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Doubling Down in the Drug War

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Drug Warby Jacob G. Hornberger

Why can’t the U.S. government ever learn lessons from any of its failed programs? The biggest lesson it fails to learn is the importance of ending programs that are obvious failures, especially ones that are inherently incapable of succeeding. Instead, in its usually bullheaded, headstrong fashion, the government maintains the program and, even worse, actually expands it.

There is no better example of this phenomenon than the drug war. We’ve suffered some 40 years of drug warfare. What better example of failure than that? After all, if the war on drugs had succeeded after those 40 years of warfare, wouldn’t federal officials be saying, “Time to end the successful war on drugs“? Instead, they’re saying that it’s more urgent than ever that the war continue indefinitely into the future. Isn’t the need to continue a 40-year program prima facie evidence that it’s failed to achieve its purported end?

In a new example of federal drug-war inanity, the feds are now expanding their drug-war efforts in Mexico. How are they doing that? One way is that they’re sending CIA, DEA, and retired military officials into Mexico to help the Mexican government with its violent 5-year drug-war crackdown, a crackdown that has produced — believe it or not — some 35,000 deaths. How’s that for a failure story?

But that’s not all. The New York Times is reporting today that the U.S. government is now permitting Mexican commandos to use the United States as a staging area for drug raids into Mexico. The DEA is providing logistical and intelligence support for the operations.

Every time you think that U.S. officials cannot possibly do something more idiotic, they do it.

What happens if a drug cartel retaliates by, say, bombing a federal building in El Paso, Laredo, or San Diego. We all know what happens: the same thing that happened after 9/11. U.S. officials will exclaim, “We’ve been attacked! We’ve been attacked! We’re innocent. We were just minding our own business. It’s time to crack down in the war on drugs.“

And we’ll see a whole new panoply of violations of civil liberties, more bashing down of doors, more searches of vehicles, more assaults on privacy, more money spent, more debt, more inflation, and more big government.

For decades, statists have argued that the reason the drug war has failed is because U.S. officials haven’t really enforced it. That of course is nonsense. They’ve enforced it big time with such things as asset-forfeiture laws, mandatory-minimum sentences, and long jail sentences for drug users and drug sellers.

But nothing has worked. People continue to ingest drugs and people continue to sell drugs. All the increasing harshness has accomplished is an increase in the price of drugs, which in turn has attracted more people into getting into the drug-selling business.

Meanwhile, the police continue to arrest, grand juries continue to indict, prosecutors continue to prosecute, and judges continue to sentence. It’s all just a mindless, rote exercise in inanity. None of these people ask, “What’s the point of all this? What’s the point of sending one more drug user or seller to jail? What good will it do?“ Their statist minds are simply stuck in a drug-war rut.

Nonetheless, through 40 years of war, the statists have continued repeating their mantra: “If only they would really crack down, then we could finally win our war on drugs.“ Well, they got their wish in Mexico. The Mexican government really cracked down. They even got the military involved. The result? Some 35,000 dead people along with massive infringements on civil liberties and privacy at the hands of the Mexican military.

And now the U.S. government is involving our country even more into this never-ending cycle of violence. You’d have a hard time finding a dumber move than that.

There is one and only one way to combat drug-war cartels, and it doesn’t involve waging war against them. The way to put these cartels out of business — immediately — is by ending the drug war by completely legalizing drugs. That’s how we got rid of the booze lords — by legalizing alcohol.

There really is no other way. Doubling down on a hand that is incapable of succeeding is idiotic. The only ones who stand to benefit from such a crackdown are those who are in the business of selling drugs and those in the business of waging war against them. From the standpoint of those groups of people — drug lords and government officials — the drug war has been a tremendous success.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.


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