Thursday, May 24, 2007


[posted by Callimachus]

That's the neologism of the day: the kind of gaudy, tacky mansions erected by drug lords who get flush with cash, whether in Miami or Afghanistan.

Check out that slide show. The good stuff starts about halfway through. What was it Little Richard said after touring Ike Turner's mansion? "Man, I didn't know you could spend a million dollars at Woolworth's." Something like that.

Courtesy of Registan, which approaches the situation with a mix of realism and optimism, and comes out about where I do: You don't have to fight the drug production and the Islamists all at once; you certainly shouldn't fight them both with the same tactics and armies, and in fact a little toleration of the former, in the right places, can help you win against the latter:

Outside the major enforcement zones, which just happen to be in the south—Uruzgan, Helmand, Kandahar, Zabol—opium is weirdly good for the local economy: like any other cash crop, it creates a new class of consumers, which can then drive demand and spark economic development. ... In other words, the opium problem isn’t quite as dire as it’s made out to be, apart from the areas of heavy fighting. While the other effects it has on the government—endemic corruption, mafia-style rule, unfortunate links to the strange new international blackmarket market/terrorism nexus—are there, they are much easier to deal with than the constant fighting, and don’t result in randomized, high-casualty violence.

So it is the Taliban, then, that need the greatest attention for eradication—not opium. By focusing so much on the drug trade, especially with such limited resources, we are shooting ourselves in the foot.