Downsizing the War on Drugs

St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 19, 1993 | Go to article overview

Downsizing the War on Drugs


The Clinton administration is the first in more than two decades to admit the futility of U.S. drug interdiction programs. Whatever alternative drug plan the administration eventually devises promises to be far better than the Pentagon's war on drugs.

As far back as 1971, presidents have relied on some form of drug interdiction, coordinated by the Pentagon, to stem the flow of heroin, marijuana and cocaine coming into this country. The Pentagon's role remained informal and sporadic until 1981. That year, Congress passed a law explicitly permitting the military to support this nation's anti-drug initiatives.

By 1986, then-President Ronald Reagan had turned the military's role into a literal war against drugs. Under him, U.S. military personnel or advisers were sent to Latin nations to help train indigenous soldiers to wipe out coca crops, destroy coca-paste processing laboratories and hunt down members of drug cartels.

These efforts have amounted to a waste of resources, as Attorney General Janet Reno noted in a recent Washington Post interview. …

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