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An Inane Defense of the Drug War


I just finished reading what might well be the most inane defense of the drug war I have ever encountered. If this is the best the drug warriors have to offer in defense of their decades-long war, its days are clearly numbered.

The title of the article is an attention-grabber, at least for those of us who know better: “Why the Capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Matters to the US” by a woman named Sylvia Longmire. Her tagline states that she “is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for In Homeland Security and Breitbart Texas.”

The “In Homeland Security” website states that it provides “relevant insights by the experts from American Military University” and that “AMU is the nation’s largest provider of online higher education to the U.S. Military, with more than 100,000 students enrolled worldwide.”

Interestingly, Longmire begins her article by pointing out that the drug war has been waged for decades — actually for more than a century. She goes all the way back to the first U.S. narcotics act — one directed against Chinese immigrants, and she also points out that Mexico has been waging “a very bloody war against drug cartels for decades.”

Okay, but then why does the arrest of El Chapo matter to the U.S.? Is the arrest supposed to finally bring an end to the longstanding war on drugs?

Well, not exactly. After detailing El Chapo’s career path into drug dealing, his recent re-arrest by Mexican authorities, and his probable extradition to the United States, Longmire asks: “But why is that important to the U.S. and the grand scheme of the drug war?”

Here is part of her answer:

It has been widely acknowledged that taking Guzmán out of the picture will have little bearing on the Sinaloa cartel’s operations. However, the U.S. can at least reasonably guarantee that Guzmán won’t escape prison again and reenter the fray — especially if he gets sent to the ADX Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. Guzmán also carries in his head very valuable intelligence that he would ostensibly trade into U.S. authorities for a lighter prison sentence.

What? Why does it matter to the United States if Guzman is taken out of the picture if the drug trade is going to continue the same as if he were in the picture? Why should anyone care that he’s in jail if nothing changes on what is going on outside of jail? Doesn’t that incarceration just mean extra costs to the taxpayers?

And isn’t this what U.S. officials have been doing since the inception of the drug war — arresting and jailing drug dealers (and drug users). Yet, the drug war has gone on and on and on. Clearly, arresting and jailing all those thousands of drug dealers hasn’t made any difference whatsoever. As soon as a drug dealer is taken out of action, he is quickly replaced by another.

Longmire also suggests that El Chapo could conceivably become a snitch, something that has been the goal of drug law-enforcement officers since the beginning of the drug war. But even if he were to disclose everything he knows in return for a lighter sentence, what difference would it make? Wouldn’t it just mean, at best, that more drug dealers would be arrested and incarcerated, thereby putting an even bigger financial burden on taxpayers, with no effect on the drug trade itself?

Perhaps the strangest and most inane part of Longmire’s essay is found in her last paragraph:

While meaningless in practice, one cannot discount the psychological impact his capture and successful prosecution has in promoting the drug war message. Arresting Guzmán is easily the Mexican government’s biggest “get,” and trying him successfully will be promoted as a win on the U.S. side of the border. In the meantime, the drugs will continue to flow across the border, and the blood will continue to flow in the streets of Mexico.

So, here she is — admitting that the arrest and incarceration of El Chapo will make no difference insofar as the drug trade is concerned. But — and here’s the apparent clincher for Longmire — El Chapo’s arrest in Mexico and his probable prosecution in the United States, she asserts, will almost certainly be a psychological boost to Mexican and U.S. officials, notwithstanding the fact that “the drugs will continue to flow across the border and the blood will continue to flow in the streets of Mexico.”

Yeah, let’s just continue the war on drugs, arresting and incarcerating drug dealers endlessly, so we can give an emotional picker-upper to government officials who supposedly deserve our everlasting praise for performing such a fantastic Sisyphean job in waging their war on drugs.

If anyone can find a more inane defense of the drug war than this, I’d sure like to read it.

After decades of failure, it’s time to bring the drug war to an immediate end through the full legalization of drugs. That’s the only thing that will bring about the immediate demise of drug gangs, drug lords, and drug dealers as well as the violence, death, destruction, official corruption, exorbitant costs, ever-expanding law-enforcement and judicial bureaucracies, and, most important, the ever-increasing loss of liberty that comes with the drug war. Ending the drug war will also spare us the agony of reading any more inane defenses of this evil, immoral, deadly, and destructive war.

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The Future of Freedom Foundation was founded in 1989 by FFF president Jacob Hornberger with the aim of establishing an educational foundation that would advance an uncompromising case for libertarianism in the context of both foreign and domestic policy. The mission of The Future of Freedom Foundation is to advance freedom by providing an uncompromising moral and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government.