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The Never-Ending Wars on Terrorism and Drugs


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Not long after President George W. Bush declared a “war on terrorism,” I wrote that this war would end up being as perpetual as the federal government’s war on drugs. Some 18 years later, the US government’s killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria confirms how right I was.

After all, given all the media hype about the killing, you would think that the war on terrorism had been won and had finally been brought to an end. Some people were undoubtedly even getting ready for a ticker-tape parade in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the end of the war on terrorism.

Alas, not even close! Despite the much-ballyhooed killing of Baghdadi, there are still lots more terrorists, both big and little, in the world to kill. After 18 years of terrorism warfare, the Pentagon and the CIA are just getting a good start killing terrorists.

Indeed, the media is already speculating on who will replace Bagdadi as the new head of ISIS. Before too long, America will have another brand new official enemy to add to its long list of official enemies that need killing.

Haven’t we seen this picture, time and time again, in the war on drugs? Why, just recently we were treated to the federal spectacle of “El Chapo,” the notorious Mexican drug lord, being busted in Mexico, extradited to the United States, and, amidst great media hype, convicted and sentenced to life in a US federal penitentiary.

Did that meant that the decades-long drug war was finally over? Are you kidding? Like with the war on terrorism, drug-war proponents are just getting a good start. There are always more drug lords, drug cartels, and drug dealers to go after.

Both the war on drugs and the war on terrorism are never-ending. There is a simple reason for this perpetuity: The US government. Its policies are what bring into existence an ever-growing array of drug lords and terrorists.

Consider drug cartels. They didn’t exist before the US government made drug possession and distribution illegal. As soon as they made them illegal, violent drug cartels came into existence to provide people with drugs on the black (i.e., illegal) market.

No matter how fiercely the feds crack down on drug cartels and drug lords, there are always more ready to take the place of those who are busted. That’s because there is always a lot of big money to be made when drugs are made illegal, especially the more fiercely the government cracks down on supply. The bigger the crackdown, the more restricted the supply, which produces higher prices and soaring profits.

The principle is no different with anti-American terrorism. Between 1945 and 1989, the big official bugaboo was communism, not terrorism. In 1989, with the unexpected end of the Cold War, the Pentagon and the CIA suddenly lost communism as their big official enemy. That’s when they began intervening in the Middle East, especially by killing people in Iraq, including children. The massive death toll was compounded by the conscious indifference on the part of US officials, as manifested by the infamous declaration by Madeleine Albright, the US Ambassador to the UN, that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the US and UN sanctions, while difficult, were, in fact, “worth it.”

The result was predictable. The interventionism and the conscious indifference to the high death toll produced the ongoing threat of terrorist retaliation against the United States. Terrorism replaced communism as America’s new official enemy.

So, why not simply end drug prohibition and foreign interventionism, as we libertarians have been advocating for decades?

Are you kidding? That would bring an end to drug cartels and anti-American terrorists! As far as the drug-war establishment and the US national-security establishment are concerned, that would be a disaster! Just think: If there were no more drug cartels and anti-American terrorists, how could the US drug-war establishment and the US national-security establishment justify their ever-increasing budgets and ever-increasing destruction of American liberty and privacy, in the name of “keeping us safe” from the official enemies their policies produce?

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.
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