Fact: the war on drugs has priority over immigration issues in current U.S. – Mexico relations. I think that the main issue here is how to address the problem in a successful way, preferably right before the Mexican state collapses. It seems that the administration of President Calderon has a very clear idea of what to do: keep the war going. This is, apply the police rationality of good guys versus bad guys. The Mexican state is assuming that the war cannot be lost because it’s the Mexican state the one that is fighting a war against a non-state entity: several drug cartels. Last week, Mexico had its first Army General killed in this war. Attacking fire with fire seems the best way to go under this perspective.
On the American side, several opinions float around intellectual-liberal circles. First, we have the ones who say that the way to go is exactly the way things have gone throughout the last 25 years: try to attack the supply side of the problem with military assistance and (a lot of) money. The critics of this conservative position assert that taking the same action over and over, while expecting a different outcome each time, is the definition of insanity. Then we have the ones who assert that the real problem is the flow of money: The U.S. government now feeds a huge Money Monster that has created a huge war infrastructure and interests that cannot be rescinded in just one or two years. Moreover, these U.S. expenses are transmitted directly to the price of the drug by the cartels: the price of the drug in the street covers not only the production and transportation costs in clandestine operations through several international borders, but also the cost of an open war. The demand for drugs pays for every single nickel that the U.S. government spends on the war on drugs. It is a never ending story, regardless of how much the U.S. expends in the effort.
Then we have the usual suspects, the culturalists. They say basically two things: drugs are already a strong component of American culture and maybe the time to legalize drugs has arrived (talking about change). The last three American Presidents have admitted in one way or another that they have done drugs or have had addiction problems. “That 70's Show” and other entertaining programs present the funny face of drug use. The culturalists ask: who hasn’t done drugs in the U.S.? (excl. Utah, of course) The current media debate about Mike Phelps smoking marihuana in the internet is not about what this guy can do to help other young addicts to deal with addiction issues, but it focuses more on what sponsors will (or will not) pull out their multimillion contracts with the super athlete. The use of drugs by a sport icon or a politician or the regular Joe or Jane is not an issue anymore. The problem has been assimilated already into the fabrics of the American society.
Under this perspective, the questions are: why ban it when you can tax it? Morally speaking, what is the difference between getting intoxicated with alcohol and getting high with whatever people get high with? What is the rationality of taxing an addictive substance and then spending the same money trying to prohibit the consumption of another addictive substance without addressing the roots of the problem: obsesive-compulsive behavior? In this struggle, it seems that the best strategy is education. You tax the consumption of drugs and with that money you educate people about the problem. (sounds to goood...)
In the meantime, you just try to light a cigar in a restaurant in California and an angry mob will kick the smoke out of your neck. Such mob, even if sometimes is a very ugly mob, it is an educated mob. They know that second-hand smoking kills. Now, is California's education the same than, let's say... Nebraska's or Alaska's? Do we have to deal with 50 different ways of "educational thinking" about the problem before trying to do anything serious at a national level?
If you ask me what do I think about all this… Well, I have no opinion. I certainly prefer to deal with immigration issues.
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