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

By Donald J. Mabry | Go to book overview

others concerned with preserving civil liberties. The expanded military effort has some inherent dangers. Intelligence data, especially that concerned with smuggling and involving U.S. citizens, is not easily segregated. The easiest, and thus most probable, technique to collect such data is to collect as much as possible and sort it out later. Since the destination of illicit drugs is primarily to U.S. criminal organizations, it seems inevitable that domestic intelligence data will be collected and shared with civilian law enforcement officials. Some of the data collected will not involve law violations.


CONCLUSION

The 100th Congress' actions have brought the military more directly into the civilian arena, the language of defense and drug bills notwithstanding. Using the military to collect intelligence data, transport civilian law enforcement personnel, shoot at suspected smugglers' boats and ships, and engage in hot pursuit into the United States and using the National Guard in civilian law enforcement means that the military will be performing civilian functions. Giving naval commanders the authority to attack and even sink civilian ships, some of which might be innocently used, without legal responsibility is to put those commanders above the law. The initial step in converting military personnel into civilian police has begun. Few military or civilian law enforcement agencies want the military to become police, and neither believe that the military can effectively stop drug smuggling without dramatically changing the nature of American government.

Although the United States is not Latin America with its long tradition of military intervention and military dictatorship, U.S. citizens should heed high-ranking U.S. military officers's warnings that bringing the military directly into the antidrug campaign threatens civilian government. Framers of the Constitution, well aware of Cromwell's military dictatorship in mid-seventeenth centuryEngland and of the imposition of martial law on Massachusetts Bay colony by the British in 1774, required a civilian to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces and limited army appropriations to a yearly basis.

The military is being set up to fail. All the available evidence indicates that interdiction efforts by civilians or military or both are doomed to failure. The supply of marijuana and cocaine is so large and smuggling techniques so well developed and so easily changed that Congress is proposing little more than political grandstanding in an election year. The increased role of the military, limited as it now is, will have a negligible effect on the supply of drugs.

The military could conceivably interdict the flow of drugs into the United States by doing what it is designed to do: fight a war. Such a war, however, would be a low-intensity conflict in which the enemy is not easily identifiable and could hide among "friendly" personnel within a gigantic area. Consequently, the most effective strategy would be for the military to take control of U.S. borders by gaining control of the high seas near the coastline, picketing soldiers along the land borders, gaining complete

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