IISS scholars: End the war on drugs
Singapore – The official events of the 2012 Shangri-la Security Dialogue have yet to begin, but in the meantime, scholars from the hosting International Institute for Strategic Studies have a message for the crowd here in Singapore: End the war on drugs. That’s the main message of the new book entitled, "Drugs, Insecurity and Failed ...
Singapore - The official events of the 2012 Shangri-la Security Dialogue have yet to begin, but in the meantime, scholars from the hosting International Institute for Strategic Studies have a message for the crowd here in Singapore: End the war on drugs.
Singapore – The official events of the 2012 Shangri-la Security Dialogue have yet to begin, but in the meantime, scholars from the hosting International Institute for Strategic Studies have a message for the crowd here in Singapore: End the war on drugs.
That’s the main message of the new book entitled, "Drugs, Insecurity and Failed States: the Problems of Prohibition," written by IISS experts Nigel Inkster and Virginia Comolli and launched here in Singapore today. Inkster held a press conference to talk about the project and told the assembled crowd of experts, officials, and reporters that the world’s prohibition regime regarding narcotics is perpetuating violence in some of the world’s most unstable regions.
"The policies that have been pursued in prohibition for the last over 100 years have not really delivered the results that were expected," he said. "We need to reframe this problem not as a problem that can be solved – this idea of a ‘drug free world’ – but as a situation that can be managed in a way that creates minimal collateral damage."
He offered some suggestions about how states can reduce the criminality, violence and instability that the current world drug policy endures. States can ensure safe and ready access to legal drugs, reducing the demand for illegal drugs used for medical purposes, for example. Also, countries could alter the handling of drug abuse from a focus on penalization to an approach that treats drug addiction as a public health issue.
"Medical rehabilitation is not just the most effective but also the cheapest way of dealing with drugs misuse," Inkster said.
Legalization of narcotics wouldn’t eliminate organized crime, but would significantly reduce low level crime, as the street trade in drugs would fade. Many argue that legalization would increase drug use, but Inkster said, "The honest answer is, we don’t know."
He referenced the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Columbia in April, where several Latin American leaders advocated for a degree of decriminalization or legalization of drugs but ran into stiff opposition from the United States.
"We are critical of the U.S. policy, particularly the focus on the supply side with the virtual disregard of anything else," Inkster said. "The correctional lobby in the United states also has a powerful interest in incarcerating as many Americans as possible."
Meanwhile, drug producing states pay the heaviest price due to the illicit drug trade, Inkster said. Earlier this week, he wrote about the drug trade in Afghanistan in an article for Foreign Policy, in which he outlined the ineffectiveness of the international community’s decade
"Accounting for between one-quarter and one-third of the national economy, it is an integral part of the insecurity blighting Afghan life for the past 30 years," he wrote. "Debate may continue for years as to whether the Western intervention in Afghanistan has made the world safer or more insecure in the post-9/11 era. But it has not only done nothing to reduce global supplies of illicit opium; rather, it has made the problem worse."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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