Cato Foreign Policy Briefing No. 26 July 26, 1993

Foreign Policy Briefing

Declaring an Armistice in the
International Drug War

by Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter is director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.

Executive Summary

Although the Clinton administration shows signs of abandoning the most oppressive tactics in Washington's war on drugs, more radical policy changes are needed. The administration should immediately declare an armistice in the international phase of the drug war. The "supply-side" campaign waged by the Reagan and Bush administrations throughout Latin America was an exercise in destructive futility. Washington's "Ugly American" tactics caused horrendous social and economic problems in the drug-source countries, undermined their fragile democratic systems, and poisoned U.S. relations with those societies.

The Clinton administration should avoid the temptation to continue the hemispheric drug war in a more "humane" fashion by emphasizing crop-substitution programs instead of eradication and interdiction. Crop substitution has already been tried and has failed. Administration officials must also realize that Washington's domestic prohibitionist strategy creates the black-market premium and other perverse incentives that have enabled the illegal drug trade to become a powerful political and economic force in Latin American countries.

Full Text of Foreign Policy Brief No. 26 (HTML)

1993 The Cato Institute
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