On the Newsstand: Fall 2009
The Fog of War: Drug Policy in America

Drug Incarcerations, Fighting Drug Cartels, and Michael Dukakis

Covers

Fall 2009

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Fog of War Volume 36, Number 3, Fall 2009 Letter from the Editor Front Section Bursting at the Seams IAN MERRIFIELD Drug incarcerations, prison overcrowding, and community corrections Escaping the Poppy Field IVANA DJAK, NEIL PATEL American anti-opium efforts in Afghanistan The Source of the Problem ANGELA PRIMBAS Confronting prescription drug abuse Decriminalization in Massachusetts MATTHEW S. MILLER, KATHERINE LEE ... Read More

Fog of War: America’s Drug Policy

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Critics have long derided America’s “War on Drugs” as a mistaken moniker. Anti-drug policy, they argue, has no defined mission, no coordinated enemy, and no path to victory. In the Clinton administration, drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey attempted to jettison the phrase, in part because of the public’s impression that the government had lost the war. John Walters, Bush’s drug ... Read More

Let Us Now Praise Famous Losers

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Life after losing the Presidency Among the flurry of political maneuvering and intrigue surrounding the vacancy of Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat came the interesting proposition that a suitable placeholder might have been found in 75-year-old Michael Dukakis, a man The Boston Globe assured had “put his political ambitions behind him.”  What seemed strange about this idea is not that Dukakis ... Read More

Reassessing Plan Colombia

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Turning from the coca fields to the cocaine market While anti-drug policy rarely makes headlines in American politics today, the issue dominates politics in Colombia. The South American country is a hotbed for cultivation of the coca plant, the key ingredient in cocaine production. As of 2007, the Office of National Drug Policy reported that 167,000 hectares of the country’s ... Read More

Escaping the Poppy Field

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American anti-opium efforts in Afghanistan Afghanistan’s war-devastated economy has one booming sector ­- the country produces 90 percent of the world’s opium. Money from this trade funds insurgents and terrorists, and encourages corrupt government officials to undermine security and the rule of law. Nevertheless, for decades U.S. policy towards Afghanistan failed to acknowledge the impact of opium. But in a ... Read More

Quelling Qualms

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A look at marijuana decriminalization in Massachusetts On Nov. 4, 2008, Massachusetts became the twelfth state to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Known as the Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative, Proposition 2 was passed by a sweeping 65-35 margin, a more decisive showing than even Barack Obama in the famously blue state. The widely used drug ... Read More

Fights over Federalism

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  States gaining voice on drug laws When Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” in June 1971, he had little idea that he was also engaging Washington in a war with the states. In the decades since, the federal government has frequently asserted its primacy over the states on drug laws, despite the opposition of states-rights proponents. California began ... Read More

The Taboo Solution

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The silenced economics of legalization In 1998, the satirical newspaper The Onion boldly declared “Drugs Win Drug War.” Satire aside, the headline embodied the increasingly prevalent view that America’s War on Drugs is unwinnable, and that it has been ineffective at best, and counterproductive at worst. Still, the dominant view in American politics is that prohibited drugs are dangerous and ought ... Read More

“Cracking” the Disparity

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How the debate over crack cocaine sentencing has moved beyond race In 1986, amid America’s crack epidemic and the associated violence in inner cities, Congress decided to punish possession of five grams of crack as harshly as it punishes possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine. Known as the 100:1 disparity, this law has inundated prisons with low-level crack dealers, ... Read More

Bursting At the Seams

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Drug incarcerations, prison overcrowding, and community corrections America’s prisons are overflowing. According to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2007 over 1.5 million people were imprisoned in state and federal jails, up from 320,000 in 1980. Twenty-five percent of current prisoners were convicted of drug crimes – possession and distribution – compared to just six percent in 1980. ... Read More

Feeding the Media Frenzy

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How drug policy made in response to crisis misses the mark In 2008, 50,000 kilograms of cocaine and 660,000 kilograms of marijuana were seized within the United States. According to Drug Enforcement Administration statistics, that same year also saw 26,425 domestic drug arrests. These staggering numbers might seem to suggest that the United States is aggressively combating its drug problem. ... Read More

Cops and Drugs

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The militarizing of Mexico’s police forces adds a new facet to the war against drugs In Mexico, the war against drug cartels has become more than a question of eradicating illicit substances or capturing criminals; with over 13,000 dead in the last three years, the fight now concerns the future of the country. Earlier this year, a U.S. Joint Forces ... Read More

The Source of the Problem

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Confronting prescription drug abuse Prescription drug abuse is perhaps the most overlooked addiction problem in America today. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription painkillers now rank as the nation’s second-most popular drug, behind marijuana. Nonetheless, prescription drug abuse does not garner nearly as much public attention as drugs like cocaine or heroin. Yet tackling prescription drug ... Read More

United States

Business Rules

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The U.S. Supreme Court may be about to render the most important business decision of the decidedly pro-business Roberts era, but one might not know it from the details of the case. The plaintiff is a small conservative advocacy group, not a major corporation; the focal point is a corporate-funded anti-Hillary Clinton documentary that was banned by the FEC, as ... Read More

Worst-Case Scenarios

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Lessons from Hurricane Katrina, and where we stand today On Aug. 29, 2005, one million people were displaced overnight when Hurricane Katrina assaulted the Gulf Coast. “We plan for what we’ve experienced, but you don’t even begin to understand [a worst-case scenario] until it is upon you,” Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA employee who took refuge in the Superdome along with ... Read More

Risky Business

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The problem of too-big-to-fail “Greed is good,” said Gordon Gekko in the iconic 1987 film Wall Street. Yet while such attitudes may have contributed to economic growth in some sectors, now national and international economies are experiencing a recessionary hangover. The causes of the worst financial crisis since the Depression are many and it is likely that we will debate ... Read More

Blind Justice?

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The Supreme Court’s decisions last term reveal a trend toward color-blindness Two cases decided by the Supreme Court earlier this year demonstrate an ongoing, if cautious, conservative march towards a new constitutional order with regards to race. In the case of Ricci v. Destefano, a divided Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to throw out the results of a promotion ... Read More

Conditional Solidarity

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Trouble Ahead If Democrats Cannot Deliver to Labor In a speech to the AFL-CIO convention on Sept. 15, President Obama reminded his labor allies that any public insurance option “would just be an option.” Two days later, the AFL-CIO unanimously endorsed single-payer Medicare for all. Clearly a mere option is not the union’s preference when it comes to health care ... Read More

Broken State Governments

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Chaos reigns as states try to budget in the recession   The financial crisis affected millions of Americans, drove down property values, crippled the mortgage industry, spiked unemployment rates, and revealed the unwieldiness of the American banking system. In response, the U.S. government attempted to resuscitate the economy with a nearly $800 billion stimulus. Meanwhile, state governments have been struggling ... Read More

World

How the Taliban Came Back

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And what it may mean for the U.S. strategic dilemma With fraud-ridden elections, a growing insurgency, and expanding Taliban influence, Afghanistan is at its most critical crossroads since the overthrow of the fundamentalist regime eight years ago. A report leaked last month revealed that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, has requested 40,000 ... Read More

In Need of Assistance

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Reforming foreign aid at home In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, President George W. Bush made a sweeping commitment to global economic development.  In early 2002, he declared, “We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror. We fight against poverty because opportunity is a fundamental right to human dignity.” Development was to be a vital ... Read More

Chafing at the Bonds

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A positive official tone masks U.S.-China tensions “We have laid the foundation for a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship for the 21st century,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the conclusion of the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue this past July. But three months later, the Obama administration leveled a tariff on Chinese tires. China ... Read More

Hard Corps: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

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A closer look at shifting power dynamics in Iran   The election crisis in Iran this summer riveted the world with scenes of dramatic demonstrations and a brutal crackdown that left hundreds dead. But the aftermath of the elections marked a subtle shift in the regime’s power structure: the ascent of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a central political ... Read More

Books & Arts

Republic, Refreshed

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Cass Sunstein meets the Internet Republic.com 2.0, by Cass Sunstein, Princeton University Press, 2009. $19.95. 272 pgs. From Hamilton to Hofstadter, America’s observers have long labeled it a society reinforced by healthy debate. Harvard Law’s Cass Sunstein’s latest work, the awkwardly-titled Republic.com 2.0, offers a vision at odds with this optimistic tradition. Sunstein sees new technologies sapping the foundations of ... Read More

God and Man in the 21st Century

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Surveying the revival of religion

Love Thy Neighbor’s God

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How religions learned to get along

High Crimes

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America and her drug problem

The Fed and the Crisis of 2007

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In Fed We Trust, by David Wessel, Crown Business, 2009. $26.99, 336 pgs. Screenwriters take note: this economic crisis will provide material for decades to come. The story of Ben Bernanke, the soft-spoken economist with humble roots in small-town South Carolina, is on its own the stuff of cinema. Bernanke, a Depression scholar, capped a meteoric rise through academia by ... Read More

Harvard

Interviews

A Local Perspective in Afghanistan

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Rory Stewart on the current state of politics in Afghanistan

Light Rail Policy Picks Up Speed

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Governor Michael Dukakis on the politics and potential growth of high speed rail public transportation

A Policy of Protection

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Brett McGurk on American Counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan

A Cosmopolitan Capital City

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Howard W. Gutman on Brussels and working for President Obama

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