Tina K. Russell

June 9, 2008

Stop! Do Not Get Hopped on Poppy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:35 pm

Afghan Heroin Suspect Was U.S. Asset, He Says – NYTimes.com

Here’s an interesting story. A preeminent Afghan drug lord is offered a deal by the US government: he’ll be safe if he comes to the States and helps us fight the Taliban by giving us intimate details of their day-to-day operations. He comes to the US and is thrown in the clink, and he’s been there for three years.

It’s weird because, as anyone who has watched Homicide: Life on the Street knows, often you need to trick criminals if you want to catch them. Also, I cannot muster much sympathy for people who build fortunes on the back of human misery. This just provides an interesting dilemma for the United States… do we offer the drug lords deals to help us fight the Taliban? Or do we imprison the drug lords in hopes of cutting off the Taliban’s supply of freely-flowing drug money?

Obviously, with this fella in the big house for three years with no hope of release any time soon, it will be hard to us to convince any other drug lords to come to the States and snitch on their partners in crime. Still, a lot of the problem with the US’s approach to the Taliban is that, previously, we’ve failed to grasp where the Taliban’s money comes from. Osama bin Laden’s family fortune is vast, but the inheritance is split amongst his fifty-or-so siblings. The rest is money from heroin provided by Afghanistan’s vast poppy crop. When fighting homegrown insurgent groups, you may want to attack them at their sustenance rather than head-on. So, I don’t really know where best to fall on this issue.

…You know, colonial America was built on tobacco money, so it’s a bit arrogant of us to presume that Afghanistan’s economy can simply move away from where it has a comparative advantage. However, poppy can also be used to create painkillers, which the world has a shortage of. Who’s with me? Let’s bankrupt the drug lords and the Taliban, while helping people at the same time.

This is why economics is your friend.

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