souls have, in effect, been thrown overboard by society.

When I'm in the mode of listening to my heart, the cold logic of legalizing recreational drugs has a Eugenic, almost National Socialist, humans-as-commodities quality.

But, for better or worse, I spend more time thinking than emoting, so I end this post as deeply conflicted as I began it.

My only observation would be that really, we've already lost the War on Drugs, we just haven't acknowledged it yet.  We might as well make it official.

Kids don't need to mess with skin pops, tourniquets, spoons, etc. They just smoke it or snort it.  Back in my day, the needle was enough to scare me away from H.  I had a 4th grade classmate who wasn't scared.  His big brother was a junkie and turned him into one.  It was sad to watch him jones in class, pretending he had a syringe, and smoking his pencil like a joint.  He got hepatitis in the spring of 1970 (spoken of in hushed tones by the teachers),left school, and we never saw him again.

the local H.S. last year lost a cheerleader to H.

Talk about 18,500 losing their minds.  Back in my day H was the feared, the poster drug against drugs.

Now, it's on par w/ booze.

Which brings up another sticky point...make it legal, no longer wonder how it was "Stepped on" = less O.d's

I agree with the points on the war on drugs, although I'm not convinced that is largely what terrorism is about.

And piracy a tactic? I don't think so. Like armed robbery is a tactic.

I advocate reading a story before commenting on it. YMMV.

The story is not about the war on drugs it is about the war on terror.

No one said terrorism is about drugs but to say that drug money is not the leading source of funds for international terrorism is just not true. Not my opinion, follow the links and the 150,000+ Google links and you'll find near universal agreement, left/right/center/libertarian, on the subject.

If terrorism is a tactic then piracy is a tactic, neither are nations which is what most of those on the left who claim you can't have a war on terrorism harp on.

I never understood why we tried so hard to get farmers to switch crops rather than do this.

While I share many of the same conflicts as other posters about the futility of the war on drugs and evil of lives and families destroyed because of drugs. (I want to keep fighting against drugs for the sake of my child--the war isn't lost yet!)

The argument posed here is that illegal drugs help finance terrorists (a position that I think is reasonable) and therefore we should surrender in the war on drugs and strike a blow against terrorism. Fine.

Here is the problem. Given that Streiff thinks the negative consequences of giving up the war on drugs will be fairly serious, the resulting damage to terrorist must be even greater. I am unconvinced this is so. Islamist terrorists have other revenue streams, and even if we also give up importing oil from the Middle East, presumably they could continue to find other ways to raise money.

Consider the history of organized crime. It is true that prohibition did provide organized crime an influx of capital. That capital was used to develop other revenue streams so that the end of prohibition hardly made a dent in the activities of organized crime.

The tobacco companies have been taken to the cleaners over and over again for the past 15 years. Why exactly would someone want to get into the Heroin business?

The demand is still there, so the entire illegal drug trade stays in action and expands if it has to to meet the new demand. Buying and destroying them would do no good. The only way you could put the cartels out of business would be to buy and then sell to end users.

but I disagree on two points.

First, I think cutting of narco-cash will not only cripple terrorism but it will move a dozen or so states on the edge or within the non-integrating gap to a functioning state status.

Second, I'm not sure that I would agree that organized crime is as significant an influence in America today as it was during the Prohibition. The fact is that ending Prohibition killed the cash cow and, yes, while they did move into other rackets those rackets were not as lucrative as liquor and easier to shut down.

In the short term the narco gangs and the terrorists are going to find other means of funding. But narcotics is big money earned quickly and untraceably. They may migrate into credit card fraud or piracy or hijacking or some other criminal enterprise but the ROI is just not going to be there and they will not earn enough money from those enterprises to threaten even a weak state.

It would dry up a major source of revenue... one that is not easily replaced. Drugs are something terrorists are very well equipped to handle. They have the weapons, they have the smuggling capacity, they have good access to all the major drug producing areas. These are places without much government control, where they can operate freely (as freely as they can anywhere, at least).

For all the noise people make about oil money going to terrorism, I would be surprised if that is a major source of income. These people don't own leases on oil fields. They aren't friendly with the governments that do. Some of their benefactors may be connected to oil, but I'm sure they have benefactors in every kind of business out there.

Another thing to consider here is the impact on the cartels themselves. These are very scary guys who aren't much better than the terrorists. They are extremely well equipped and are a major source of instability and corruption in this hemisphere. It would do a lot of good to put these guys out of business, or at a minimum severely hurt their business.

I'm not a fan of legalization, but in this context it might make sense.

 Gosh. I don't know...

 RJ Reynolds:

Summing up R.J. Reynolds' brand performance for the first quarter, Lynn J. Beasley, R.J. Reynolds' president and chief operating officer, said, "Our key goal is to grow share on our two investment brands, Camel and Kool, while we profitably manage the remainder of our portfolio. And that's happening. By all measures, we are doing well."

<...>

"Like 2005," Neal said, "we expect 2006 to be another dynamic year of profitable growth -- and we're already off to a solid start."

 Phillip Morris:

While some of the growth is due to Kraft Foods, the company noted that its 12.5-percent increase in operating income, to some $4.2 billion, was "due primarily to increases" at the two cigarette divisions. In addition, earnings from continuing operations increased by 18.3 percent, to 2.6 billion, again driven in part by cigarette division earnings.

 Why would anyone want to own or invest in a business selling an addictive product to willing consumers? I'm off to Starbucks to do some more research...

The tobacco companies were already in existence and doing business unmolested for over 100 years before they started being victimized by every greedy lawyer and politician out there. Somebody selling heroin or cocaine is going to be sued out of existence right out of the gate. It is a much more "defective product" than tobacco could ever be.

It's a completely different thing to already be in a business and take your lumps when trouble comes along, than to get into a business knowing you are going to be in big trouble from day 1. If you don't believe it, write up a business plan for an asbestos mining operation and see how much funding you can attract for it.

Has there ever been a lawsuit against Jack Daniels or Jim Beam or Old Grandad?

But I think they have been thus far been very unsuccessful (except against bar owners). Same goes for guns and fast food.

But at least we agree as to basic principles. While the basic analysis is a simple cost benefit one, and I think Strieff's strongest point is regarding the explosive potential of failed state. The drug trade does destabilize governments that creates a good home for terrorists. However, Al Qaeda used Afghanistan as a base of operations during a time with the Taliban was effectively eradicating opium crops that have only now returned.

I also think there is an underestimation of how devestating drug use is in our society.  And I'm still operating from Strieff's premise that legalization will make this worse--some here and elsewhere disagree, and I'm not sure either way. However, it seems that at least as far as the US is concerned, the GWOT has been a success. We seem to be winning in the sense that there has not been a successful attack on US soil in 5 years.

Another point--how much financial support do terrorists really need? A complex organization like the old Al-Qaeda may need considerable logistical support. But a committed terrorist really doesn't need much more than some diesel fuel, fertilizer, and a U-Haul to perpetrate a devestating attack.

And I'm still operating from Strieff's premise that legalization will make this worse--some here and elsewhere disagree, and I'm not sure either way.

I agree with this premise as well.

how much financial support do terrorists really need?

Not much. I've never been overly concerned about terrorism funding because it is an extremely low budget enterprise. The terrorist attacks that have been committed thus far could have been funded by people working for a living. Funding would only be critical to get into the bioweapons or nuclear game... so there is something to be gained by keeping them poor, but it certainly doesn't eliminate the threat. You can still kill lots of people for $50.

 are attacked on the basis that they misled the public and knowingly sold a product that caused serious health problems. They made themselves easy targets.

 Are we to assume that government regulation of marijuana/narcotics sales must only be conducted by companies that will follow the model of Tobacco and try and cover up the deleterious effects of, e.g. heroin use?

 Or isn't it more reasonable to assume that heroin would be packaged in plain wrappers covered in "Are you sure you want to use this?" labelling detailing all the likely traumas in store for a prospective new customer?

 Decriminalization doesn't have to mean mass marketing and positive spin campaigns, and in fact there may not be enormous wads of cash waiting for whatever enterprises register to sell this product afterall. However, there are certainly business models that would allow a reasonable profit while at the same time emphasizing the known medical risks of each item. There are enough existing addicts to support good foot traffic without the need for deceptive sales tactics. More would no doubt be created. But they would all be visiting safe, legal facilities where educational material and avenues to treatment would logically be made available - something you wouldn't find your pusher-on-the-street providing to his currently criminalized customers.

 We condone gambling and by and large you now see casinos taking measures to advertise to and assist compulsive gamblers who opt for help to access it. There are sane rational ways in which to deal separately with the drug-related crime problem as well as with the drug-related health problem. De-criminalization undercuts crime. There are other compassionate strategies for dealing with the health aspect.

 Finally all this presumes that the tactical implementation of decriminalization tilts toward a free market solution. The gorvernment currently funds a fruitless enforcement regime. I'd gladly trade that for government run drug-sales facilities if that's the better way to hit both sides of the problem.

 I probably don't need to point this out but asbestos consumption doesn't provide a high. It is, therefore, not a product for which any demand exists.

No by zuiko

We've had warning labels on all packs of cigarettes for over 40 years (presumably the same kind of labels that will be on other drugs) and that has not shielded them from liability. Also, the basis of the massive states' law suit was health care costs. You don't think there will be any health care costs associated with long term heroin or cocaine use? Couldn't the state AGs come out and make all the same arguments?

 I think you grossly underestimate the amount of funding necessary to conduct high-casualty high-visibility operations. I tried to make a case for this here using 9/11 as an example.

 If our focus on the GWOT are guys running around with $50 to spend on a gun and some ammo for some Beltway Sniper style shenanigans then I call flagrant foul on what the administration in engaged in. There's no point in being in Iraq to hunt down part time solo terrorists.

 I think instead our focus is on organized groups with overhead like planning, procurement, transport, recruitment, training, etc. Organizations who need to put cells on the ground and fund them - jobless as they would likely be - for months in preparation for an operation. And those types of organizations are full time jobs in and of themselves, they aren't filled with day job workers who meet every Wednesday for poker and jihad.

I agree with the original point of this thread which states that in order to reduce terrorism we need to reduce the funding for that terrorism. And drugs has been a big part of the funding.

Supposedly the US was to destroy the poppy fields in Afghanistan that produce heroin. Unfortunately that is not the case. Recent reports suggest that heroin is once again a big part of the Afghanistan economy.

So much for the war on terror....

That if you really got tough on the users and trafficers in the drugs that the problem would go away.  It goes something like ... if you catch someone with heroin you shoot them on the spot and hang them from the nearest street light pole.  While this will result in an initial increase in deaths, it would deter a great number from becoming involved and over the long term result in a reduction in deaths.  Those are the methods people like the Taliban use and they appear to be quite effective in influencing people's behavior.

Now if I could just get the 9th circuit to take my case on how much of a threat hydroelectric power is due to the risk of terrorist attack on dams ...

Well by zuiko

How much did 9/11 cost? The tube bombings? The Madrid bombings? The Bali bombings? The sniper attacks in DC? The embassy bombings in Africa? The attack on the USS Cole? Suicide bombings in Israel?

You conveniently didn't address any of the other ops they've been involved in. 9/11 is by far their biggest and most spectacular operation and it cost them maybe $100,000 total. Most of the hijackers were not living in ritzy places, and even if they were, that doesn't make those expenses a required part of the operation. They did not send everyone to flight school. I believe only one man on each team had the training. In any case, it is still within the reach of many individuals. Anyone who owned pretty much any kind of successful business, from a laundromat to a car dealership could've financed 9/11.

The rest of the ops are strictly dime store. How much did it cost for the household chemicals and backpacks to do the tube bombings? That's a lot closer to $50 than to $100,000. Same goes for the rest of the bombings.

If the demand is there, the production will be there. We've been trying to deal with cocaine production in Columbia for a whole lot longer. I'm not sure eradication even makes any sense as a policy. Seems like a massive waste of money to me. Now if we started cutting off farmer's heads along with those of their entire family for growing poppies, I'm sure we could put a serious dent in the problem. That's not really our style, though.

You don't think there will be any health care costs associated with long term heroin or cocaine use? Couldn't the state AGs come out and make all the same arguments?

 If they could then there'd already be a rash of state AG's suing fast food companies for health care costs related to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Or suing cold medicine manufacturers for health care and law enforcement costs related to meth that was baked with psuedo-whatever.

 I don't think you're being logical. Tobacco warning labels were introduced in 1966 and only stated (emphasis mine) "CAUTION: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health". In 1970 it was revised to "WARNING: The Surgeon General Has Determined That Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your Health." It wasn't until the 80's that labels actually carried specific information on what the actual health risks were (which included not only merely "dangerous" but permanently deabilitating and fatal conditions). Cigarette advertising wasn't required to include a warning at all until 1971.

 It's fairly clear that people used the product for years, even decades, without being fully informed of the known risks. So your assertion that somehow a modern decriminalized marijuana/narcotics product that carries accurate information on it's effects and risks would be susceptible to the same level of litigation just doesn't hold up.

re: by KS

With all due respect, we didn't attack Columbia. But we supposedly did eradicate the terrorist training camps and drug runners from Afgahanistan. Yet here we are a few years later and it seems to be business as usual. If we are going to be serious with the war on terror, there needs to be a serious effort to wipe out all funding sources for terrorists...including heroin production.

How much did it cost for the household chemicals and backpacks to do the tube bombings? That's a lot closer to $50 than to $100,000. Same goes for the rest of the bombings.

 You're only looking at a very narrow subset of the costs. What do you think is more likely?

 The 3 or 4 Madrid bombers all had day jobs but woke up one morning, separately, went out and dropped $500 for some explosives and timing devices (which they fortunately located all by themselves), then all coincidentally went to the same target and executed a task they made up in their own heads? Total cost: $2000

 The 3 or 4 Madrid bombers were supported by a larger network that recruited them, trained them, purchased, transported and supplied materials for them, got them in place with housing and enough cash to live for whatever period of time they waited, and then communicated a plan that was conceived of, researched, and timelined by 2-3 other "terrorist masterminds". Total cost: a heck of a lot more than you're making it out to be.

 Don't focus on the day-off tangible materials. Pretend you're building a terrorist organization from the ground up - you need overhead staff. You need loyal and trained martyrs. You don't just go out in the street one morning and find 4 willing accomplices to make a hit that night. You need time and effort to pull all this off.

you need either an IGO cartel or a licensing of private companies (maybe like the East India Company) to buy 100% of the production.

They may destroy some but to work the end users need a supply.

There might well be an initial uptake in hard drug use, depending on the type or style of decriminalization, But not long term addictive rates.  

  The reason is simple. If drugs are made legal tomorrow will you run out and get some? I know I won't. What we do know is that a certain small proportion of every human population is A)reckless

b) dissatisfied with life, C)prone to addictive behavior.

  These people are already getting their drugs, either illegally, or the misuse of prescription medicine, or most likely alcohol.  That is why overall addiction will not skyrocket.

  Furthermore. Many social costs will go down with decriminalization. Like for instance my worthless Sister In Law who has been addicted to prescription medicine for years. If she can get the stuff she functions fine, if she can't she goes crazy and sells everything to buy it. It serves no useful purpose and causes much pain to deny her the drugs.

I'm most likely in the minority here on this, and I know I'm in the Republican party's minority on this, but the War on Drugs is a pointless, unconstitutional exercise in federal power that ought to be eliminated.

You don't have to be a libertarian to take Amendment 10 seriously.  It was all the Contract with America talk of that amendment back in 1995 that helped make absolutely sure I would be voting Republican in 1996, the first year I was eligible.

And if reasoning like this convinces some people that the War on Drugs should be dropped, then I'm all for it.

Make a strict federal ban on importation; I have no problem with seeing the mass export of this junk to the US as an attack on our country.  Shoot up the Mexican organized criminals who associate with violent gangs and cross our border in force, I'm perfectly fine with that.

But if you want to ban the sale of drugs, leave that to the states.

And I have a very hard time supporting any bans on drug possession in itself, let alone those trumped up charges like paraphenalia possession.  A few ounces of cocaine in a guy's pocket are only going to hurt that person.

Drugs don't commit crime, people do.  If people on drugs commit crime, prosecute them for those crimes.  We shouldn't need drug laws if that's the real problem here.

drug use. As part of the bargain for legalizing drugs, strengthen laws which enable our social institutions to discriminate against drug use where it is deemed to have negative social consequences. For example, the right of employers to screen for and make employment contingent on drug freeness. Or insurers to charge premiums to drug users.

The old Al Qaeda I think was analmolous among terror organizations. Most are local and irregular with fluid and vague lines of command. Al Qaeda was (and I think was is a key term here--I think the Bush administration has either destroyed or weakened its organizational abilities. Bin Laden's attempt to build a global, top down terror network worked for awhile, but that has probably been permanently disrupted.

It is precisely the complexity of these operations and Bin Laden's seeming demand for ever more sensational attacks that has turned out to be his weakness. Had he merely been bent on sowing chaos and disruption, it would have been better to simply turn the maniacs lose and let them wreak whatever havoc they could.  

We still face a threat from conventional terrorists--small groups of individuals who are more or less on their own. I worry a lot more about these random attacks done on the cheap (which can be devestating--remember Oklahoma City) than WMDs. I don't think any amount of intelligence gathering and law enforcement can stop them.

I cannot believe you people, is there no common since in this group. And while were at it lets legalize prostitution, child porn. Lower the age of consent to 12, and why not same sex marriage, bestiality and a few more taboos, sound like a bunch of "weenies" to me or shall I say lefties who want to have anything goes.  

As far as the "war" on drugs, there has never been a war on drugs, holding action yes, not a war. How about this; carpet bomb suspect areas of drug production. How about this; caught with a kilo of H or C and you get the death penalty. That's a war, casualties, death of innocent bystanders killed, Ambushes with machine guns killing all that were part of the growing, transporting and selling of drugs. War is the destruction of things and the death of the enemy and all that support him or her. That's war.  

Marching orders. Terrorism is decentralized. They may get help from outside the cell but they certainly don't need either help or orders to accomplish their mission.

Cell members can certainly can have day jobs. Or be supported by others who do have day jobs. Or they can be supported by the state. Either way, planning to blow up a backpack on the tube doesn't take months of 24 hour a day dedication from several people. And even if it did, taking a few months off is entirely possible for anyone with enough dedication. Heck, even a homeless person could've purchased the materials to make the crude explosives used in the tube bombings. You can make that much panhandling.

Are not terrorist training camps. And nobody said we ever eliminated the drug trade in Afghanistan. That would be totally impossible using humane methods. The same as it is in Columbia. We could unseat the government of Columbia tomorrow and the drug trade would still continue. It's a totally unrealistic expectation.

Re-read the piece and comments if you still can't see a possible benefit or at least a topic for serious discussion and debate (which is what we do here) then fine you entitled to your opinion

But I think you may have jumped in half-cocked

P.S. not all wars use force or violence i.e. the cold war???

 Like I said above, if what you and zuiko suggest is true and we're downgrading what we expect from the enemy to approximately the same level of capability as a serial murderer, unibomber, beltway sniper, or anthrax mailer, then this entire GWOT is a farce.

 We've dealt adequately with the threat from those kinds of low capability "terrorists" for many years, not with the military but through investigative and forensic work.

 What do we need all of the phone number data mining and out-of-court executive branch wire tapping of overseas Al Qaeda suspects for if there aren't any fairly sophisticated, well organized and funded networks left to break up? We think we'll net a solo actor with all this? Who are solo actors or small loner teams going to call? Domestic calls to each other? Fantastic, so we're establishing all this data analysis in a futile effort to tell the difference between 50 million American families phoning each other and a group of four low lifes crusing around with $100 worth of guns and fertilizer?

 Something doesn't add up - with respect, I'd like to think it's your argument rather than trying to fathom this much overkill by a much better informed administration, but, who knows.

It will probably happen eventually. It is much harder, however, to make the case that fast food is a defective product. That is a critical part of the puzzle. Fast food is not fundamentally different from any other kind of food. I could eat homemade food that is just as bad for me as fast food. That component has to be there before the AGs could sue the producers for heath care costs, or end users can sue for compensation.

Frankly, the assertion that people didn't know that tobacco was unsafe is bogus. None of the warnings have been enough to provide a shield, no matter when the smokers started smoking. Even if smokers started before, they've had plenty time to quit since they appeared.

You can't just sell a defective product and put warnings all over it and expect to be covered. If I sold a garbage disposal that exploded about every 100th time it was turned on, killing the operator with shrapnel, it wouldn't be enough to put warnings about this on the box, however gruesome and specific. That is the category tobacco was found to be in and that is the category illegal drugs will certainly be found to be in.

Is within any body's reach and is not low capability. The terrorists don't have to be reduced to random 1 on 1 attacks. Both the sniper attacks and anthrax were much more expensive and difficult to carry out than bombings are. The anthrax attacks were also unsuccessful. We won't see a replay of that one. The sniper attacks were somewhat successful in that they caused a lot of fear for an extended period of time.

  • For the sniper route, you need to have a decent rifle that is capable of kill someone at great distance, with is not really cheap when compared to materials to make explosives. It also requires serious skills.
  • For the anthrax route, you have to get your hands on weaponized anthrax and smuggle it into the country (if it isn't here already). You need to handle it with care so you don't kill yourself. You need to come up with a dispersal method that will actually make it effective (something they didn't bother with).
  • Making homemade explosives out of household materials according to a recipe and blowing yourself up at the mall does not require skills and yields a much higher death toll. Or if you don't like measuring stuff, you can always go the fertilizer and diesel fuel route like Timothy McVeigh. Aren't we supposed to believe those two guys were totally unsupported lone wolfs? How acceptable was that death toll? Just regular criminals there?
Also by zuiko

Just because terrorists can still do horrible things without lots of money and without a state sponsor, does not mean you try to prevent them from doing much more horrible things with lots of money and with a state sponsor. You do whatever you can.

There was plenty of force and violence, you just never saw it.

I can give you an arguement that oil is the funding of terror, more so than drugs. But then, its legal.

What we need are more Osama and Zarqawi jokes.  If we make them a laughing stock and have entire books of jokes about them as we do about people from Newfoundland ... it would really make a difference.

Humor can be very powerful.  It can be disarming or it can run an enemy through.  If we had terrorist jokes (not Muslim jokes, but TERRORIST jokes like Osama jokes or Zarqawi jokes or whatever) it would convey a certain "we aren't afraid of you" message and also it would make it less socially acceptable for people to join that group.

Nobody wants to be part of the group that is made fun of.  Rather than being something mean and scary that a rebellious and angry young man might join just to get attention or cause damage to "get back" at society ... it because a group of bumbling idiots who are a laughing stock and joining them makes that young man a laughing stock.  He doesn't want that.  He wants to be powerful and mysterious and be a hero ... so he joins the Marines instead.

you can't because it is a demonstrably untrue premise.

I'm not entirely certin I agree in all aspects but I admit to spending a fair amount of time recently wondering again precisely how well went our experiment with prohibition - and how the same problems we faced then could indeed be facing us now with the funds going to an agent who, rather than just wanting to "do buisiness", is in the "business" of spreading Greater Jihadistan and beheading all who will not submit.

Drug use/addiction is a societal problem - almost certain to increase when inevitably we declare the war on drugs "won" and symbolically go home - that is best handled as such.  We have done a great deal with drunk driving in that regard (what used to be a Saturday Night sporrting event is now something only fools are known to do) - there is no reason we cannot do the same with drug use in general.

Great post.  Compelling.

Because the purchasers and the families thereof have No Excuse.

They already knew Before buying those products what the side-effects were.

Fast Food never claimed Not to make people fat.

Guns never claimed Not to kill people.

Alcohol never claimed Not to make people drunk.

Drugs never claimed and never will claim Not to make people high and have all their assorted side-effects.

The vast majority of those lawsuits will fail.

They have not been found to be defective products. That is a critical part of any legal attack. I could make food at home that is just as bad for me as fast food. I could go to a $50 a plate restaurant and have food that is just as bad for me. I could go to a convenience store and buy ready to eat food that is just as bad for me. So how do you make the case that fast food is "defective?"

These people are already getting their drugs, either illegally, or the misuse of prescription medicine, or most likely alcohol.  That is why overall addiction will not skyrocket.

Good point. I suspect we'd see increases in the consumption of certain substances should they be decriminalized, but my guess is this increase wouldn't be huge. One big reason is social disapprobation. This is already a potent force in our society. But I suspect this force would actually grow stronger in the wake of decriminalization. For one thing, it's a safe bet that workplace drug testing would increase substantially. Employers would rightly be concerned about the greater potential for drug abuse -- and would aggressively act to protect their bottom lines. It could actually become more difficult to live life as a drug abuser in a post-decriminalization world.

Islam expressly forbids only alchohol. There are actual celebrations in the Middle East and Central Asia where celebrants do mild narcotics and explore the "spiritual" side of Islam.

as others have pointed out.  The reason that big tobacco has been taken to the cleaners is because of the way they went about marketing their product.  They knew their products were harmful starting in the 1950s (if memory serves) and waged a public relations campaign for decades to cover-up that truth.  That, more than anything else, is what created the massive liability for the tobacco companies.  It wasn't just that their products were deadly, it was that they actively lied about that fact to protect and increase their sales.

There are plenty of books out there that detail the legal campaigns against the tobacco companies.  If you read them, you will realize that the turnings points in the litigation came when tobacco company insiders broke the silence and helped bring the truth out about what the companies knew, when they knew it and what they did to cover it up.

If drugs were legalized, the companies selling them would, I imagine, take a far different approach to selling their products than the tobacco companies did.  If the tobacco companies had started telling everyone in the 1950s that their products caused cancer and other diseases and they should be used with care, they would not have faced the type of liability they ultimately faced.  

The asbestos litigation story is similar in that the manufacturers of asbestos knew that their product was harmful starting in the 1920s or 1930s (if memory serves), but covered up that fact for decades.  The asbestos litigation doesn't just turn on the harmful nature of the product, but the documentary evidence of what was known and what was done to cover it up.  Take that away and the legal landscape changes dramatically.

the day documents start coming to light that McDonalds or Burger King or Wendys knew that they if they added ingredient X, they could sell X percent more hamburgers, but cause X perecent more cardiac problems.  

<quote>Frankly, the assertion that people didn't know that tobacco was unsafe is bogus. None of the warnings have been enough to provide a shield, no matter when the smokers started smoking. Even if smokers started before, they've had plenty time to quit since they appeared.</quote&gt

You really need to read more of the literature on the tobacco companies.  People may have known generally that tobacco was unsafe, but, up to the master settlement agreement, the tobacco companies did everything in their power to undermine that knowledge.  They researched and knew what kind of advertisements would blunt the perception of negative health effects.  They researched and knew what they could put in their cigarettes to make them more addictive (and hence more harmful).  They also knew that they needed to get people hooked at an age when they didn't fully comprehend the dangers of smoking  (i.e. teenagers).  They also researched and knew what kinds of advertising/marketing were most effective at getting that target group to start smoking.  People may have known generally that it was a dangerous interprise, but they also had someone working very very very very very very hard to make it seem as if it was the safest thing in the world.

"You can't just sell a defective product and put warnings all over it and expect to be covered. If I sold a garbage disposal that exploded about every 100th time it was turned on, killing the operator with shrapnel, it wouldn't be enough to put warnings about this on the box, however gruesome and specific. That is the category tobacco was found to be in and that is the category illegal drugs will certainly be found to be in."

While illegal drugs would certainly face litigation, it will be of a much different character than tobacco.  For one, anyone who sells it will have the benefit of the tobacco companies' experience and will know exactly what not to do.  There will undoubtedly be litigation costs associated with selling narcotics, but it will not be a prohibitive barrier.  Remember, even after paying hundreds of billions of dollars in settlement to the states for past liability, the tobacco companies have continued operating.  And the all of the big eye-popping verdicts (the billions out of Florida and billions out of Illinois) were based on fraud and have largely been overturned on appeal.

 
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