Patt Morrison for April 16, 2010

Drug-fueled foreign policy: how narcotics battles shape American diplomacy

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Raul Aboleda/AFP/Getty Images

As the drug war in Mexico rages on, the United States continues to make foreign policy decisions based on the conflict.

From the streets of Ciudad Juarez to the poppy fields of Afghanistan, one of the biggest factors driving the foreign policy of the United States is illegal narcotics, from where it’s grown to how it’s transported and who is profiting from its eventual sale. In Afghanistan, 2009 was yet another record year in the production of poppies, which are turned into heroin and opium and help to fund the Taliban’s insurgency—there are rampant rumors of Afghan government officials who also profit off the heroin trade, while various interdiction efforts on the part of U.S. forces have failed to make a dent in the amount of poppies being grown. Closer to home, Mexico continues to battle aggressive drug cartels and in a perverse irony, both the Mexican government and the cartels themselves are deeply dependent on the United States; the former on U.S. law enforcement aid, the latter on American guns and drug users. How are drug wars fueling America’s foreign policy?


William McGlynn, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs

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