Highlighting mission failure: the Opium Metric

Three stories on opium in Afghanistan and Iraq.

First up is a post from Henry Bowles @ Foreign Policy.com on kids toking up, and getting toked, in Afghanistan.

Even more disturbing is the fact that, according to the United Nations, some 600,000 of those addicts are under 15. In some areas of the country, giving opium to children is a common method of treating insomnia, bad behavior, and “ADD”-like symptoms.

From an Al-Jazeera report: “Zarbibi routinely blows opium into [her three year old son’s] face to keep him quiet. It is the only way she knows how to free herself so that she can work.”

Second is Nykrindc who notes Iraqi farmers are turning to the cash crop. The likely beneficiary: Shi’a militants.

Third is Peter Marton, of the State Failure Blog, who suggests forced poppy eradication may not be as helpful as we think. Instead, infrastructure and opportunities should be created to provide alternatives to switch to instead of the blinding halt without replacement income options.

3 thoughts on “Highlighting mission failure: the Opium Metric

  1. There was an article in Boston Globe (later appeared in the IHT) by Robert I. Rotberg that talked about the failure of poppy eradication. I blogged on it here last year. In that piece Rotberg called for a Reverse Farm Subsidization like scheme whereby the US and Europe entered into 5-10 year agreement to purchase Afghan wheat at triple world market prices, thereby giving Afghans a very good incentive to move back from poppy cultivation to wheat. The idea for the program came from a program sponsored by the US called “Alternative Livelihoods,” in which the US provided Afghans with “free wheat seed, fertilizer, and engages in the construction of new roads to help farmers bring their products to market.”Okay, that’s it. I have to run now. Busy week. I saw your post and Dan’s response, unfortunately I won’t be able to get to it until the end of this week or beginning of next.

  2. I still don’t understand the US government’s obsession with supply-side drug enforcement despite decades of complete failure.If it were up to me, I’d buy the opium crop to keep the money out of the hands of the insurgents – those who refused to sell would get their crops eradicated instead. Then, I’d implement a transition plan for subsidized crops, similar to what nykrindc posted.
    Oh, if I could only be an enlightened despot!

  3. I like Rotberg’s ideas for developing economies and think he should be more involved in IMF strategy (I have some thoughts on IMF/WB on this subject I’ll eventually post).NPP: I think you’re on to something that speaks to where to effectively spend out money. Which is cheaper? Spending $12m for a wall, for example, or $1m to truly buy the hearts and minds of farmers trying to eek out a living? And then spend $500k on training and education and ag improvements, etc.

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