Conclusion: A Global Approach to Solving the Drug Problem
We have seen how the international drug trade compromises the life and health of millions—ranging from a boy in a Mexican village, to poor farmers who are forced to grow drugs to survive, to poor nations that must traffic drugs to hold their debtors at bay.
We have seen how drug traffic and consumption are linked to the worldwide economic and development crisis, which is sustained by an unjust global economic order, by pervasive corruption in the strongest as well as weakest nations, and by the covert activities of the U.S. government.
We have seen a range of proposals to fight drug traffic and consumption—from cutting foreign aid, to limiting the laundering of drug money and capita] flight, to education campaigns against drug use, to restraining covert action.
However, each of these proposed solutions is only a partial answer. Fundamental to a broad and long-lasting solution is a true transformation of the world economic order, which, to be brought about will require a restructuring of the entire social framework. †
† See, for example: People-Centered Development, edited by David C. Korten and Rudi Klaus [Kumarian Press, 1984]; Rural Development: Putting the Last First and Other Writings by Robert Chambers [Longman, 1983]; and Another Development [Uppsala, Sweden, 1977] and supporting documents by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation.
We have made our planet smaller and less safe. The time bomb that our world leaders have set is ticking faster. There is no longer space or time to indulge in partial, self-centered, or nationalistic answers to our escalating global problems. The ecological threads that bind our planet together bind us all. It is time to rethink our underlying philosophies and separatist ideologies, and to look for new attitudes, and new policies that will help solve all our global problems. We need policies that can benefit everyone—especially those in greatest need—not just ‘us’. It is time for all people who have any human vision and sense of fairness to put aside less urgent concerns and to begin organizing others to transform, step by step, our social, economic, and governmental structures. We must find and support new leaders who are more interested in preserving humanity than in buttressing their personal or national sovereignty.
“You must be dreaming,” I can hear my readers saying. True. But if enough of us begin to dream and to share our dream and to act on it, maybe we can alter the selfish madness that governs the world today, and allow our race and our planet not only to survive, but to improve the quality of life. It is, at least, a dream worth dreaming.
A more short-term answer (or at least a good start) would be to absolve developing countries of their foreign debt perhaps with an agreement that drug production be brought under control. But wouldn’t that bring about the collapse, or at least severely disable many major U.S. and international banks?
Not necessarily. Some of the biggest U.S. banks, led by Citicorp and followed by Bank of America, have already taken the first step toward accepting the inevitable default on their foreign loans to poor countries by substantially increasing their reserves. Other banks are following suit.(55, 56) It would not be too big an additional leap for the banking community to admit its error in encouraging poor countries to run up such devastating debts in the first place, and to completely absolve those countries from their debt.
Such a sensible, humane, and radical solution is unlikely (after all, banks are not churches) unless the U.S. government, or a coalition of rich countries' governments, agrees to underwrite all the poor countries' foreign debts, and pay off the banks (presumably over a number of years).
However, the U.S. government already has a national debt of nearly $I trillion, the biggest in the world. Congress is hunting for ways to reduce the debt without any more cutbacks on public services. Where would that kind of money come from?
Again, the answer is so obvious and sensible that it is almost unthinkable. Cut military spending. Drastically! Take up the Soviets on their offer of bilateral disarmament. Invite the Soviet Union to match the U.S. in massive cutback on military spending. But do not wait for the Soviets to agree. Set the example and win worldwide support. Surely the perils of unilateral nuclear disarmament do not equal the perils of bilateral nuclear war.
From the monies saved by reduction of military spending, the devastating drug-traffic-promoting foreign debts of poor countries could be absolved with no one hurting economically—no one, that is, except the drug racketeers and military arms industrialists (who unfortunately have a very strong lobby particularly in the Reagan administration). The thousands of workers who would lose their jobs through cutbacks on military spending could, perhaps, be re-employed in anti-pollution and reforestation projects, in research and development of ecologically sound alternatives to nuclear power, and in badly needed human services. †
All this, of course, is not likely to happen—or at least not before we suffer a cataclysmic world catastrophe and the survivors (if any) are forced to rethink." † † But the solution is so obvious—and in the long run, so inevitable—that at least it merits exposing and re-exposing the idea to all congress members, world leaders, and world citizens.
If we don’t act soon, what will remain?
† A United Nations commission that has analyzed the world’s biggest problems makes similar recommendations. The World Commission on Environment and Development reported on April 27, 1987 that “the world is facing an ‘interlocking’ crisis of the environment and the economy that threatens the future of humanity” (57)
According to the report (as documented in the San Francisco Chronicle), “the recent famine in Africa illustrates the ways economics and ecology can interact destructively and trip into disaster …. Triggered by drought, its real causes lie deeper. Their roots extend to a global economic system that takes more out of a poor continent than it puts in.
Debts they cannot pay force African nations relying on commodity sales to overuse their fragile soils, thus turning good land to desert. Trade barriers in wealthy nations …make it hard for African nations to sell their goods for reasonable returns, putting yet more pressure on ecological systems. Aid from donor nations… too often has reflected the priorities of the nations giving the aid, rather than the needs of the recipients.
The report contends that global military expenditures, now about $1 trillion a year, use resources that might be employed “more productively to diminish the security threats created by environmental conflict and the resentments that are fueled by widespread poverty.” (57)
† † Clearly, the Reagan administration is unwilling even to consider these issues, as it boycotted a three-week-long United Nations conference on disarmament and economic development, which began on August 24 1987. The U.S. State Department declared, “we are not participating because we believe disarmament and development are not issues which should be considered interrelated…” 128 Nations attended the conference. The U.S. was the only country to boycott it. (58)