March 19, 2012
How Wars can be lost suddenly and unexpectedlyAmerica has now been waging, and losing, its metaphorical "war on drugs" ever since it was declared by Richard Nixon in 1971. Although credible victories are non-existent, there has been a surprising degree of acceptance of a policy many privately agree is a loser. That there have been almost no serious calls for an end to the drug war begs a logical question: Why? What accounts for that immunity from criticism, or at least calls for change, in a policy lacking any credible claims of victory?
The answer has just been hinted at by events in Afghanistan: we have have been asked to withdraw our troops from a troubled nation we entered as ally in the fanciful and unnecessary "War on Terror" declared by the an illegitimate Bush-Cheney Administration after the shocking (but hardly surprising) events of 9/11. The facts at that time were that Afghanistan was a proud, but poor nation that was earning most of its foreign exchange from the heroin trade carried out by its Northern Alliance (of heroin growers with the knowledge of the CIA.
Our misbegotten drug war had been playing a not-so-hidden role in shaping our Afghan misadventure well before 9/11. In fact, the global market for illegal heroin was an American creation that predated both the modern "Drug War" and our military involvement in Vietnam, facts documented in the first edition of Alfred McCoy's "Politics of Heroin" in 1974. The later use of drug smugglers by the CIA was documented in McCoy's second edition in 1991. Since stumbling into an Asia version of the "French Connection," as a twenty-five year old graduate student at Yale, the Australian born McCoy has earned his PhD in Asian studies, become a full professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and also an obsessed student of America's favorite folly: the war on drugs.
Against an updated background provided by McCoy and his graduate student Brett Reilly, it becomes easy to understand how a cascade of bad decisions, cover-ups and assorted misadventures have plagued this nation since its founders made their own great mistake: secretly agreeing to mollify South Carolina planters by retaining chattel slavery and referring its victims in our Constitution as "those obligated to service."
Although American "Democracy" has been seen as a success by much of the world, it has not lived up to its own promises and may already be in serious decline, a process accelerated considerably by the spectacular maturation of Science over the two centuries since the Constitution was written.
It's still too early to tell, but we may just be another empire of the type that's been failing in the same part of the world since the days of Alexander the Great.