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A Quick Sure Way to Defeating the Taliban

By Jonathan Marin
reposted from jonathanmarin.org

August 8, 2010

Mullah Muhammad Omar

Mullah Mohammad Omar
in undated photo

There’s a quick, cheap and easy way to defeat the Taliban. Legalize heroin. The Taliban derives most of its income from the opium trade. It depends upon that income to supply it with weapons and to purchase the goodwill of the local powers-that-be who protect them. If heroin was legal, the price that Afghan farmers could command would not be affected, but the enormous middleman mark-ups realized by the Taliban and other criminals would shrink to next to nothing. A bankrupt Taliban would not be a credible threat to anyone.

Indeed, the United States and other NATO governments could buy the entire Afghan opium crop each year for far less than the cost of keeping soldiers in Afghanistan. The other benefits are well-known and have been well-publicized by such reputable and conservative groups such as The Economist magazine. The financial and social costs of keeping addicts on maintenance would be far less than the current costs of criminal and destructive behavior by the addicts. It is well-established that most addict criminality arises from the need to obtain the high price of their illegal drug than from the influence of the drug once they have obtained it. The ability of wealthy drug gangs to corrupt individual policemen, local law enforcement agencies and even entire countries is well-documented and depends entirely on the high profit commensurate with the risk involved.

Clearly a place to start is to repeal the UN resolution requiring member nations to criminalize the possession and sale of heroin and substitute a resolution suggesting they make the drug available to addicts at a reasonable price, provide detox treatments to addicts who want it and establish educational problems discouraging non-addicts from experimenting with the opiates. Nations who so chose could continue to criminalize the sale of heroin to non-addicts of school age years.

Even before the advent of the Taliban, it was clear that the criminalization of heroin was making a lot of very bad people very rich. Maintaining criminalization now takes the situation from absurd to idiotic.

Additional coverage:

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition website

War on drugs: why the US and Latin America could be ready to end 40-year struggle, by Rory Carroll and Paul Harris, The Observer, Aug 8, 2010

Commentary: Legalize drugs to stop violence, Jeffrey A. Miron, Special to CNN, Mar 24, 2009

Legalize Drugs Now! American Journal of Economics and Sociology, July 2000 issue, by Megan Cussen and Walter Block

Milton Friedman: Legalize It!, by Quentin Hardy, Forbes, June 2, 2005