mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Drug War “Whack-A-Mole”

Washington’s war on the Colombian cocaine industry has been largely successful, but successful only in pushing drug cartels into neighboring Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. Coca farms and cocaine-producing facilities have simply jumped national borders to safer havens. Anti-American governments in Bolivia and Venezuela, in particular, use the cocaine industry to thumb their noses at the US. In 2008, the DEA accused a Venezuelan military general of being a drug kingpin; this month, Chavez promoted him to defense secretary.

Before Colombia’s cocaine industry exploded in the 1980s, coca was largely produced and refined in Peru and Bolivia, where it is legal. Washington focused its anti-drug efforts on these places, assisting police and and shooting down planes suspected of transporting drugs. The result? Operations simply shifted to Colombia.

Up pops a cartel, whack it. Up pops another. The drug trade adapts. A step forward in Colombia means a step backward in Bolivia. If there is a better policy than Whack-A-Mole on the drug war, nobody seems to have found it.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Andrew Allison

    Of course there’s a better policy: legalize drugs. The USA learned absolutely nothing from Prohibition!
    A tax on the legal sale of drugs would both lower their cost and provide revenue to deal with the consequences of abuse (c.f. tobacco!)

  • Brock

    “If there is a better policy than Whack-A-Mole on the drug war, nobody seems to have found it.”

    Um, legalization? I don’t see any alcohol and tobacco cartels destabilizing nations and plotting mass-murder.

  • LarryD

    The endpoint of this logic is to legalize all vices. For that matter, all attempts to regulate human behavior will suffer from the same problem.

    While you’re debating legalizing cocaine, Bloomberg et al are going to try and control everything that you eat.

  • Lark

    Another end to Prohibition would be nice. Too bad the drug lords can buy more politicians than we can.
    And while the pols clearly don’t mind losing wars overseas, how could they hold their heads up if they lost a war against the American people?

    Maybe we should go with Gingrich’s idea and just kill all the drug users. That’ll show ’em we disapprove!

  • Jim.

    So are we really so incompetent that we can’t cover the entire region simultaneously?

    Noriega went to prison; so can Chavez’s defense secretary.

    Legalization is popular on the Internet; that doesn’t make it a good idea. Making something legal makes it happen a whole lot more often. Drugs were legal in China in the 19th century, and the trade heavily regulated and taxed by the (British) government. Was that good for China or not?

  • Mrs. Davis

    We could always try Whack-A-User. Starting with drug testing for Congressional staffers.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    All black markets operate in the same way, and are impossible to stop. The only solution is legalization, and taxation. The tax payers are spending billions and the criminals are making billions, the process should be reversed.

  • dr kill

    Dear Sir,
    Not for the first time do I note your inability to grasp the legalization argument.
    Not for the first time do I sadly conclude some of your better arguments must also be inadequately thought-out.
    I look forward to your personal enlightenment concerning personal responsibility.

  • Tom

    Are you stupid sir? One word – Legalize.

  • Kris

    Tom@9: “Are you stupid sir?”

    I do bite my thumb, sir.

  • Chris Davis

    Seriously? Uh, yeah, there is a better strategy: legalization of victimless activity!

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service