Monday, November 7, 2011

The Government's Addiction

Charlie Savage reports that the DEA is ramping up its militarization efforts around Latin America:

The D.E.A. now has five commando-style squads it has been quietly deploying for the past several years to Western Hemisphere nations — including Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize — that are battling drug cartels, according to documents and interviews with law enforcement officials.

The program — called FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team — was created during the George W. Bush administration to investigate Taliban-linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan. Beginning in 2008 and continuing under President Obama, it has expanded far beyond the war zone.

“You have got to have special skills and equipment to be able to operate effectively and safely in environments like this,” said Michael A. Braun, a former head of operations for the drug agency who helped design the program. “The D.E.A. is working shoulder-to-shoulder in harm’s way with host-nation counterparts.”
 The DEA has hit-teams now. What could possibly go wrong?
“It could lead to a nationalist backlash in the countries involved,” [University of Miami professor Bruce Bagley] said. “If an American is killed, the administration and the D.E.A. could get mired in Congressional oversight hearings. Taking out kingpins could fragment the organization and lead to more violence. And it won’t permanently stop trafficking unless a country also has capable institutions, which often don’t exist in Central America.”(emphasis mine)
In short, the Obama administration's answer to the Drug War is to get more violent and put more agents in harm's way, the benefit of which will be...more violence. It's not like this hasn't been tried before:

The FAST program is similar to a D.E.A. operation in the late 1980s and early 1990s in which drug enforcement agents received military training and entered into partnerships with local forces in places like Peru and Bolivia, targeting smuggling airstrips and jungle labs.

The Reagan-era initiative, though, drew criticism from agency supervisors who disliked the disruption of supplying agents for temporary rotations, and questioned whether its benefits outweighed the risks and cost. The Clinton administration was moving to shut down the operation when five agents died in a plane crash in Peru in 1994, sealing its fate.
Best case scenario: country A sees a wave of US-backed military raids and violence. This country restores its "capable institutions" and  after countless firefights with law enforcement and one another, leaving scores of innocents dead, the resident drug operation finds more fertile ground to operate in country B, which lacks similar capable institutions. America still gets its drugs and the bloody fight continues in a new country. This predictable and oft-repeated result is called the "balloon effect."

Like a gambler at a casino who just doesn't know when to quit, the United States continues to double-down on its hopeless efforts to use violence to solve its 'drug problem.' Any objective observer of the situation can clearly see its futility and the consequences of pursuing this course of action. Yet the gambler continues, thinking this time it's gonna work. Any short term gains are completely illusory, but they are used to justify even more of the same.

It's time we start thinking about an intervention.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

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