The Latin American Narcotics Trade and U.S. National Security

By Donald J. Mabry | Go to book overview

1
Narcotics and National Security

Donald J. Mabry

The flow of illegal narcotics from Latin America is a serious national security issue for the United States. This may be a surprising statement for those accustomed to thinking of national security as defense, weapons, alliances, and the military, but, as noted national security analysts Amos A. Jordan and William J. Taylor, Jr., explain, national security now includes "protection . . . of vital economic and political interests, the loss of which could threaten fundamental values and the vitality of the state." 1 In examining the effects of the drug trade on Latin American source countries such as Peru and Bolivia, or transit countries such as Colombia, it is obvious that the violence and corruption accompanying the drug business are destabilizing these nations and are thus a national security threat to them. Inasmuch as they are allies of the United States, their instability is a threat to the U.S. alliance system, a bulwark of its national security policy. Less obvious to many Americans, however, is the impact of the drug trade inside the United States. The domestic drug trade has a destabilizing effect on the U.S. as well. President Ronald Reagan recognized this fact on April 8, 1986, when he signed a National Security directive designating the international drug trade as a national security issue. 2 The reasons why the Latin American narcotics trade adversely affects the national security both of the United States and of Latin American nations is the subject of this volume.

Within the United States, the consumption of over $100 billion of illicit narcotics by an estimated 84 million people means lower worker productivity, more frequent accidents with consequent loss of life and property, and the diversion of economic resources into non-productive purposes. As an illicit activity, it enhances the power of criminals and criminal organizations, shifting power away from legitimate authority. Beyond the growing problem of the violence (both public and private) associated with the illicit drug trade inside the U.S., dependence on psychotropic drugs weakens rational decision making, a fundamental value of the democratic process. Even if one limits the definition of national security to military matters, illicit drug use is a threat to national security;

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