Thursday, January 17, 2008

Drugs and weak states

B.J. at Northman's Fury is riffing off the same article as Libby in the expansion of opium production to central and southern Iraq. He makes a very good counter-insurgency point and the weakness of the state:

This will likely have some significant impact on the overall situation in Iraq, because that shiny counterinsurgency manual the Americans are so impressed with tends to get tossed out the window when the drug warriors get involved.

More to the point, whatever success the "surge" has had, it is more a measure of the Americans giving local warlords and militias control over their fiefdoms.....

So the US now gets to decide whether or not they wish to hold onto the fragile security gains the empowerment of these militias have given them while watching Iraqi opium production bloom forth....

The deals that the US has cut with the Sadrist ceasefire and the Sunni Arab tribal leadership and levies that have led to a decrease in violence have been at the expense of the concept of a strong, unified central Iraqi government. The Sunni Arab tribes have re-asserted their authority on local economic arrangements and their integration with the gray and black markets of the region and the world.

One of the central themes of both John Robb and Thomas Barnett is illicit and black market networks thrive in areas of weak to no state control. Hard, naturally derived, drugs are some of the most common markers of weak state control, as we know that Columbia has a minimal writ of legitimacy in the cocaine regimes, and Afghanistan has been beset by weak governments for my entire life and then some, and the former French Indochina opium triangle had minimal state influence for multiple generations. Are there any significant cocaine/opium producing regions that exist with reasonably strong governments?

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