Thursday, January 25, 2007

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

It's poppy eradication time again in Afghanistan, the time right after Afghan winter when Kabul, the UN, Washington and NATO toss around ideas for wiping out Afghan poppy fields.

There's no question that getting rid of poppies and the opium produced from them is a good thing - if you're not going to buy the stuff to answer the demand for legitimate, opiate medicines. If we don't buy it, our addicts will buy it on our streets.

US Drug Czar, John Walters, thought he had a deal with president Karzai to permit spraying. Kabul now says no. The Afghan goverment wants the West to provide tractors so it can simply plough the poppy fields under. Nobody's quite sure what to do or even what will be done.

Despite all the babble, what never seems to cross their lips is how to put an alternative economy in place to allow the locals to support their families without growing poppies. Why is that not the first priority? It seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?

The alternative economy idea doesn't work because it cannot be a first priority. Before you can even hope to establish an alternative economy, you have to give the farmers genuine security - from the Taliban, from the drug lords, even from the police and their own government. That's the first objective, the alternative economy is second, getting rid of the poppies is third.

Campaigning against the poppies as we have done is an admission of failure in the first two objectives, the prerequisites. We can't give them security so we can't create an alternative economy so we'll complete the vise we've left them in by trying to wipe out their livelihood.

The drug czars of the US and UN have repeatedly shown that they couldn't care less about the repercussions of eradicating Afghan's poppy fields. They consider the consequences to be someone else's problems.

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