I’ve long been confused about why so many people support our so called War on Drugs. I think I may have found part of the answer in this Houston TV station KHOU report.  Basically, they define winning in a different way than the rest of the world:

The war against drugs in Houston is heating up. It’s a war some believe we are losing, but a war we can’t afford to lose said Captain Steve Smith with HPD Narcotics. “As long as we are fighting it then we are winning. And as long as you adapt to that and understand that, then you never think that law enforcement is losing the battle.”

Define victory as the fight itself, and you create a war that justifies itself automatically. Of course, the report contains the clues on how to actually win:

But seizing illegal drugs is only part of the battle. Taking the profit out of drug dealing is another. Police said there is a lot of money involved.

Well, of course there’s a lot of money involved, when you criminalize virtually worthless substances that have high demand. I bet the price of coffee beans would skyrocket if we locked up caffeine addicts.  If we decriminalize marijuana for example, its "worth" would plummet.  One more quote:

(The police) say the drug supply seems never ending and so does the danger… Police say seizure of drugs and guns go hand in hand. The question is can police gain the upper hand in this never ending fight. 

“But as we said it is a very lucrative promising business so the suspects and the narcotics traffickers, the cartels, they are always ahead of us,” said Capt. Smith.

Well if the drug supply is never ending, and the police are always going to be behind, the only way to define victory is to say that the battle itself is the win. Or maybe, well, there are other options out there, right?

  • It’s more or less the same thinking behind the Iraq war, at this point.

  • Cocaine is used legally as an analgesic for some types of surgery. I can’t find a reference, but I seem to remember that legal medical-quality cocaine sells for about 3% of the street price. The other 97% of the street price presumably funds the vast criminal empires that control its distribution.

  • Pat

    “Police said there is a lot of money involved.”

    According to the U.N. the annual retail black market for drugs in Houston was $ 980,058,852 in 2003.

    In 2004 between 95 – 445 metric tons of pure cocaine were reported to be “Available to U.S. Markets”. According to the 2006 National Drug Threat Assessment. The new 2007 NDTA is being cagey about giving a definitive number but they say that they are doing upward revisions of these past year numbers. 20% upward by the looks of it.

    In 2001 the United States–Canada Border Drug Threat Assessment asserted that America consumes 18 metric tons of heroin a year. I think that that number is much less than half of what American heroin addicts actually consume. All of it imported.

    All of this tonnage crossing American borders with impunity.

    The annual U.S. retail drug trade was worth $ 144 billion in 2003. That is too lucrative for any amount of law enforcement to counter. $ 144 billion inspires entire industries dedicated to circumventing our best border security.

    This economic aspect of the drug war should be the downfall of the policy. Aside from the border problems the best experts are telling the government that “Our drug policy grants huge subsidies to our enemies.” New York University Professor Barnett Rubin to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sept. 2006.