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Archive for June, 2011

Posted by Peace Action West on June 15th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

What is happening on the ground now in Afghanistan? How is the political debate about the war playing out in Washington? How do we end America’s longest war?

I am excited to invite you to join us for an evening with two very smart thinkers on the war in Afghanistan. 

Dr. Zaher Wahab, professor at Lewis & Clark College, grew up in Afghanistan and will return in mid-June from a trip to the country to train teachers.

Matthew Hoh, Director of the Afghanistan Study Group and a former Marine and Foreign Service Officer, made waves when he publicly resigned from the State Department in protest of the war in Afghanistan.

Save the date for one of these exciting events:

Tuesday, June 28th, 7:00pm
Harris Hall
125 East 8th Ave., Eugene, OR

Wednesday, June 29th, 7:00pm
First Unitarian Church
Buchan Building, Room B102
1226 SW Salmon St., Portland, OR

You can also RSVP to the events on FacebookI look forward to seeing you there.

Portland: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=122181247863090

Eugene: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=213074555391792

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Posted by Peace Action West on June 14th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a report on aid efforts in Afghanistan. Many of the problems they highlight line up with the criticisms we have made of the large-scale, military-dominated aid that has happened in much of Afghanistan:

Even when U.S. development experts determine that a proposed project “lacks achievable goals and needs to be scaled back,” the U.S. military often takes it over and funds it anyway, the report says.

It also cites excessive use and poor oversight of contractors. Although the report provides some examples of successful projects, it is critical overall of what one senior committee aide called the U.S. focus on a rapid “burn rate” of available funding as a key metric for success. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the report before its release.

…All U.S. development projects in Afghanistan should be reexamined, it adds, to determine whether they are “necessary, achievable, and sustainable.”

The report recommends multi-year congressional funding for the aid program that would plan ahead for the increased civilian responsibilities as the number of troops decreases and calls for “a simple rule: donors should not implement projects if Afghans cannot sustain them.”…

…High turnover among U.S. civilians working in Afghanistan, estimated at 85 percent a year, along with “pressure from the military, imbalances between military and civilian resources, unpredictable funding levels from Congress, and changing political timelines, have further complicated efforts,” it says.

 

It’s important that the conclusion we draw from this report is not that we should stop development efforts in Afghanistan, but that we focus on what works. In a statement responding to the report, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (of which Peace Action West is a member) noted that the report highlighted programs that are having a real impact in the lives of Afghans:

The report also highlights U.S.-backed Afghan development programs that “exemplify the goals of being ‘necessary, achievable and sustainable:’”

  • The National Solidarity Program, which “promotes subnational governance by setting up community development councils and training them to manage small-scale projects funded by block grants,” has been successful in part because of its “transparent, standardized, and streamlined” disbursements, local ownership of development initiatives, and “strong monitoring and evaluation.”
  • The Basic Package of Health Services, which provides public nutrition and maternal and child health services on levels ranging from community health posts to district hospitals, has increased health coverage rates to 85 percent in 2008 (from only 9 percent in 2003) nationwide and reduced infant mortality by 26 percent.
  • The number of children attending school in Afghanistan has increased sevenfold over the past decade.

 

I have heard nothing but praise for the National Solidarity Program from all corners, and it exemplifies the kind of aid Peace Action West has been pushing the government to support—Afghan-led, community-based, sustainable projects that are driven and carried out by the people who need them.

Dr. Zaher Wahab, an Afghan-American professor and friend of Peace Action West, just sent a dispatch from Afghanistan that highlights how the work he’s involved in there is helping Afghans transform their country for the better:

 

But, here and there, there are signs of hope. For the last five years, I have been teaching in a master’s degree faculty development program designed to upgrade the knowledge, pedagogic skills, and professional dispositions of teacher education instructors from Afghanistan’s 18 four –year teacher training colleges. The program is funded by the US Agency for International Development, and implemented by the University of Massachusetts. The program is competitive and selective, and it maintains fairly high academic-professional standards. Each cohort consists of 11 men and 11 women, ages 24-43, representing the diversity in the country. We have graduated two cohorts thus far, and are currently working with two groups .Naturally, people come from different backgrounds, having amazing, diverse and/or tragic histories. Some have never been to the capital Kabul. Most have not touched a computer, and have never been on a plane. Some encounter academic difficulties. Many of the women have never sat next to a strange man, or spoken to one. Travel throught the country is fraught with danger. All are caught in Afghanistan’s endless civil, ethnic, sectarian, urban-rural, and/or imperialist wars and turmoil. Several have been touched by the country’s 35-year turmoil directly. All have been traumatized in one way or other. Most have families who must survive on $300.0 per month. Group members initially harbor fear, anxiety, uncertainty, suspicion, rivalries and distrust about each other. They feel overwhelmed, hopeless and angry about the condition of their wretched country.

But I have been amazed at the personal-professional progress, change and even transformation, among the participants. By the end of the four–semester program, they cooperate, help, respect, trust, like, and seek each other in academic-professional-personal matters. They overcome their fear, stereotypes, prejudices, distrust, sectarianism and identity politics. They begin to coalesce as a professional group and as one people, and talk about the country, the nation and their common humanity. Hardly anyone is ever late or absent; they do not take breaks; and they never whine about the academic rigor or the heavy work-load.They work very hard. By the end of the program, they develop excellent academic-intellectual skills. And they develop professional identities, and a sense of the teaching profession and its educational, sociopolitical, economic, cultural, and ethical role and responsibility toward their students and the ravaged country. They are angry and impatient at the catastrophic conditions of the war-torn country, and they are determined to struggle for change, starting with education and the teaching profession. Group three has started to organize a professional network of all the program participants and graduates, with the intent of establishing an association in the future. The fourth group just developed the following code of conduct for all teachers and professors in Afghanistan. These men and women are energized, motivated, inspired, empowered, and committed to work for educational-social change. The network idea and this code of ethics are a start. The total cost of putting one cohort through the program is probably one million dollars, equal to keeping one American soldier for a year in Afghanistan. Think about it!

 

 

The cost of aid and development in Afghanistan is miniscule compared to the massive military presence, especially when funding is directed to this kind of effective program and not squandered on contractors or unsustainable projects carried out by the military. As the White House debates the upcoming withdrawal from Afghanistan, they must also make sure that the nonmilitary strategy becomes stronger and more sustainable.

 

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Posted by The Agonist on June 12th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

After 10 years, no security unit is fit to take over from coalition in Afghanistan

Not a single Afghan police or army unit is capable of maintaining law and order in the war-torn country without the support of coalition forces, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. Almost a decade after international troops were sent in to overthrow the Taliban and help to establish a functioning democracy in Afghanistan, a combination of poor training, lack of numbers, corruption and illiteracy has left the country unable to protect its own people.

The grim official assessment of the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is a major blow to the hopes of a troop withdrawal by 2014, a timescale that assumes the ANSF will be able to start taking the lead in fighting the Taliban from next month. The commander of Nato’s mission to train the ANSF has admitted the task will not be complete until at least 2016.

This comes after a decade in which tens of billions of dollars have been spent building up the Afghan army and police. Yet they remain too dependent on coalition forces, according to the latest progress report on Afghanistan from the US Department of Defense. It cites assessments made in February that show how, of more than 400 Afghan units, none is rated as independent – defined as capable “without assistance from coalition forces”.

**When ads celebrated soldiers and sacrifice
** Pakistani intelligence ‘tipped off’ insurgents
** Militants torch NATO tanker in Pakistan
** Mood in Northern Afghanistan Shifts against German Troops
** Canadian troops to face new threat: Disguised insurgents
** How the Taliban Drives U.S. Aid Policy in Afghanistan
** Obama Pick For Afghan Envoy: U.S. Can’t Afford To ‘Walk Away’
** RETHINK Afghanistan

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on June 11th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

As President Obama prepares to announce his intentions for how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan this year, public opinion polls show the ground is moving under him. Over the past few days, several new surveys show a significant spike in the number of people who want to see big numbers of troops brought home. The war isn't making us safer and it's not worth the costs, and following Bin Laden's death it's become impossible for the American people to make sense of keeping troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan.

Two separate polls taken on June 3-7 by different firms show a significant shift in public opinion:

  • A CBS News poll shows a 16-percent increase in the number of people who think troops levels should be decreased (64 percent, vs. 48 percent last month in the same poll).
  • A survey by CNN shows a 9-percent jump compared to last month in the number of people who say the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops.
  • The CBS poll also showed that a whopping 73 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should withdraw a "substantial" number of troops from Afghanistan this summer.

These polls show a major move in public opinion as we approach the president's deadline for the start of troop withdrawals; the American people are practically yelling at the White House to get troops home.

The CNN and CBS surveys also put into stark relief just how badly Washington, D.C. politics lag behind U.S. public opinion. None of the numbers bandied about over the past few weeks by public officials come close to being "significant" withdrawals. Senator John McCain says only 3,000 troops should be withdrawn, a paltry number that's even smaller than the 5,000 troops suggested by an unnamed military official several weeks ago. Senator Carl Levin says 15,000 would be a better number, but that number wouldn't even reverse President Obama's first escalation of 17,000 troops, much less the 30,000 he sent in early 2010. Keep in mind, these numbers are in comparison to military force of well over 100,000, not including private security companies. The highest number among these anemic proposals, Levin's 15,000, would leave more than 85 percent of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year. That's a fig leaf, not a significant troop withdrawal.

The Afghanistan Study Group's proposal comes much closer to the sentiments of the American people. They propose "ceasefires, large troop reductions (30,000 this year, 40,000 in 2012), reformation of the Afghan government, and political negotiations within Afghanistan and amongst its neighbors to stabilize Afghanistan and the region, and to begin to get the United States out of Afghanistan's quicksand."

Note that we say the ASG's proposal only comes closer to the sentiments of the American people. That's because the last time anyone checked, the American people want all troops out within a year.

There's a major groundswell building across the country for ending this war, and as the president prepares to announce his intentions for the Afghanistan War, he better pay attention.

If you're one of the millions of Americans who want to bring troops home from Afghanistan, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on June 11th, 2011

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

As President Obama prepares to announce his intentions for how many troops to withdraw this year, public opinion polls show the ground is moving under him. Over the past few days, several new surveys show a significant spike in the number of people who want to see big numbers of troops brought home. The war isn’t making us safer and it’s not worth the costs, and following Bin Laden’s death it’s become impossible for the American people to make sense of keeping troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan.

Two separate polls taken on June 3-7 by different firms show a significant shift in public opinion:

  • A CBS News poll shows a 16-percent increase in the number of people who think troops levels should be decreased (64 percent, vs. 48 percent last month in the same poll).
  • A survey by CNN shows a 9-percent jump compared to last month in the number of people who say the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops.
  • The CBS poll also showed that a whopping 73 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should withdraw a “substantial” number of troops from Afghanistan this summer.

These polls show a major move in public opinion as we approach the president’s deadline for the start of troop withdrawals; the American people are practically yelling at the White House to get troops home.

The CNN and CBS surveys also put into stark relief just how badly Washington, D.C. politics lag behind U.S. public opinion. None of the numbers bandied about over the past few weeks by public officials come close to being “significant” withdrawals. Senator John McCain says only 3,000 troops should be withdrawn, a paltry number that’s even smaller than the 5,000 troops suggested by an unnamed military official several weeks ago. Senator Carl Levin says 15,000 would be a better number, but that number wouldn’t even reverse President Obama’s first escalation of 17,000 troops, much less the 30,000 he sent in early 2010. Keep in mind, these numbers are in comparison to military force of well over 100,000, not including private security companies. The highest number among these anemic proposals, Levin’s 15,000, would leave more than 85 percent of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year. That’s a fig leaf, not a significant troop withdrawal.

The Afghanistan Study Group’s proposal comes much closer to the sentiments of the American people. They propose “ceasefires, large troop reductions (30,000 this year, 40,000 in 2012), reformation of the Afghan government, and political negotiations within Afghanistan and amongst its neighbors to stabilize Afghanistan and the region, and to begin to get the United States out of Afghanistan’s quicksand.”

Note that we say the ASG’s proposal only comes closer to the sentiments of the American people. That’s because the last time anyone checked, the American people want all troops out within a year.

There’s a major groundswell building across the country for ending this war, and as the president prepares to announce his intentions for the Afghanistan War, he better pay attention.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who want to bring troops home from Afghanistan, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by Peace Action West on June 10th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is continuing his farewell media blitz, attempting to tamp down the growing pressure on the Obama administration to end the war in Afghanistan. On Thursday, Gates told the media that a “rush to the exits” would jeopardize what he is referring to as “progress.”

Only to people who are clinging to this failed military strategy would ending the longest war in American history be considered a “rush to the exits.” After nearly ten years, $400 billion spent, thousands of American and Afghan lives lost, can we really afford to slow walk this? The (already dubious) national security rationale for staying in Afghanistan was dealt a final blow by the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The claims of progress, when casualties on both sides, IED attacks, and multiple amputations are on the rise, don’t hold up to scrutiny.

On Time magazine’s Battleland blog, an active duty colonel in Afghanistan rips apart the Pentagon’s claims of progress and their defenders in the media [emphasis mine]:

The mendacity is getting so egregious that I am fast losing the ability to remain quiet; these yarns of “significant progress” are being covered up by the blood and limbs of hundreds – HUNDREDS – of American uniformed service members each and every month, and you know that the rest of this summer is going to see the peak of that bloodshed.

The article by Michael O’Hanlon last week (i.e. Success worth paying for in Afghanistan) and the one in today’s WSJ by Kagan and Kagan (i.e., We Have the Momentum in Afghanistan) made me sick to my stomach – especially the latter.  Have you seen it yet?  It is the most breathless piece of yellow journalism I’ve seen in the entire OIF-OEF generation.

According to the Kagans, “If Mr. Obama announces the withdrawal of all surge forces from Afghanistan in 2012, the war will likely be lost. Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other global terrorist groups will almost certainly re-establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan. The Afghan state would likely collapse and the country would descend into ethnic civil war. The outcome of this withdrawal policy would be far worse than Nixon’s decision to accept defeat in Vietnam, for it would directly increase the threat to the American homeland.  Apparently they forgot, “there’s a commie behind every bush,” “the Russians are coming!” and “if Vietnam falls, all of Asia falls to the Communists!”  That logic was absurd in the 1960/70s, and its even more laughable today – or it would be laughable if it didn’t cost so damn many American lives to prop up the fantasy.

These people are actually arguing for increased involvement.  In fact, they are saying that we should expect high casualties this summer (after which – without explanation – we’ll have beaten the TB in the south), then we’ll move the troops up to RC-East where there’s still a lot of fighting – and as a result, we’ll have another spike in the ‘fighting season’ of 2013, after which (according to the neat schedule the Kagans map out) we’ll be ready to hand over control of the country to GoIRA and the ANSF on schedule in 2014.

It’s sheer madness, and so far as I can tell, in the mainstream media and reputable publications, it is going almost entirely without challenge.

Let’s hope the Obama administration is strengthened by the support from Congress and the public and will refuse the paltry withdrawal proposed by Gates and others. Ending this pointless war wouldn’t be rushing; the end can’t come soon enough.

 

 

 

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Posted by Peace Action West on June 9th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

With the president’s decision on the July withdrawal only weeks away, we need to put as much pressure as possible on the administration for a significant withdrawal from Afghanistan and a clear end date for the war.

The House vote on the McGovern/Jones amendment last month sent a very strong message that Congress wants an end to the war. Now we need the Senate to step up.

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Tom Udall (D-NM) are circulating a letter to the president supporting a meaningful withdrawal and a change of strategy in Afghanistan.

Here are the senators who have signed on so far:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

If one or both of your senators are not on this list, call now at 1-800-427-8619 and tell them to sign the letter. The deadline could be as soon as tonight, so don’t wait!

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Posted by Peace Action West on June 7th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

A box of toy soldiers with personal messages ready to be mailed to Congress.

Within the next few weeks President Obama will have to make a decision about how significant the July withdrawal from Afghanistan will be. If he bends to the Pentagon’s will, he risks alienating millions of people who believed this would be a step toward ending the war, and could hurt his reelection prospects in 2012.

After hearing many discouraging leaks from Pentagon sources, there is finally some indication that the administration is considering a sizable withdrawal, though the details remain elusive:

President Obama’s national security team is contemplating troop reductions in Afghanistan that would be steeper than those discussed even a few weeks ago, with some officials arguing that such a change is justified by the rising cost of the war and the death of Osama bin Laden, which they called new “strategic considerations.”

These new considerations, along with a desire to find new ways to press the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, to get more of his forces to take the lead, are combining to create a counterweight to an approach favored by the departing secretary of defense, Robert M. Gates, and top military commanders in the field. They want gradual cuts that would keep American forces at a much higher combat strength well into next year, senior administration officials said.

Unfortunately, we know that those who are clinging to a failed military strategy are not going to go away quietly. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is dedicating his last month in the administration to a campaign advocating a slow withdrawal:

As his final act before leaving the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is working to build support for what he is calling a “modest” drawdown in Afghanistan, even though a war-weary Capitol Hill wants more.

Gates, who retires June 30, is hoping that his 12th and final trip to Afghanistan will help steer the Washington debate subtly away from the number of troops that will come home next month — a figure that is almost certain to disappoint the growing number of Washington critics of the war.

The hard work of Peace Action West supporters and other groups has had an impact. We have been hitting Congress hard with grassroots, media and lobbying pressure, and we saw the results in the strong House vote to require a plan to accelerate withdrawal from Afghanistan. The pressure was made even more significant by the fact that the Democratic leadership spoke out in favor of the amendment. Now we’re seeing even more unusual suspects speaking strongly for a quicker withdrawal, including defense-minded Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks.

These last few weeks will be crucial in keeping the pressure on. Please join us in our final push on Congress by sending a soldier to DC with your personal message about why you want to end the war in Afghanistan.

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Posted by The Agonist on June 4th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

Anna Badkhen | Jun 4

Foreign PolicySaying goodbye to a once-friendly land, now taken without a fight by the Taliban.

Armed men on motorcycles simply showed up at orangeade dusk, summoned the elders, and announced the new laws. A 10 percent tax on all earnings to feed the Taliban coffers. A lifestyle guided by the strictest interpretation of Shariah. All government collaborators will be punished as traitors.

There was no one at hand to fend off the offensive. There were no policemen in the villages, no Afghan or NATO soldiers nearby. The villagers themselves, sapped by two consecutive years of drought and a lifetime of recurring bloodshed, put up no resistance.

Some of these villages I know quite well. I have swapped jewelry and cooked rice in too much oil with their women. I have walked to town across the predawn desert on bazaar days with their men. I have drawn ballpoint flower tattoos on the grimy palms of their children. I have fallen asleep on their rooftops, watching the Big Dipper scoop out the mountains I could just skylight against the star-bejeweled sky.

During each of my visits over the last 13 months, my village friends and I would trade the latest stories and rumors about the steady advance of the insurgency across Balkh province. The Taliban have gained control of two of the province’s 14 districts. Three. Four. It was like watching the spread of a pandemic. We would drink murky green tea and click our tongues and shake our heads. Then we would part, promising to see each other soon.

We were, I now think, a little bit in denial.

On Sunday, I received a call from Oqa, a destitute hamlet of two-score clay homes prostrate in hungry supplication in the middle of the arid Northern Plains. I was supposed to drive up for farewell elevenses before leaving Afghanistan this week.

“The Taliban arrived last night,” the caller told me. “Don’t come, Anna.”

I rang a farmer I know in Karaghuzhlah, an oasis of apricot and almond groves that shimmers over the tufted camel’s hide of the desert. He had invited me to try the apricots. They are now in season.

“The Taliban have been here for two days,” the farmer said. “If you want apricots, I’ll send them to you in Mazar-e-Sharif.”

What about Zadyan, the intricate clay cylinder of its 12th-century minaret watching over teenage carpet weavers like some somber desert custodian? Or Khairabad, to which Oqa’s boys trek in winter with their camel caravans loaded with tumbleweed to sell for firewood?

On Sunday, a police official recited to me a grim roster. “As of 10:30 this morning, we no longer control the villages of Karaghuzhlah, Khairabad, Karshigak, Zadyan, Shingilabad, Joi Arab, Shahraq….” The list went on; the officer named about two dozen villages. Some of them quiver in diffraction only a few miles away from Mazar-e-Sharif, the provincial capital.

Four weeks after the Taliban announced the beginning of their annual spring offensive, the insurgents have quietly taken over most of Balkh.

* * *

more at link

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Posted by The Agonist on June 2nd, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

I’m sure this won’t happen, at least in the US, anytime in the near future, but you have to admit there’s an awful lot of sense here:

The Global Commission on Drug Policy report calls for the legalisation of some drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users.

The panel includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former leaders of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, and the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

The US and Mexican governments have rejected the findings as misguided.

The Global Commission’s 24-page report argues that anti-drug policy has failed by fuelling organised crime, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and causing thousands of deaths.

It cites UN estimates that opiate use increased 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%.

No doubts the jump in usage is coincident to the increase in worldwide wealth gained from American companies outsourcing American jobs to countries that pay less than American wages, thus bringing to those countries the uniquely American problem of work-related stress disorders.

I’m very much on the fence about this. Some drugs, opiates in particular, have a track record that is, well, less than ideal for introduction into society legally. Most are on prescription as having medical uses, and it seems to me that this might be the way to go for these classes of drugs: expand the prescriptive framework. Allow doctors to prescribe them more often for uses that people are already abusing them for, but with strict monitoring and follow up. Hell, we administer Prozac and Ritalin as if they were candy to any yahoo who can persuade a psychologist that his boredom or sheer idiocy is symptomatic of some disorder that sees sixteen squirrels running around his brain.

To coin a scenario.

Yes, there will be blindspots and oversights and people will slip thru the cracks but it almost certainly has to be better than having near-100% illegality. The current situation is untenable. Too, it creates shortages of medications that people actually need (try getting a box of Sudafed someday.)

On the other hand lie drugs that are clearly over-protected, that have a more benign history, that rightly could and maybe should take their places alongside such mood-altering substances as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and sugar.

Indeed, that last may be triggering an awful lot of excuses people have for medicating. Overmedicating with sugar leads to obesity, depression, and sleep disorders, among other effects.

If all these are going to be basically un- and at least under-regulated, then other substances like marijuana deserve “a day in court”: serious study for legalization, and if not, then full decriminalization.

Too, from an economic standpoint, lifting the war on drugs would improve Third World economies enormously, not least from simply avoiding destruction of valuable farmland and the price that crime and criminals take out of a native population. Imagine Mexican farmers growing pot without worrying which drug cartel is in charge and what happens if another muscles in. Or perhaps the price of marijuana will drop enough that they plant a food crop instead.

It sure as hell would make our borders more secure, too.

Wars on nebulosities, like poverty or drugs or terrorism, inevitably butt up against a simple truth: where is the finish line?

In the case of poverty, the finish line was arbitrarily drawn by the haters at five years, and you’d better have your act together by then. That maybe the only war that we can control, because people in poverty don’t want to be in poverty and will work with us to beat their own poverty back if given the opportunity.

People who supply drugs or terror are antithetical to the goals of those “wars”: they want the war to lose. And if they can make us spend the energy and resources to beat them, even if we succeed, another crop will rise up to take its place. It is neverending war, by definition.

In the case of terror, the answer is simple. As Peter Gabriel once famously observed, you only achieve true security and peace by respecting the rights of others. There will still be terror attacks, true. For a while. Until the strength of a peaceful nation shows not in retaliation but in resilience. Once terrorists realize they can’t do enough harm to topple us, they’ll leave it be.

The case of the war on drugs, I think, is best won by admitting there really wasn’t a war to begin with, that it was a marketing plan cooked up by people who were shocked that other people were having fun. Once we get over that hurdle and start to look into the causes of the use of drugs, we will have taken a large step in the direction of civilization.

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