July 4, 2014 12:42:38 AM
Unintended consequences of the drug war
In the current political dust up over 50,000 Central American children fleeing across our border, we again witness unintended consequences of political action.
In the 1990s Republicans correctly identified the unintended consequences of liberal welfare programs that fostered a social dependency on the recipients of social largesse, trapping them for generations in unproductive stagnation. Republicans pressured President Bill Clinton to pass sweeping welfare reforms that removed many of the damaging effects of the program.
Now, from the other end of the political spectrum we have horrendous unintended consequences from the Republican war on drugs instituted by Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s.
The drug war's aims were laudable, crack down on pushers who endangered our youth, and eradicate the scourge of drugs from our society. But Republicans overlooked one of their basic, libertarian, ideological positions when passing drug war legislation.
When they railed against gun control, Republicans would slam liberals with the failure of Prohibition in the early 1900s. They used attempts at alcohol eradication to show the impossibility of legislating bad behavior out of existence while also warning of the criminal empires such efforts would unleash on society. Yet they then attempted the same style eradication on the drug culture, a monstrous Son-of-Prohibition.
The results of this Prohibition replay are far more horrendous that the liberal welfare fiasco. First, America has incarcerated an unconscionable number of non-violent drug offenders in a doomed effort to defeat drugs as usage levels are basically where they were before the war on drugs started. The monetary cost of this war have been huge as law enforcement empires have been erected to fight drugs, at great expense and to the exclusion of other policing functions.
But the worst carnage inflicted by the drug war has occurred below our southern border. Many Central American countries have suffered a catastrophic social breakdown as drug cartels, created to feed the illegal American drug habit, have become de facto governors of these states. Just as Al Capone held great power in Chicago during Prohibition, Central American drug cartels have taken over social control. This has resulted in huge carnage from battles between the national armies and the cartels, and among the cartels themselves at the expense of ordinary citizens. Beyond fostering open warfare, drug money has spiked political corruption where many politicians, army officers, and police officials are on the take from cartels.
This is what has driven 50,000 children to our borders, the dangerous criminal anarchy our drug war has unleashed in Central America. Parents' are so desperate to save their children, they will abandon them to "coyote" human smugglers to flee the America, never to see them again in all likelihood.
Americans, in general, and Republicans in particular, seem oblivious to the havoc our fruitless drug war as inflicted on our southern neighbors. If there were a universal court system, we should be sued for a fortune for what we have done to them in our self-righteous blindness. Our failed drug eradication policy has done incalculable damage beyond our borders that we should have known would result from such policies.
Republicans should curb their self-serving ideological stridency when it comes to our southern border; it is their drug war apocalypse that has unleashed the stampede northward.
1. Our View: New Caledonia board has unique opportunity DISPATCH EDITORIALS
2. Steve Chapman: Curbing traffic stops would save lives NATIONAL COLUMNS
3. Editorial cartoons for 7-21-17 NATIONAL COLUMNS