The Drug Dilemma in Afghanistan

As you probably know, when the Taliban was in power opium production in Afghanistan was virtually non-existent. However, since the U.S. military overran the country, ousted the Taliban, and oversaw the election of a pro-American president (shades of the Soviet satellites!), the drug trade has been flourishing.

Now the Bush administration, facing the consequences of its own acts, is caught in a dilemma. Does it spray poison from airplanes to wipe out the opium crop (estimated to be worth $7–10 billion this year), or does it stay out of the picture, allow the drugs to sneak into America, and keep the Afghan warlords (who profit from the opium) happy so that they support the pro-American Afghan president? The dilemma is made even worse by the fact that parliamentary elections are coming up in April. Wiping out the opium crops will likely hurt the pro-American candidates.

The Los Angeles Times provided an excellent summary of the "Afghan Quandary" last Sunday. A former UN advisor uttered the unmentionable truth about the new satellite countries the U.S. is creating: "You tell them, ‘You’re voting for a new democratic country,’ while their government is allowing foreigners to come in and destroy their livelihood?"

The U.S. administration’s world-reformers are facing a negative choice: one in which either option is bad, the only question being which is the least bad.

This dilemma is also symbolic of what happens when you charge into a foreign country with no knowledge of its history, its culture, or its aspirations. Sooner or later, it’s obvious that you’ve made a tragic mistake – but the mistake goes relatively unnoticed by the public, because meanwhile you’ve charged into another country.

Most likely the Bush folks will decide to solve the Afghan problem in the classic American political way – postpone the crop eradication until after the April elections.

January 13, 2005