We hear how Obama's mad intervention in Libya is war number three for the U.S., i.e., Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. No. It's number four. We have another war that has killed more people than all those wars combined, a war we are clearly losing, and one we should not be fighting the way we are. That war is the absurd "war on drugs," one in which the DiploMad has served.
The Mexican government has announced that nearly 31,000 people have died in Mexico the past four years in drug-related violence. Having worked on Mexican drug issues both in Mexico and in Central America, I can tell you that number is almost certainly way too small. On top that, of course, nobody knows how many thousands, tens-of-thousands, have died in Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Jamaica, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Burma, Thailand, Iran, the US, Europe, and on and on in "drug-related violence."
About one-fourth of all US Federal prisoners are there for drug offenses, with perhaps another one-fifth or so there for committing crimes to obtain money for drugs. About one-fifth of state prisoners are there for drug offenses.
Does this make sense? Our insistence of making illegal a product that a small but important minority of people want is leading to the destruction of countries such as Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala, nearly destroyed Colombia and Miami, and is an increasing threat to the future of the small Caribbean states. At home it leads to violence and police action largely in communities already suffering serious social pathologies. On top of those problems in those communities, we add drug violence and having huge numbers of young men dragged off to prison. We have built a massive and expensive bureaucratic-legal-security apparatus to suppress drug trafficking by putting thousands and thousands of persons in prison, and imposing ponderous regulations on exporters, importers, and financial institutions of questionable effectiveness. We have given prosecutors and police huge powers over our lives, and created a whole class of people who have formed careers dealing with the drug war. For what? Anybody out there who wants illegal drugs and can't get them? Of course not.
Time to legalize drugs. I know, I know, the devil is in the details. Do we allow anybody to set up a stand on any corner and sell anything he wants? What do we do about prescription drugs? Yes, there are many details to be worked out. But we need to start putting an end to this absurd war. Drug use is an issue for parents, doctors, and educators, not cops, prosecutors, intelligence agents, State Department bureaucrats, and military forces. We all know that drug use is harmful, but the main harm now comes from the illegality.