The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed. Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption. Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers.
The Commission is made up of an interestingly diverse group of prominent people, including George Schultz, Mario Vargas Llosa, Kofi Annan, Paul Volcker, and three former presidents, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, and Ruth Dreifuss of Switzerland, among others. All but one of the politicians are "former" or "ex,"which highlights another problem with the war on drugs. Politicians are afraid to make the recommendation to put an end to the GWOD while they are in office. The exception is George Papandreu, the PM of Greece. I guess he figures that Greece has so many other issues going on, nobody will notice he is advocating an end to the GWOD.
This "ex" phenomenon was driven home to me this past week after a series of meetings I had in Washington. It seems that once out of office or in private just about everybody is willing to concede that the GWOD is a horrendous, expensive, and destructive affair, but all seem to agree that for an active politician openly to state that is the equivalent of standing on the third rail. I wonder about that. If you could get a few brave Republican and Democratic pols to come forward and cite the Commission report, and produce the stats on what this GWOD is costing us as a nation, I think the American people would listen. The problem would be, of course, if it's not bipartisan or nonpartisan, then one side or the other will demagogue away.
In my Foreign Service career I have been involved in the GWOD. I have administered counternarcotics programs to cut, spray, or otherwise remove coca and marijuana crops; train foreign cops, military, and intel personnel; and helped fund DEA operations overseas. I have gone along on operations in Central America and the Andes and seen the GWOD up close. It's expensive, often dangerous nonsense that provides a living for tens-of-thousands, maybe hundreds-of-thousands of bureaucrats around the world, and does little to reduce drug consumption or production.
Let's end the GWOD.