The Drug War and “National Security”

The Drug War and “National Security”

The war on drugs is entering its twentieth year. On October 24, 1969, President Richard Nixon called a press conference to issue the initial declaration of war. Every president since has escalated the hostilities. President-elect Bush promises to do the same. Yet there is still no prospect of success.

To understand why the drug war has failed, we need to go back to its earliest days, between 1969 and 1973, when current U.S. strategy was established and failure institutionalized. Then, as now, conventional law enforcement agencies were judged incapable of handling the antidrug effort; then, as now, the White House organized (and reorganized) the antidrug effort; then, as now, “better intelligence” was demanded from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); then, as now, investigations into the drug trade were launched by Congress and resisted by the Executive. Most important, between 1969 and 1973 drug enforcement became a matter of U.S. “national security.”

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