The Burdens of Empire

Afghanistan’s President Karzai complained in an interview yesterday that U.S. tactics in his country were weakening the local governments and not strengthening them–“Eventually, if the world is to succeed in Afghanistan, it will be by building the Afghan state, not by keeping it weak.” Obviously his biggest internal problem is to fight the corruption brought on by the immense fortunes to be had in the Opium trade.

“Afghanistan is providing close to 95 percent of the world’s heroin,” the State Department’s top counternarcotics official, Tom Schweich, said at a recent conference. “That makes it almost a sole-source supplier” and presents a situation “unique in world history.”

In 2006, Afghanistan accounted for 92 percent of global opium production, compared with 70 percent in 2000.

We spend close to $500 million a year to try to forcibly eradicate the poppy crop in Afghanistan. As The New Yorker’s brilliant John Lee Anderson showed last year, the eradication program itself is corrupt and politically motivated. Why don’t we give Karzai the $500 million to set up a government opiate production company to buy up all the poppies at the current market price of $250 per kilo to supply the world’s legitimate pain mitigation drug industry? The 2 million kilos that would buy is probably more than the world needs, but it would sure go a long way towards strengthening the central government and eliminating corruption.

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0 Responses to The Burdens of Empire

  1. rhb says:

    As we all know, this sort of straight thinking is not acceptable. We have to go through channels, get congressional approval, Presidential sign-offs, motor through the labyrinth of public opinion, and then trust that the current Afgan leaders will use it the way you plan. You have to think more deviously if you want to succeed.

  2. Ken Ballweg says:

    Good heavens man, you can’t subsidize opiate production: that’s creeping socialism. Besides, who in the high stakes War On Drugs is going to profit from that?

    Silly, silly, crazy talk.


  3. Morgan Warstler says:

    Which means the price of opium for heroin just went up to $251+ per kilo. I wonder where the addicts will get the extra money. Better increase the violent crime budget and order some more coffins for the inner city.

    Legalize it. Let the farmers have their cash crop. Regulate it. Register users here. Bring it here cheap, give it out with clean needles, and put the criminal dealers out of business. Save the $500M + the BILLIONS spent on the war on drugs here.

  4. Harry Pottash says:

    I’m with Morgan on this one. After all if you try to corner the market on something like this, it just means that next year someone else will convert over their crop to fill the now $500M larger demand for poppies.

    I do see a great deal of value in not being in conflict with there government, but you would do about as much good by leaving the the smugglers and growers alone.

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