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December 21, 2006

When war is your policy of choice; how do you admit defeat?

The whole world is being treated to an object lesson in denial, a subject that’s also been on my mind recently. The Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by an old friend of the Bush family, just threw a pail of cold water on the President of the United States by informing him in no uncertain terms that we are losing the controversial war he has staked his presidency on for over four years. Beyond that, the Group’s report didn’t come up wih a suggested solution for the problem we’ve created by invading Iraq; probably because there is no best ‘way forward,’ despite their hopeful use of that term in their report’s title.

The late Barbara Tuchman, famous for her lucid analyses of the human dimension in several of history’s pivotal events, once wrote,  "A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defended as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?" (from The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, 1984)

After an initial dissection of the ISG report by both by the media and the pundits, the most obvious conclusion to emerge was that it didn’t change the mind of the man it was addressed to. Although noticeably less truculent in his defense of the Iraq war as both necessary and inevitably successful, he clearly hasn’t given up on it as the strategy of choice. As of today, he clearly favors sending more troops.

Which brings me, somewhat belatedly, to the point of this essay: our war on drugs, which has proven even less successful and more misguided than the war in Iraq. Its failure has been recognized by three quarters of the electorate since the late Nineties, its four decades of cumlative damage to our social infrastructure is beyond calculation, and yet it still enjoys so much unquestioning support from the entire federal government that the idea of a Drug War Study Group would be considered delusional.

This national denial should now become the central issue of the drug war; it’s clear that the grand strategy of the reform movement for over a decade: pointing out the drug war’s many shortcomings and hoping they will cause the public to demand its rejection, has also been a failure. For whatever reason, the public accepts those shortcomings and is unwilling to demand change.

That situation suggests that until we understand the reasons for that aceptance, we face the possibility that an increasingly debilitating drug war will continue indefinitely. It’s also clear that the key to its repudiation lies in demonstrating the glaring errors upon which the prohibition of cannabis has been based; in other words, the key to ending drug prohibition as policy lies in debunking its war against marijuana.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at December 21, 2006 02:36 AM