President Bush made a rare presidential visit to Cartagena, Colombia during which he vowed continued support in the war on drugs, which has of late been linked to the war on terrorism.
And maybe they are linked. Many have argued that our recent moves in the war on terror will actually increase the terrorism threat. There’s not much doubt that our war on drugs has been a disaster – no dent in usage, no dent in violence levels in places like Colombia, and no dent in the billions on the table.
I worry that terror war and the drug war will be linked in even more troubling ways. If I’m a teenager in Colombia, here’s what I see. There is a massive demand for illegal drugs in that rich country to the north where life is easy and people have a few grand to throw around to snort some Saturday night fun. The Americans buy the drugs with the money that makes the worst elements of my society also the most powerful. And now, the so called war on these drugs is being fought in my backyard. First our neighbors to the north turned my town into a drug dealing den. Then they turned it into a war zone. Their social habits and backwards strategy is ruining my country.
If I’m that teenager, I know I’m on the losing end of both the problem and the solution, and I’m pissed. That’s bad for Colombia and it might turn out to be bad for America a few years down the road. What is the upside to pursuing a failed policy that breeds rage and possibly terrorism?
For a great look at the history of the Colombian drug wars, take a look at Killing Pablo, by Mark Bowden (of Blackhawk Down fame).