On the eve of Memorial Day, we should reflect upon the sacrifice of the brave men and women who have lost their lives fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in wars past. But let us also not forget the many casualties that have befallen a war we have been waging since 1971.
In the latest issue of Foreign Policy, Moisés Naím quotes a U.S. senator as saying, “Most of my colleagues know that the war on drugs is bankrupt, but for many of us, supporting any form of decriminalization of drugs has long been politically suicidal.” While I am curious to know who the senator is, I suppose no answer would really surprise me; policymakers have long known that the drug war is unwinnable. Yet, billions more dollars will be wasted as law enforcement officers, military personnel, and civilians are killed because American political leaders are too weak-kneed to actually lead when it comes to sensible drug policy.
As the current economic downturn necessitates alternative sources to generate revenue, and as Mexican and Latin American drug violence spills over the American border, some drug war alternatives are at least being broached. Governor Schwarzenegger has floated the idea of marijuana legalization (and taxation) in California. Naím, in the FP article quoted above, also points to a recent Latin American study proposing middle ground alternatives to strict prohibition or legalization. Whatever course we choose, let’s not make the same mistakes. A lot more people will probably die as a continuation of our failed policies, but if enough people speak out, eventually someone will listen.