There is No War on Drugs
There is no war on drugs, but there are drug warriors. They wear the drug warrior badge proudly; they brag about it at parties. They create an environment in which vast sums of money are traded for controlled substances. They allow the very worst citizens of the world to amass untold economic gains, fund their arsenals of weapons, and permit them to trample on the lives and liberties of the rest of the population.
Many drug warriors have family members who are drug users or dealers; many are drug users themselves. The most ardent drug warriors are scared of their own weakness; they don’t trust themselves to “Just Say No”. They also know that the drug battles won’t be fought in their neighborhood or by their children.
Instead of fighting the battles they create, drug warriors appropriate tax dollars to hire enforcers: border patrol, customs agents, drug enforcement agents, treasury agents, prosecutors, police, and para-military SWAT teams. Because it’s these enforcers and their families that will actually face the danger, drug warriors feel free to ratchet up the rhetoric and policies.
There is no war on drugs, but there are drug suppliers with armies of soldiers. They are the captains of industry in the black market. Like any industry, they have vendors, distributors, transportation networks, and retailers. They compete for business and profits. They collude to set prices high and monopolize their territories. As with all unnatural cartels, the incentive to cheat is high and the collusion frequently breaks down, usually in a hail of bullets.
Drug suppliers are extremely adept at collecting and leveraging information. They know their competitors and they know the drug warriors. They know their names, where they live, and what schools their children attend. They know what time they go jogging in the morning, and the route they take to work. They know information about the drug warriors that the drug warriors would not want public. They know that any drug warrior that actually posed a threat to their operation could be easily discredited or eliminated.
But, the black market for drugs is high stakes because it is high risk. Drug suppliers know that their enormous profits come not in spite of the environment created by the drug warriors, but because of it. They recognize drug laws for what they are – protectionism. They applaud and encourage the anti-competitive actions of governments around the world and thank the drug warriors for erecting high barriers to entry in their market.
There is no war on drugs, but there are spies and double agents. The soldiers of drug suppliers are better-paid and more heavily armed than the enforcers of the drug warriors. Looking the other way for an hour can earn an enforcer more than a life-long career of enforcement. Even the most principled enforcer recognizes the danger posed against his family and possessions by the soldiers of the drug suppliers. Even the most strident enforcer knows that any victory produced by all-out combat would be pyrrhic at best and personally devastating at worst.
The enforcers are also adept at using information from spies and double agents. They know that the weakest participants in the black market can be exploited as informants, but only if they remain in the black market. The stronger, more violent participants can also be exploited in return for plea deals and reduced sentences. The price of information is aid and comfort to the enemy.
There is no war on drugs, but there are weapons laboratories. Drug profits fund research and development for stronger drugs and designer drugs. Drug suppliers fund R&D on cheaper, more addictive substances (meth and crack cocaine being the most notable examples) to expand their customer base. Despite that evidence, drug warriors are often found on the same stage as pharmaceutical companies swearing that prescription drug R&D will only happen if taxpayers fund it.
There is no war on drugs even though there are armies, weapons, tactics, spies, and collateral damage. There are no definable or achievable objectives, no overwhelming force employed, and no ground gained or lost. The phrase “war on drugs” dehumanizes the victims: enforcers, families, farmers, legitimate businesses, and, yes, drug users and the soldiers. The phrase provides a smoke screen for the profiteers: drug warriors and suppliers. It’s time to start naming and exposing the people and quit using the phrase.