New Afghanistan Strategy is Exactly the Same as the Old One That Didn’t Work

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When I heard the White House was creating a new strategy for countering opium cultivation in Afghanistan, I was curious. See, the U.S. government only has one counter-narcotics strategy, which is to slash and burn everything, arrest lots of people, and tell poor folks to stop being so greedy. How could they create a new strategy if they only have one idea?

Apparently, the new strategy it to try the old one again, in case it works this time:
At the roll-out, the architects of the administration's revised policy -- John Walters, U.S. director of national drug control policy, and Thomas A. Schweich, acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs -- argued that the main principles underpinning the five-pillar Afghan counternarcotics strategy, announced two years ago, remained essentially correct. [World Politics Review]
It's not the strategy's fault the strategy didn't work. It's these stubborn farmers and drug lords that won't cooperate with the damn strategy:
Preliminary assessments of the data the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime plans to release next month indicate that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has increased by 15 percent during the past year, making the country responsible for approximately 95 percent of the world's total production. Although acknowledging their disappointment, U.S. officials argued this staggering figure actually presented an opportunity since any reductions in Afghan opium would make a major contribution to reducing global supplies.

Yeah, the worse things get, the more progress we could theoretically make! Just look how much room there is for improvement! Now all we need is the right strategy. Hmm, let's convene all of the eradication experts to decide how much eradication we'll need. Probably a lot.

Seriously, nothing could ever happen to make these people lose faith in drug eradication. It is their religion, and if you suggest to them that it doesn’t work, they will just look at you like you're speaking Chinese. They claim to promote crop substitution, even though they also want to spray poisons everywhere that would destroy the fields. And they still don’t get it that if any of this works, people will just grow opium somewhere else.

Only by claiming repeatedly that their ideas are "new" can the drug war geniuses in Washington, D.C. inspire any curiosity about whether their plans will succeed. They are putting lipstick on a pig, and it is an indictment of our press that such announcements are met with anything other than a yawn.

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