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March 16, 2008 - Midland Daily News (MI)

Us Needs To Change Its Drug War Policy

By James Randall Johnson

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Editor's note: This article was written earlier this month when the author was in Colombia.

Bogota, Colombia -- Well, yet another fine setting I have managed to find my way into.

I arrived in Colombia concomitantly with a raid by Colombian Commandos backed as always by U.S. military forces (Plan Colombia).

The raid killed Raul Reyes and 16 other drug operatives and suspected revolutionary affiliate members. So what? That is good right? The world really does not need drug smuggling revolutionaries, do we?

Problem is it seems the raid took place over the border and into the sovereign territory of Ecuador. As one might suspect, Ecuadorian President Correa is not too pleased. This also gave the opportunity for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to rail against the evil American Imperialist Empire and to declare Colombia to be a mere puppet state of the U.S. (Actually a rather compelling argument can be made to support that proposition.)

Colombia is the third largest recipient of American foreign aid following only Israel and Egypt. Most of that money goes directly back to the United States in mandated purchase programs buying hardware from the U.S. military-industrial-complex. Good, right? Buy America.

Somewhat strange, however, when contrasted with the actions of our Pentagon, who only last week decided to purchase billions of dollars for the next generation Air Force tanker from the European Airbus Consortium and not from Boeing. Logic has never resided in the Pentagon..

There are more Blackhawks and other U.S. military hardware down here than at a Fourth of July celebration at Ft. Jackson, S. C.

Things are getting tense here. Chavez is massing troops along the border and people here (I am not included) take him seriously. Ecuador and Venezuela have closed their borders with Colombia and have recalled their ambassadors.

Why can I not just be satisfied with a week at a Club Med?

The time has come for the American people through the ballot box to take charge of the most moronic foreign policy we have endured in decades -- perhaps ever. The U.S. approach to the Colombian drug cartel is a prime example.

One of these days some American president will figure out that the drug problem is nothing more than Economics 101 -- this is not tough intellectual stuff. We will make no progress so long as our approach is to attack the "supply"side as we currently do, sponsoring massive chemical defoliating programs designed to destroy the coca crop will not stop the inflow of product and will only worsen the economic conditions for the peasants of this region.

And if it were successful, our program of crop destruction would only serve to drive the price of cocaine and crack in the United States up. That of course would only mean more street crime and murder on the streets of America -- the demand for drugs of this nature is "inelastic" and therefore not subject to price sensitivity.

Long term reduction will occur only when we domestically attack the demand side of the equation. In other words, the problem is more of a U.S. domestic matter and not one of foreign policy.

But so long as U.S. voters continue to elect politicians willing to ""take a tough stand on crime" (read military intervention in foreign nations) and are unwilling to elect those ready to address the actual problem, the lack of a meaningful, coordinated rehabilitation and drug prevention program at home, nothing will change.

Photo ops and sound bites of fast boats and choppers interdicting drug smugglers will get you elected to Congress or Pennsylvania Avenue and keep you there. Promising to spend billions of dollars at home on addicts and treatment centers is nothing short of political suicide.

And so it is, we continue to send billions to Colombia and expect the problem to be addressed.

Instead we wind up funding programs like Plan Colombia which accomplish only two things:

1. We drive the price of cocaine and especially crack cocaine through the roof and thereby make American streets more like a Sunday drive in Beirut or Peshawar...

2. We continue to foster anti-American and pro-Marxist groups in our own hemisphere. By doing so we also increase the need for and presence of right-wing paramilitary groups designed to defend the wealthy landowners...

Our foreign policy is neither effective nor productive, it is also not merely benign. I wish it were. It is, unfortunately completely counter-productive. Day by day this administration, this state department and this Pentagon wander though the world without a plan or a clue and all the while declaring our right to be a unipolar hegemon. Such endearing and productive qualities. That, my friends, simply has to change.

Irrespective of who wins the presidential election in the fall.. Republican or Democrat we can do no worse in the area of foreign policy than we have for the past several years.

Here is to November. As much as I love and long for summer, it cannot come soon enough.

James Randall Johnson is an attorney with offices in Auburn and an adjunct professor at Saginaw Valley State University. Also, he is the co-founder and director of the Center for Politics and Public Service, located at but separate from SVSU.

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