Monday, January 18, 2021

The War On Drugs

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It is virtually impossible today to be unaware of the prevalence of illicit drugs in American society. Much has been said and done to decrease drug use, yet America's intractable drug problem continues to affect all levels of society, from high government officials to inner city dwellers. Although the government allocates billions of dollars every year to decrease drug use and stop drug trafficking, addiction and violent crime associated with the drug culture continue to plague America. One of the many tactics the American government has used in its attempts to deter drug production and use has been to use the United States military as law enforcement. The military has hardly been in the drug war for thirty years, but throughout time it's role has increased. The United States military has been used to collect intelligence data, transport civilian law enforcement personal, shoot at suspected smugglers' boats and ships, engage in hot pursuit of such smugglers, and has also been used as surveillance in order to destroy drug producing areas or labs (Mabry 75). However, such methods will cause problems and seem to be ineffective as well, as incarceration for drug related crimes has increased, which could mean drug use is increasing. Despite all of the hurdles that stand in the way, the United States continues to use it's military and billions of it's dollars to terminate drug trafficking and use.

Throughout this paper, I intend to show the various roles the United States military has undertaken in the war on drugs. The military has placed its hands into many responsibility's that were traditionally for civilian law enforcement. I plan to explain these various roles and give some specific citations. Although many of the operations the United States military has undertook were successful on the local level, on a national drug reduction and eradication level, they have little to no impact. We will also see how much money has been spent to send the

military on their expeditions against drugs, and how sending military into foreign governments has created tension and war like environments for these other countries. Of course these are not the only problems and issues that arise with inducting the military into civilian law enforcement duties such as drug problems. In the end, we will be able to draw the conclusion that using the military in the war on drugs is not the solution for illicit drug supply and demand.

To commence with, the war on drugs was officially declared by Richard Nixon in 168 during his presidential campaign ("Drug War Questions and Answers"). Nixon called drugs "the number one public enemy" (Gardner 1). Starting with Operation Intercept, an inspection program along the U.S./Mexican border in 16, the United States began to aggressively pursue a supply-side drug control strategy, meaning stopping drugs before they come into the U.S ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). Approximately seventy percent of drug control funds have historically targeted supply side, and it was thought that by enlisting the military in supply side efforts would direct more resources and more energy at the source, thus reducing illicit drug supply ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). Then in 170 "The Controlled Substance Act put marijuana, LSD, cocaine and other drugs on a schedule that significantly increased penalties for possession and trafficking, even for non-violent offenders" (Drug War Questions and Answers"). In 17 Nixon created a "superagency" to deal with all aspects of the drug problem, the DEA, or Drug Enforcement Agency (Gardner 1). "The U.S. federal anti-drug budget rose from $4 million in 171 to $1 million in 175" (Gardner ). During this time the military began to slowly and reluctantly increase its involvement in the campaign. As of 181 nothing was spent on military interdiction campaigns, but by 187 $8

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million was being poured into militarization against drugs ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). The early 180s were President Ronald Reagan's time of declaring war on drugs. No president spoke out more against drugs than President Reagan. No administration signed more anti-drug treaties or spent more money to stem the flow of drugs into this country. During the Reagan administration, mandatory minimum sentencing began ("Drug War Questions and Answers"). In the 180's restrictions were made to the Posse Comitatus Act, an act that prohibited the military from enforcing laws or acting as civilian police officers ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). Congress eventually expanded the military's license to operate in drug control by voting to give the military the powers of search and seizure, and arrest outside the land area of the United States as long as military readiness was not affected (Mabry 6, 5). Missions of the military include

• Intelligence support provision of linguists for translations; conduct of intelligence analysis; analysis of data.

• Communications provision of equipment and support.

• Logistics provision of transport, helicopters and other aircraft; supply, maintenance, etc.

• Cargo and mail inspection at points of entry into the United States (which are generally not covered by Constitutional restrictions on search and seizure).

• Training of law enforcement personnel in military skills related to drug enforcement.

• Reconnaissance including aerial observation, sensors and ground surveillance.

(Miranda ). All this came at a good time as well, because by the late 180s the public was demanding the military to step in due to the raging crack epidemic. President Bush continued to promote militarization of drug efforts, stepping in where Nixon had left off. However, in the Clinton era, the military was ordered to scale back on their efforts in the war on drugs because

efforts to identify and track smugglers were not proving to be a cost effective way to keep drugs out of the United States ("Future Force"). Military

spending on counter narcotic activity decreased from about $1.14 billion in 1 to about $780 million projected in 17 ("Future Force").

The military has undertaken several operations throughout its history. One was in the late 170s; it was a U.S. supported aerial eradication campaign in Mexico, which was very successful in limiting the amount of marijuana imported into the United States ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). However, this success was one of short term. Another well-known campaign that the United States military was involved in was the 176 Operation Green Harvest, in Hawaii. Operation Green Harvest was highly secretive, and its purpose was to eradicate marijuana ("Secret Crackdown"). Green Harvest utilized manpower from the National Guard (as well as helicopters), the army, and the Coast Guard. Operation Green Harvest was and still is highly successful, despite the millions of dollars it requires to keep it going ("Secret Crackdown"). On the other hand, a 186 operation in Bolivia called Operation Blast Furnace was not so successful ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). Blast Furnace employed 160 U.S. Army soldiers and six Blackhawk helicopters to help Bolivian security forces destroy cocaine-processing laboratories ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). Operation Blast Furnace is said to be the largest U.S. military counter-drug operation in history; however, its efforts were short lived. Blast Furnace almost caused the downfall of the government due to a public protest. During the Bush Administration, an Andean campaign was started, with the unrealistic goals of after five years the complete elimination of

the coca problem in Latin America ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). Obviously, if this campaign had been effective, America would not still have drug problems.

These are just a few of the military's expeditions against drugs, and they were not very effective on decreasing drug trafficking.

The military is being set up to fail. All available evidence indicates that interdiction efforts, whether by civilians or the military or both, are doomed to fail. The supply side of marijuana and cocaine is so large, and trafficking techniques so well organized and adaptable to changes in interdiction methods, that the success of the kind of measures proposed by Congress is doubtful (Mabry 70).

First of all the objectives given to the U.S. armed forces assisting in drug control efforts are a military strategist's nightmare ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). Rather than clear goals measurable on a continual basis from the onset of operations to completion, goals for the U.S. militarys drug war are vague and imply never-ending engagement. As an example, the Andean strategy establishes the goal of inflicting significant damage on the trafficking organizations that predominate within the three countries [Colombia, Peru and Bolivia] ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). This goal can never reach an end point. Trafficking organizations will continue to adapt and rebound from whatever setbacks they may experience from drug control efforts. For example, in 174 "Operation Buccaneer" helped shift production of marijuana from Jamaica to Columbia, which in turn experienced tremendous growth in marijuana production and trafficking ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). Thus, the military has been tasked to engage an enemy "ad infinitium", without hope of victory.

Secondly, if a member of the DEA is killed in Latin America or some foreign drug ridden territory, it is bad. However, if one or two U.S. soldiers are killed, it could be an act of war.

Thus, in turn "fighting" the drug war could become a real war. All citizens and government officials should be reluctant to send troops into an allied country, especially in peacetime. It is just asking for trouble. Many nations as well are unwilling to become involved in controversial law enforcement activities. Since drug traffickers take no notice of national borders, international law enforcement efforts against them would run into numerous political obstacles, including the issue of national sovereignty. The kidnapping of Alvarez Machain from Mexican soil in 10 and transfer to the United States for trial was one example of how U.S. efforts to bring suspected international drug criminals to justice could lead to highly publicized tensions in bilateral relations ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change").

Another danger of using the military in the drug war is concerned with the area of intelligence gathering. Intelligence data especially that concerned with smuggling and involving U.S. citizens is not easily segregated ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). Since the destination of illicit drugs is primarily to U.S. criminal organizations, it seems inevitable that domestic intelligence data will be collected and shared with civilian law enforcement officials (Mabry, 76). In Columbia when law enforcement attempted to crackdown on organized crime or drug cartels, a dirty all out political war sparked, leaving many Columbian government officials dead, as well as many innocent citizens.

Many civilians worry that by bringing the military into anti-drug campaigns civilian government will be threatened. No one wants the military to enforce laws over police, and allowing military to assist in the war on drugs is the first step. The framers of the Constitution

even knew that allowing military into domestic affairs was a bad idea. No one wants a military dictatorship, and while that thought is quite drastic, it is a possibility when one seeks to give the military seemingly unchecked authority.

One other concern with U.S. military involvement is that it threatens it democratizes other governments, and could take away human rights of other countries as well. When the U.S. military is training militaries of other countries to fight the war on drugs, many civilians of those countries worry about that a crackdown from their military will give too power and cause their military to abuse their power. It has also been shown (take Columbia for example) that many members of the military become corrupt, and allow certain drug activities to occur.

Even with all these problems, one must look to see if using the military has been effective. The answer to this is no. Lawrence Korb, who headed military counter narcotics efforts at the Defense Department early in the Reagan administration, says "I used to see figures on what we seized. And we would seize and seize and the price would still go down on the street. It's not a supply problem, it's a demand problem." Even in the 10s, the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics Matters noted that despite stepped up programs, hundreds of tons of cocaine and heroin continue to flow to the United States ("U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change"). Drug seizures have merely become part of the business for international traffickers. What would the next step be, to have military seal all U.S. borders? While this is a suggestion, it is impractical and too costly. Realistically, there cannot be a final end point to drug control efforts. Coca, opium, and marijuana production can never be completely eliminated. With this in mind, the United States should seek other approaches to curving drug trafficking and use. The fact that centuries of law enforcement have not eliminated criminal

behavior is not a justification to stop fighting crime, and the same reasoning should be applied to drug control. This reasoning should also be applied to the suggestion of legalizing drugs; if we cannot stop crime we do not just make all crimes legal. While United States drug supply-side efforts cannot be abandoned, it should be reduced and redirected at the demand-side drug problems. Perhaps one day in the future, the war on drugs will be looked upon as prohibition is today, as a joke.

Works Cited

Mabry, Donald. "The U.S. Military and the War on Drugs in Latin America." Journal of

Interamerican Studies and World Affairs. Vol . Number 4. Winter 187-188.

"Drug War Questions and Answers from Washington NORML." 7 Oct. 00


"U.S. Drug Control in the Americas Time for a Change" U.S.-Mexico Commission for

Educational and Cultural Exchange. 1.

Gardner, Dan. "Richard Nixon Called Drugs the No. 1 Public Enemy." The Ottawa Citizen Online 05 Sept. 000. 07 Nov. 00 http//

Miranda, Joseph. "War on Drugs Military Prospective and Problems." 8 Oct. 00 http//www.

"Future Force." Navy Times 45.4 (15) 8

"Secret Crackdown" Honolulu Advertiser Online 0, April 000 http//

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