Part of the reason I don’t really post that often is because I feel I’ve said what I need to say on the subject before. That happened twice today. The first is a couple of comments I left at Levitt’s blog
. The second is this comment I am leaving at TalkLeft about how to solve the heroin problem in Afghanistan. This one is short enough to repost in its entirety from Slate. Originally written 5-18-04
We need to legalize heroin in Afghanistan
I was watching Dave Barno's talk (audio available at the csis site) about how poor the security situation is in Afghanistan and how little reconstructive work has been done (the ring road is the only serviceable road in the country) when it became clear how much of the mission in Afghanistan is preoccupied by interdiction of the opium trade. If you listen to the audio, you'll see how he emphasizes this factor as consuming a large part of the resources in that theater, apparently including his own attention.
This is a phenomenal waste. The degradation of governmental legitimacy that results from prohibition is having harsh real world effects in Afghanistan. This isn't just about letting a few people get high, it is a matter of life and death. Because the western occupation forces in Afghanistan are actively attempting to destroy its most profitable (and only) export, they are receiving very little cooperation from the populace.
If we allow the gangsters of Afghanistan to organize and profit off of the opium trade, we create a source of power that is alternative to the central government. Large western powers have periodically entered and left the life of most Afghanis while heroin gangsters have been a perpetual presence. If we force the Afghanis to choose between the two, the smart money will be on the gangsters.