Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin keeps poppin’ off!

Poppy harvest is approaching, and it’s eradication time in southern Afghanistan! This is as good a time as any to look back on the debate I have been having with (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) and the US Government over the relationship of the drug economy to poverty and counter-narcotics strategy.

Basically, what my man has been saying is, our anti-poppy efforts in Afghanistan have done more harm than good. (One might say our anti-poppy policies are poopy.) The people in charge of those
poopy anti-poppy policies have not taken kindly to Rubin’s cristicisms:

The experience has been quite frustrating. I am sure that I am wrong about some things. I would welcome debate on the points that we raised. But instead the responses have consisted of combinations of: creating easy targets (“straw men”) by distorting arguments in our report and elsewhere into ridiculous caricatures, and then refuting these distortions; repeating dogmatic formulae without engaging or acknowledging the arguments against the way that these dogmatic formulae are being applied; and changing the subject by asserting obvious facts as if these facts refuted other arguments. . .

There is evidence that our counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan are alienating and further impoverishing the very people whose sympathy and support we need.

Huh? Why would we do that?

The real argument in this case is that the struggle against terrorism takes priority over the welfare (or lives) of poor Afghan farmers. That is not an empirical proposition but a political one — but one that those in power prefer not to articulate. On strictly empirical grounds, this political position is self-defeating. Without gaining the support of the poor majority of Afghanistan for a government integrated into the international system, we will never be able to secure the country and region against al-Qaida and its offshoots.

(My emphasis.)

Read the whole essay here.

(I know, I know: Why am I posting about our self-defeating counter-narcotics strategy in Afghanistan, when the issue was covered so thoroughly in last night’s debate? I don’t know. . . I guess I just
like being redundant.)