The Drug War Is Working … At Least in Afghanistan

Libertarians and others claim that the war on drugs is unwinnable. But it turns out that they were wrong. The drug war can work. In fact, it is working in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, of course, has been the source of much of the world’s opium. According to the New York Times, last year about 75 percent of the world’s opium resin came from Afghanistan. this year, however, almost all of the opium has disappeared. The reason — an edict from the ruling Islamic fundamentalist Taliban ordering an end to opium growing.

The Times seems surprised that not only have opium farmers apparently gone along without much of a fuss. But of course when you have the reputation that the Taliban has, you don’t need to do a lot to get people to comply.

These are the same folks, after all who hang prostitutes in stadiums full of thousands of cheering people. The other day the BBC reported that a young man and woman each were given 100 lashes in a crowded stadium for the crime of having premarital sex.

This, then, is the way that the drug war can actually succeed. All it needs is a deadly fundamentalist religious movement prepared to torture anyone who gets in the way, and the drug problem will just go away.

The Taliban understands the way the drug war works. Why stop the opium trade now, when it is one of the few sources of hard currency for that nation? Because the Taliban understands what happens to other murderous regimes who crack down on drugs — they tend to receive large aid packages from the United States.

The United States recently gave $43 million to help avert famine in Afghanistan, but that’s going to be administered by the United Nations. What the Taliban really wants is direct aid. As Mullah Muhammad Hassan put it in the language of nations, “A fair reply to what we have done would have been some acknowledgment of the achievement.”

Given the insanity of the drug war, they just might get it.

Taliban ban on drug crops is working, U.S. concludes. Barry Barak, The New York Times, May 24, 2001.

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