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

By Donald J. Mabry | Go to book overview

11
Concluding Observations and Policy Recommendations

Donald J. Mabry and Raphael Perl


PRODUCTION AND TRAFFICKING AS A SECURITY PROBLEM

The concept of "national security" encompasses more than armaments, military readiness, and espionage; it also includes the political, social, and economic health of a society. Illicit narcotics trafficking threatens the national security of many countries in this hemisphere. To operate effectively, drug traffickers evade or neutralize government officials by intimidation, corruption, and murder. These methods mock the rule of law and destabilize nations, as recent events in Colombia demonstrate. Nor is Colombia alone in this regard. Bolivia and Peru are also unable to exercise effective control over parts of their national territories. When this occurs, one finds two states--the official one and the one ruled by drug traffickers.

In general, corrupt polities are inherently less secure. Corruption weakens the state's ability to carry out one of its fundamental duties--to maintain public order and thereby insure the basic personal security of its citizens. Without effective countermeasures, corruption can become integral to the establishment, endemic, and a threat to national security. Further, large-scale drug smuggling violates national borders, creating unregulated channels through which all manners of persons, goods, and wealth can pour.

Respect for law is the sine qua non of a civil society. Laws are not so much enforced as obeyed, i.e., most people obey the laws voluntarily because they believe it to be in their self-interest to do so. Widespread disobedience of laws means that the disobedient are creating their own law. By creating a separate code of conduct, drug traffickers and drug users are, in effect, assuming some of the powers reserved for the state. In some countries, this non-elected minority has already redefined the basic rules of society.

At another level, narcotics abuse threatens the ability of a nation to raise an army in times of national crisis. Drug abusers and addicts do not make good military personnel, a fact recognized by the U.S. military's policy of discharging them from duty. The military is necessarily based on

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