The September 14, 2009 issue of Time magazine in “The World” section1, Point 6, refers to a U.N. report that calls the NATO “campaign to eradicate opium crops a ‘failure.’ Afghanistan produces the raw opium for more than 90% of the world’s heroin.”
The fact that the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the other powerful industrialized nations cannot find a way to “eradicate” the crop of death that kills the youth of their countries is outrageous. The United Nations estimated in 2004 that at least 100,000 deaths worldwide were related to Afghan heroin.2 Clearly, trying to “eradicate” the crops has failed, continues to fail and is likely to be a failed policy for the foreseeable future.
It is time for a bold solution. It is time to stop heroin from “eradicating” our young people. If a policy is a tragic failure, applying more of the same is no different than an addiction. The world must face the fact that it is addicted to defeat if it continues to do the same thing and to expect a different outcome.
Destroying the crops of the Afghan farmers is not the way to win over a country. When people are forcibly impoverished, they are not favorably disposed to their oppressors. So President Obama, Prime Minister Brown, Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy and leaders of the other great and wealthy nations, it is time to do what you really know how to do. It is time to use your economic muscle and corner the opium market at its source.
Why can’t the G8 come together with a fund to buy the opium in Afghanistan directly from the farmers and pay the highest price in the world? Money talks and private enterprise cannot compete with governments when they want to achieve a collective economic outcome. It is time to destroy the private market that supports the production of opium. It is time to corner the market, collect the opium in one place and then BURN IT or turn it into morphine and distribute it free of charge through the World Health Organization to hospitals around the planet. Think of this as a farm subsidy program with huge humanitarian benefits. Let the Afghan farmers grow opium poppies, but for only one customer. And, put those farmers who try to sell their crop on the black market out of business.
In one swift step, 90% of the world’s opium supply could be “eradicated” without destroying the local agricultural economy of the Afghan farmer.
Now some would argue that paying high prices would only stoke the Taliban’s ability to buy weapons and wage terror. A valid concern, but one that is not without straightforward solutions. The G8 leaders could work with the Afghan government to protect the farmers’ incomes without making the cash available to the insurgents - a political problem that requires a political solution. Or, a voucher system could be established and administered by an international bank willing to open branches around the Afghan countryside. Think Chase and Citibank and picture Jamie Dimon building ATM’s in every Afghan town and village programmed to dispense special government IOU’s redeemable for food, clothing and agricultural/farming supplies. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger and the scrip that was issued this year by California when it ran out of cash. Nothing defeats an insurgency faster and more effectively than individual prosperity and, if the Taliban cannot trade opium for money and money for weapons, the balance of power in Afghanistan will shift. It is hard to imagine that an Iranian arms dealer will be satisfied with payment in Afghan scrip redeemable only in Afghanistan and only for the necessities of life.
Whatever the solution, there must be a solution! It is time to stop retreading the failed policies of the past and to implement a bold, effect course of action. It is time to do what the great capitalist countries are so good at doing - corner the market, eliminate the competition, destroy the commodity - and in the process save our youth. By permitting the opium trade to flourish, the G8 is turning a blind eye to the Heroin Genocide and the tragic loss of 100,000 lives every year. And that is just not acceptable any longer.