Yes. You read that right. The Boston Globe says end heroin prohibition.

THE OBAMA administration is committing 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Yet as the United States works to stabilize that country, the most important decisions don’t just involve troop and funding levels. Also vital is ending the prohibition on growing opium poppies – for the policy is a key factor in Afghanistan’s economic and security crisis.

Of course the paper is only suggesting ending opium and heroin prohibition in Afghanistan. But still. It is a start.

Since the US invasion in 2001, the American and Afghan governments have made the poppy-growing areas of Afghanistan, which produce 90 percent of the world’s opium, a major front in the war on drugs. Yet despite eight years of efforts to eliminate the crop, farmers keep growing poppies, and the crop still reaches the black market.
Earlier this month, the United Nations released a report anticipating lower poppy production in 2009 and touting the fact that some provinces have been declared poppy-free as a sign of success. This claim is deceptive. While some provinces that were comparatively new at growing poppy are now poppy-free, the crop is still entrenched in areas of southern Afghanistan, where it has historically been a significant part of the economy. In these areas, eradication will be much more difficult if not impossible.
Eradication is not just an ineffective strategy, but also hurts the security interests of Afghanistan and Western governments. While the United States invests $1 billion in eradication efforts each year, the Taliban profits by purchasing poppy from farmers who have no one else to sell to, and selling it to the black market. Also, the eradication policy fuels anti-Western hatred when farmers become sympathetic to insurgent groups after the US and Afghan governments burn or spray their only source of income.

You destroy people’s livelihood and they get mad at you. Murderously mad. Who could have guessed it? Me for one. Here in March of 2005 and here in May of 2006 and here in October of 2006 and here in November of 2006 and here in November of 2008 and another one here in November of 2008 and here in January of 2009.
Good to see the national press in the US finally figuring out something any reasonable person should have seen 3 or 4 years ago. Better late than never.
And what was I saying not long after 9/11? “Do you support drug prohibition because it finances criminals at home, or because it finances terrorists abroad?” So if you were really awake you could have seen this coming over seven years ago. Our war on drugs was bound to clash with our war on terror. The war on drugs finances terrorists (among others) and is incommensurate with defeating them.
As is usual in life: choices must be made.
And do not forget that the opium poppy was very much intertwined with an earlier war the US was involved in. You can read all about it in: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. This is not the first war where people we were trying to ally with were involved in the opiate trade. Perhaps we are smarter now. I hope so.
Cross Posted at Power and Control