The war to end all drug wars?

While I wouldn't normally get too worked up about an election in Bolivia, when an anti-American leftist wins based on his opposition to the failed U.S. "War on Drugs," I think it's worth paying attention. I agree with Glenn Reynolds. I'm for relegalization.

But until the other day, I had not known how desperate or how crazy the United States' efforts had become. In response to massive spraying of glyphosphate (aka Roundup) on coca fields, growers appear to have resorted to bioengineering to create a new, glyphospate proof strain of coca (Boliviana negra) which has now been replanted everywhere. In response, the United States has been trying to introduce a potent, coca-eating fungus (Fusarium) into the soil:

Last summer, documents show, anti-narcotics officials at the US embassy in Bogotá quietly approached Colombia's president, Álvaro Uribe, and asked him if he'd consider switching from Roundup to Fusarium oxysporum, a plant-killing fungus classified as a mycoherbicide. Some species are known to attack coca; in the early '90s, a natural Fusarium outbreak decimated the Peruvian coca crop.

But Fusarium is not a chemical - it's a fungus, and it can live on in the soil. A proposal to consider using it in Florida in 1999 was rejected after the head of the state's Department of Environmental Protection found that it was "difficult, if not impossible, to control [Fusarium's] spread" and that the "mutated fungi can cause disease in a large number of crops, including tomatoes, peppers, flowers, corn, and vines." A switch to Fusarium would, at the least, be an escalation in the herbicide war and a tacit acknowledgment of glyphosate's failure. It could also turn out to be the A-bomb of herbicides.


Now we threaten Bolivia with the "A-bomb" of potent mutant herbicides? Because we have a drug problem?

Excuse me, but I didn't think we owned Bolivia.

I think the Drug War stinks, and I can't think of a better way to empower anti-American commies.

And now Evo Morales has risen to power from his base (pun unintended) as a leader in the opposition to the United States' coca eradication efforts.

What the hell are we trying to do, anyway? Transform a phony war into a real one? As I pointed out in a comment the other day, I don't think this nonsense will end until some libertarian idealist with nothing to gain resorts to a different sort of bioengineering.

UPDATE: More on Morales here:

DUBAI (Reuters) - Evo Morales, the winner of Bolivia's presidential election, branded U.S. President George W. Bush a "terrorist", in an interview with Arabic satellite television on Tuesday.

"The only terrorist in this world that I know of is Bush. His military intervention, such as the one in Iraq, that is state terrorism," he told Al Jazeera television.

The leftist won slightly more than half the votes cast in Bolivia's election on Sunday and is set to become the country's first indigenous president.

"There is a difference between people fighting for a cause and what terrorists do," he said in comments, which were translated into Arabic.

"Today in Bolivia and Latin America, it's no longer people that are lifting their weapons against imperialism, but it's imperialism that is lifting its weapons against people through military intervention and military bases."

Morales has alarmed the Bush administration with his opposition to its strategy in the war on drugs and his admiration for U.S. foes President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and President Fidel Castro of Cuba.

But for the damned drug war, I seriously doubt that this crackpot would have ever managed to get a majority.

Blaming other countries for America's drug appetite is like blaming bartenders or distilleries for alcoholism.

Morales (a pissed off cocalero) is no more worthy of Bolivia's presidency than a pissed off bartender would be worthy of our presidency.

(Dysfunctional behavior is so damned enabling!)

posted by Eric on 12.20.05 at 07:28 PM


America's problem with subtance abuse dates, I really do believe, from the Twenties and Thirties and our dismally-failed policy of Prohibition. We really began abusing alcohol after the onset of Prohibition, and have had a problem with it ever since. All of our ills involving halluconigenic drugs of every kind can, I do believe be traced to this wrongheaded, Nanny-State approach.

Let's again begin to tie personal behavior to the consequences of that behavior. If somebody does something bad to somebody else, then let's concentrate on THAT -- not on whatever substance that person may have abused to be goaded into such behavior. This is the only way to ensure that drug use will be curtailed.

Our glorious "war on drugs" is a sham. All it has gone it to give more power to the Nanny State. It is high time we took the power (which also means the responsibility) back for ourselves.

Lori Heine   ·  December 20, 2005 8:56 PM

Excellent comment. I agree. But of course with the War on Drugs, many more careers (involving vastly more power and money) are at stake than was the case during Prohibition.

(The corruption involved is a much more subtle variety...)

Eric Scheie   ·  December 21, 2005 9:09 AM

On the upside, "Potent Mutant Herbicides," would make a great name for a punk band.

Beck   ·  December 21, 2005 9:40 AM

I'll have to Google it and see if it's been taken....


The kids today are slow on the uptake, I guess.


Eric Scheie   ·  December 21, 2005 9:46 AM

We really began abusing alcohol after the onset of

Is this really true? Trust me, I'm no fan of Prohibition, and I believe that drugs should be decriminalized. But Prohibition was largely pushed by women who were tired of seeing their husbands drink away all the money they earned, then (often) beat them and their children. (Of course, it would have been better to give women greater economic opportunities, but I doubt this would have been politically plausible at a time when giving them the vote was still controversial.)

According to this highly informative and entertaining book on the history of caffeinated beverages, people used to drink much more alcohol than would be considered healthy or socially acceptable today, in large part because the local drinking-water supply was not always trustworthy. Coffee and tea's greater prevalence in the West reduced this somewhat (boiling water, of course, kills pathogens), but did not eliminate it. The Colonists, their children included, drank "near beer" with all meals, even breakfast.

It's well-known that anti-immigrant sentiment helped fuel Prohibitionistic sentiment. I'm guessing, however, that the burgeoning industrialization and urbanization of the U.S. early in the 20th century was another factor. As people began to work with machines, and live and work in closer proximity to many more strangers than had been the case for most of human history, it's easy to see how one's drunkenness would have a greater effect on one's neighbors and fellow workers, not to mention one's employer, than it did back on the farm.

So, in summary, people's perceptions of what constitutes "a drinking problem" change. That's still true in different cultures and subcultures.

Robin   ·  December 30, 2005 12:56 PM

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