Drug Policy as Foreign Policy

August 9, 2007

I have semi-libertarian views on drug policy. This is not because of any particular lifestyle choice; I have had occasion to experiment with only one fairly minor substance and didn’t really like it. Rather, I see the War on Drugs as perhaps the most egregious example of government waste and misplaced priorities in my lifetime. Well, maybe excepting Iraq, but you get the idea.

One trend I have always found intriguing among those who share my views on drug policy is the links to foreign policy. Today, Dan Drezner points to a William Buiter op-ed in the Financial Times arguing that drug legalization would create massive foreign policy benefits. What sort of benefits, you ask?

While I was scanning the web today, I also noticed this Newsday piece about immigration. The author is trying to make a fairly standard argument for border security as a method of preventing terrorism. I think it’s a little hyperbolic, but I don’t entirely disagree either. Anyway, that’s beside the point. Here’s the part I’m after:

The DEA document, written and stamped “secret” in 2005, continues with these ominous words: “It is very likely that any future ‘September 11’ type of terrorist event in the United States may be facilitated, wittingly or unwittingly, by drug traffickers operating on both sides of the United States-Mexico border.”

So drug traffickers also associate with terrorists? Well, of course they do. They operate in a lawless, stateless black market. In fact, anti-drug commercials have famously played on this assumption, arguing that we shouldn’t smoke marijuana because it helps fund terror. I would argue that is the right fact and the wrong conclusion; rather, shouldn’t we perhaps bring drugs into the regular economy and dry up the resources of the traffickers?