Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Soft-pedaling George Shultz and the drug war

I've been meaning to get to this piece by the WSJ's Mary Anastasia O'Grady for some time. I'm not sure whether to be amused, dismayed or encouraged. She interviewed George Shultz, Reagan's Secretary of State, a longtime Hoover fellow and now co-chair of something called the North American Forum. Much of the column discussed the problem of violence in Mexico related to Mexican president Calderon's decisions to take the drug-war rhetoric seriously and use the military to make war on the cartels. Mary introduces Shultz's perspective:

"He has long harbored skepticism about interdiction as a solution to drug abuse in the U.S."

"Long harbored skepticism about interdiction"???!!! He has been on the record for about 20 years as opposing the drug war -- all of it, including heroin and the hard drugs -- as staunchly as Milton Friedman did (I'm sure Milton influenced him, as he did almost everyone he had even a passing acquaintance with). The drug war has failed because it tried to repeal the laws of supply and demand. It's time to end it -- perhaps gradually, accompanied by honest dissuasives about the dangers of certain drugs -- but with its utter elimination as the goal. I quizzed Shultz about some of these issues when I spent my week as a Hoover media fellow. And surely Mary Anastasia O'Grady knows this.

Yet newspaper opinion pages have their cultures, and I suspect the Journal's is not quite ready for a full-fledged denunciation of the drug war by one of their own -- a guest column, perhaps, "balanced" by a screed from a drug warrior, but not by one of their own. The tender eyes of Journal readers are presumably only ready for gentle hints regarding "skepticism about interdiction," not for being reminded that the sainted President Reagan's trusted Secretary of State, one of Reaganite conservatism's revered Wise Men, would end the drug war tomorrow (or at least institute liberalizations leading to that end.

Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if Mary herself is as ready to end the drug war as any rabid libertarian, but is trying to introduce the idea indirectly and obliquely, doing as much as the Journal will let her get way with. I don't know this, but I wouldn't be surprised.

The culture is shifting on this issue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The "war on drugs" is a travesty. One of the greatest tragedies the American government has ever inflicted upon its citizenry. It has made millions of citizens into "criminals" and corrupted law enforcement. It has brutalized the criminal-justice system amd given America the largest prison population on earth. It makes the equally futile and misguided "war on alcohol" in the 1920's look tame by comparison. Will we never learn?