The Great Debate UK

Declare victory in the War on Drugs – then run like hell


By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.

Wherever you look – radio and TV, novels, internet – history is all the rage these days. Perhaps a large part of the appeal is the nice warm feeling it gives us of being able to look down on the sheer madness and heartless cruelty of our own ancestors. What did they think they were doing back in the 16th century burning witches? Or 300 years later, locking up poor young girls for getting pregnant? Or sending men to jail simply for being homosexuals, as we did until the 1950s ?

History may seem to be nothing but a catalogue of human folly, but have you ever asked yourself what features of contemporary life will have our own descendants scratching their heads and asking themselves: how could they – meaning us, today – be so crazy?

My guess is that the feature of modern life that future generations will find hardest to understand will be our attitude to narcotics. The War on Drugs will look to them as mad as the Salem witch trials do to us today.

Of course, narcotics are mostly bad for you – in some cases, very bad indeed (though the authorities have been rather keen to exaggerate the risks, in some cases quite grotesquely). But then cigarettes are also very bad news, as we all know, and alcohol abuse does a lot of damage (more through its effect on people’s behaviour than anything it does to their internal organs), and under the kitchen sink there are bottles of stuff which could give you a serious high and an even more serious health problem. Yet cigarettes, alcohol, cleaning fluids and glue are not classed as illegal substances. Why does sanity prevail in these cases, but not for narcotics? After all, common sense tells us that we can’t ban something simply on the grounds that it is bad for our health – that is why we haven’t yet made deep-fried Mars bars or turkey twizzlers illegal – but what we call “drugs” are, for some reason, treated differently.

from The Great Debate:

Is Burma the next Mexico?

By Federico Varese
The opinions expressed are his own.

Hillary Clinton had many "hard issues" to tackle during her recent visit to Myanmar. Yet there was no mention of one of the most, if not the most, difficult issue Burma faces: their lucrative drug trade.

Northern Burma is the home of the “Golden Triangle,” a hub for opium production and the location of hundreds of heroin and amphetamine refineries. So how do political leaders and the international community plan to tackle this problem in the event that Burma truly becomes  a democratic country?

from Davos Notebook:

Will Goldman’s new BRICwork stand up?

RTXWLHHJim O'Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the term BRICs back in 2001, is adding four new countries to the elite club of emerging market economies. But does his new edifice have the same solid foundations?

In future, the BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, China and India will be merged with those of Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and South Korea under the banner “growth markets,” O'Neill told the Financial Times.

from The Great Debate:

Pakistan, Mexico and U.S. nightmares

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

What do Pakistan and Mexico have in common? They figure in the nightmares of U.S. military planners trying to peer into the future and identify the next big threats.

from The Great Debate:

New messenger, same mandate

Kevin P. Gallagher-- Kevin P. Gallagher is professor of international relations at Boston University and co-author of “The Enclave Economy: Foreign Investment and Sustainable Development in Mexico’s Silicon Valley” and “Putting Development First: The Importance of Policy Space at the WTO." The opinions expressed are his own. --

On the campaign trail, President-elect Barack Obama pledged to rethink U.S. trade policy.   The initial nomination of Xavier Becerra as United States Trade Representative was a signal that Obama will work to fulfill that promise. Congressman Becerra declined the offer and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk has been chosen to head the office instead.  Given Kirk’s enthusiastic support for NAFTA, he will receive close scrutiny as he takes over a USTR that has the mandate of rethinking U.S. trade policy.

from The Great Debate:

American guns and the war next door

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Last year, around 2,500 Mexicans died in the twin wars drug cartels are waging against each other and against the Mexican state, using weapons smuggled in from the United States. In the first 11 months of this year, the death toll was 5,367, according to the Mexican attorney general. Next year?