Wage war on everything? Expect casualties everywhere. And refugees from all over the place.
Continue the wars we admit to be un-winnable and never-ending? Then expect, also, to find new victims cropping up all the time, and in unpredictable corners.
New enemies, too.
The lesson is: choose your wars carefully.
The result of not doing that? The current border crisis: Refugees from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Under-age refugees. Children. Unaccompanied minors from the most recent high impact area of America’s insane “War on Drugs.”
Can this really be relevant? Yes.
For most of us in America, the War on Drugs may seem like yet another over-hyped social crusade. But for the lower-income folks upon whom the bulk of its weight falls, it is anything but dismissible.
It has real casualties. Lost lives. Lost homes. Lost hope.
The spectacular failure of the War on Drugs is well known — though few grasp its gasp-inducing extent. The war’s goal may once have been preventing drug use, but that cannot be done by making prices lower, as has actually happened in many controlled substances. Human ingenuity being what it is, and the porous border with Mexico being what it is, foreign- produced illegal drugs continue to hit the black markets in our states. The War on Drugs has not only not stopped the flow of drugs, it has increased
- the potency of drugs here at home,
- the accessibility to those drugs,
- the violence required to develop and market the drugs (especially south of our border), and thus
- the political and legal instability not only of Mexico but countries even further south.
Hence the high murder rates in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador. And hence the urgency and desperation of parents who yearn to send their children northwards. To “freedom” — or at least a slightly better chance at a life.
When Salon wrote on this angle — seeing these children as refugees from the highest murder area in the world, and that murder rate a result of a never-ending turf war amongst drug lords — the lefty site gloried with a Tweet: “A history lesson that you’ll never see on Fox News: How the U.S. created Central America’s crisis”. . . .
It wasn’t much of a history — it was more a rambling tendentious mess — but what made sense was the part the author thought too obvious “to waste more than a couple of sentences on” — the drug war element.
That is, the part that was covered on Fox Business, courtesy of “The Independents.”
Many on the left have pointed out the causal connection between drug prohibitionism and today’s detained-but-not-deported children refugees. Robert Reich tried to score cheap points by extending the critique as widely and wildly as possible. Yes, it was all about the drug war. But the debate wasn’t a matter of left and right, Reich claims, but between the big-hearted and the haters: “The haters direct their venom not just at child refugees seeking asylum from the drug war we created, but also at gays who want to marry, African-Americans who want to vote and exercise their other rights of citizenship, women who seek abortions, or even women in general. . . .” He went on in the usual fashion. He didn’t explain how extending welfare benefits to any and all who raise their hands at the border would help in his ongoing crusade to reduce American (rather than world) inequality.
Even Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose could carry only a small menagerie in his antlers. A whole forest of freeloaders? Beyond his ability. He ended up shedding them all.
Think of the Thidwick story as Dr. Seuss’s Atlas Shrugged. Besides, it’s short enough even for Reich to read.
I started last week with Bill Maher, who came out swinging for this Drug War theory of the border crisis. In my Common Sense e-letter, I expressed some . . . surprise. Though I’ve been against the War on Drugs for a long time — it is the leading cause of the breakdown of the rule of law in America, and thus one of the greatest threats to what’s left of our republic — sometimes even critics of the drug war lose track of how widespread its ill effects are. But if Maher’s snarky assertions didn’t sit so well with me, I was moved by actual evidence and reasonable argumentation. Not from Maher, but from the folks at Cato Institute.
“As the Mexican government stepped up its attacks on the cartels, drug kingpins began moving many of their operations into Central America as early as 2008,” explained Cato’s Ted Galen Carpenter in early July. “Such geographic displacement is a recurring problem with the prohibitionist strategy directed against illegal drugs. Since the drug trade is illegal, its practice in the black market is enormously profitable, and traffickers go to great lengths to maintain their power and market share. Whenever pressure mounts in one arena, they simply relocate to another jurisdiction where the risks and problems are, at least temporarily, less imposing.”
No mystery here. The War on Drugs has devastated wherever it reaches, whether in the war-torn streets of the cities of the Northern Triangle of Central America or our war-torn streets of Detroit, Chicago, and Baltimore.
And though we call the resistance to U.S. anti-cartel efforts “gangland” and “drug lord” violence, these warring groups are, in a real sense, competing states, if chaotic ones. Historically, most states don’t arise out of a compact, as in America in 1776. In ancient times, the origin of the State was in violent conquest, with plunder and monopoly-seeking the perennial goal. Territory was the prize way back when. It remains the prize today. And, as Barack Obama has said, government is simply the monopoly on legitimized violence. In some places in Central America — and in our country — the drug dealers are the government.
In the context of this continuing violence, it is amazing to see so little effort to suppress the gang violence in America’s top cities. It is even more amazing to see so little concern expressed over the continual bad results of America’s drug war. It’s almost as if our government, today, is not really interested in governing — protecting our rights by suppressing crime and establishing peace. Folks in our government seem more interested in keeping their own schemes going than in putting a halt to violence in the drug war zones.
Actually doing the work government is supposed to do?
Perhaps folks in our government know something. They know that government doesn’t really work. Not the way they do it, anyway.
But if you are interested in the art of inconsistency, witness those on the left blaming the War on Drugs for the current refugee crisis. In normal times, you can hear barely a peep out of them on the subject. But now you can hear their eloquent lectures on unintended consequences.
Anything to distract us from Obama’s border failures, I guess.
Conservatives, meanwhile, prefer hitting one note over and over: build a wall, build a fence, and send down the National Guard. But then conservatives, at least since the beginning of the Cold War, have tended to pooh-pooh “unintended consequences” talk about statecraft and warcraft. Apparently, that kind of logic applies only to policy areas like markets, taxes, and regulations.
Apply this logic of complexity to conflict? Where’s the fun in that?
Besides, once you recognize the eternal applicability of the law of unintended consequences, you realize that war doesn’t solve intractable problems any easier than other big government programs do.
Some day, both the left and the right will wipe their eyes and see the truth: the case against crude interventions in others’ affairs — whether in business or in violence — cannot help but rub up against some of their favorite “wars.” Foreign and domestic.
Meanwhile, the War on Drugs rolls on . . . to the tune of “Let Me Roll It”?
Maybe it persists courtesy of inertia more than anything else. Whatever the reason, the casualties and refugees mount up. And our leaders continue not to lead. Or ’fess up to their failures.
Kudos to Glenn Beck, though. At least help the kids while they are here.
July 20, 2014
This column first appeared at Townhall.com.