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Low Intensity Conflict and the War on Drugs

by Don Mabry, 1991

The U.S. military became an instrument of drug foreign policy because civilian government did not stop the importation and use of illicit drugs, particularly cocaine. Instead, the use of both seemed to growing exponentially. Citizens, believing that the rising levels of violence in the United States was caused by illicit drug usage, demanded strong action. All levels of government and the media focused attention on the role of Latin American drug smugglers. By deciding that the U.S. drug epidemic could only be eliminated by reducing the supply of drugs, policy makers opened the door to military involvement, for the U.S. military can and does operate outside the United States.(1)

Through the Omnibus Drug Act and the Defense Authorization Act in 1988, Washington decided to convert some military personnel into policemen and spies in the hope that the military could disrupt, if not end, this illicit enterprise. Underlying the argument of using the military abroad was the proposition that drug trafficking in the Andes and the violence that sometimes accompanied it were equivalent to insurgencies. Further, some argued that the traffickers themselves or in alliance with leftist guerrillas were engaged in "narcoterrorism." Those who accepted these propositions argued that the military should apply its low-intensity conflict techniques to the drug problem. This paper explores the applicability of low-intensity conflict doctrine to the drug trafficking issue, beginning with some historical background.

Until the 1989-1990 collapse of the Soviet Empire, the military resisted involvement in counter-narcotics efforts and only became involved to the extent required by law. As late as October, 1989, the Pentagon argued that its traditional mission of defending the nation against foreign militaries and their weapons was still valid and would be compromised by using soldiers, sailors, and pilots as cops.(2) The decline in a military threat frightened the Pentagon and its supporters, for they feared the possible loss of budgets, power, and influence, so they became more interested in participating in the anti-drug crusade, both its surveillance and Andean aspects.

INSIDE LATIN AMERICA NATIONS

The issue of the role of the U.S. military inside Latin American nations is limited to the Andean region. Mexico has been able to limit the number of U.S. officials and the scope of their activities because of its internal strengths and fierce nationalism. The invasion of Panama in 1989 was a special case, for it is a nation whose government exists at the sufferance of the United States and its military.

Throughout Latin America the supply-reduction foreign policy has been difficult to achieve because Washington cannot control events abroad. Because no nation wants foreigners eradicating crops, destroying laboratories, and arresting traffickers on its own territory, Washington pressured producing and transit nations to use their own personnel to accomplish these tasks. Further, DEA and other U.S. officials (including military personnel) were sent as advisors and proctors. In the Andes, the U.S., in conjunction with host governments, created special drug police, hired coca eradication workers, and provided a wide range of other technical assistance. The Bureau of International Narcotics Matters of the State Department, for example, developed its own air wing for use in the antidrug campaigns in Bolivia and Peru. U.S. military personnel began advising local police and military on techniques to protect field workers against the inevitable violent reactions of those whose source of income was being destroyed. Often, host country security forces could not or would not protect antidrug agents. Regardless of what Washington might want, control of events rests in the hands of Andean governments and their security forces, those growing the coca or processing it, and the drug merchants. In Colombia and Peru, guerrilla movements sometimes control events. Nor could Washington stop the ability of drug traffickers to corrupt police and military officers.

Increases in physical danger to antidrug forces, both nationals and foreigners in Colombia and Peru brought demands for stronger security measures. Some persons advocated using the U.S. military to provide it.

DoD has had scant enthusiasm for such a task. Nor do possible host nations want to compromise their sovereignty by giving police powers to U.S. military personnel.

To increase the personal safety of anti-drug workers, the US created Operation Snowcap in 1987. As part of Snowcap, some DEA agents were trained in military tactics by U.S. special operations personnel and Special Forces teams were sent to Peru (and Bolivia) to give on-site advice and, when necessary, to protect antidrug workers. Because the number of Special Forces personnel has intentionally been kept low, their presence has not exacerbated nationalistic tensions. At Santa Lucia in the Upper Huallaga Valley (UHV) of Peru, the United States built a fortified base, guarded by Special Forces, to protect Peruvian and American anti-drug workers. U.S. personnel maintain the helicopters (loaned to the State Department by the Department of Defense) utilized in anti-drug campaigns. But Operation Snowcap does not work, according to the House Committee on Government Operations.(3)

When Colombia president Virgilio Barco's August, 1989 crackdown was countered by a large, sustained wave of violence by these Colombian criminals, President Bush responded by sending $65 million in military equipment and other forms of aid. If the Colombian traffickers could be beaten, then "victory" was possible in the drug war.(4)

THE ANDEAN INITIATIVE

The Colombian confrontation was fortuitous, for it lent urgency to Bush's Andean Initiative, planned months before but announced in the September, 1989 National Drug Control Strategy report and by Bush on national television. Specifically, the cocaine trade from the Andean countries of Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru was the target. The Initiative called for increased repression, much of it to be accomplished by military personnel. About $141 million of the aid destined for Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia was military equipment--such as helicopters, patrol boats, and ammunition--and $13.5 million in "intelligence aid"--radar, electronic sensors, secure communications equipment, and computers. More U.S. military advisors were sent to train Andean armies in the use and maintenance of the American equipment. To avoid anti-American sentiment and getting drawn into local political conflicts, Special Forces advisors were forbidden to accompany host nation forces when the latter go on antidrug missions.

President George Bush did not start the use of the military in drug foreign policy; he escalated it. Congress and President Reagan had cautiously introduced the U.S. military into the ranks of the nation's "drug warriors," but neither they nor DoD showed much enthusiasm for diverting military personnel from their traditional role. Reagan proposed and Congress funded the massive strengthening of the military to face down or fight the U.S.S.R., not Latin American gangsters or peasants. This was so even though Reagan administration officials had argued that narcoterrorism was a threat to the security of Latin American nations and, at least by extension, to the U.S. Only during the 1988 elections, as politicians vied with one another to prove how "tough on drugs" they were, did civilians order the military to play a major role in the antidrug crusade. Nevertheless, Bush's first National Drug Control Strategy Report of September, 1989, marked the shift in U.S. policy.

Why Bush opted for a more military-oriented policy is not clear. Perhaps he responded to growing American frustration with the inability to repress the drug trade in the United States and Latin America. Neither interdiction nor eradication were working and Americans knew it. Appointing William Bennett as the first director of the National Drug Control Policy Office certainly signaled a harder line, for Bennett rarely spoke softly or advocated timid methods. Perhaps Bush was trying to counter campaign charges that he was indecisive and not a tough guy. Bush understood that the U.S. had been substituting military muscle for diplomacy in Latin America for generations. His predecessor had done so in Grenada, El Salvador, and Nicaragua and had sent troops to Bolivia in 1986 to aid DEA agents and Bolivian police in destroying a number of drug labs.(5) Thus Bush experienced firsthand the idea of a military solution to drug interdiction, crop eradication, and Latin American domestic political problems exacerbated by drug trafficking.

Colombia

Bush got lucky. The Colombian political crisis beginning in August, 1989, gave the Bush administration the serendipitous opportunity to dramatically announce his antidrug policy within the context of Colombian criminals directly and violently challenging the authority of the Colombian state. Television networks flooded screens with images of the havoc being wreaked in Colombia by the traffickers, shocking Americans and creating instant public support for Bush's decision to send $65 million in military aid to Colombia. A few weeks later, when Bush announced his antidrug policy on national television, he could do so as a decisive national leader who was rescuing a neighboring ally and preventing a similar occurrence in the United States.

Video images of the death and destruction wreaked by the terrorism campaign of Colombian traffickers lent credence to the argument that Colombia was threatened by narcoterrorism, an idea that Washington had promoted for years. The Reagan administration, unable to obtain sufficient cooperation from Latin American governments, had begun arguing that there were direct links between drug traffickers and leftist guerrillas and, thus, that these countries were threatened by "narcoterrorism." Few paid much attention to the narcoterrorism argument until Colombian events seemed to prove the Reagan administration prophetic.

These same Colombian events opened the door to a greater U.S. military role in Latin America, for the narcoterrorism argument provided the rationale for using military resources to stifle the drug business. Anti-guerrilla campaigns are a military specialty. Although guerrillas were not the protagonists in the drug terrorism campaigns of 1989-90 and counter-terrorism is a police specialty, few made these distinctions as bombs exploded and people were shot in Colombia. Confusing matters further was the fact that the Colombian National Police is a branch of the Colombian military and, thus, army generals wrote the final shopping list when Bush promised the $65 million in emergency aid. By the time the Colombian crisis began, U.S. civilian agencies had begun to realize that they were stalemated, at best, and that only a more active DoD role might give them the resources necessary to break the impasse. Allying with DoD would guarantee consistently larger funding for the drug war. DoD could get whatever funding it wanted to support soldiers in the field, whereas cops could not, and civilian agencies could piggyback on patriotic sentiment. DoD, its role in the national budget threatened by reduced international tensions, was finding participation in the drug war more palatable.

Colombian reality, however, did not support the U.S.'s narcoterrorism thesis. Conservative businessmen, not leftist guerrillas, were conducting the highly-publicized attack against the state institutions of Colombia. In spite of some isolated instances of cooperation between one or more guerrilla movements, on the one hand, and drug gangsters, on the other, the two are not integrally related nor has the Colombian government treated them as such. Of the two, the Colombian government has viewed the guerrilla movements as the more serious threat. Guerrilla movements were active for many years before narcotrafficking and its violence became an issue. The Colombian military has fought the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the 19th of April Movement (M-19), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the Peoples Liberation Army (ELP) for years. Colombian police fight criminals, be they narcotraficantes or more ordinary crooks and account for eighty percent of drug busts. In fact, one of the most serious problems faced by the police was the military-narcotraficante cooperation to kill their common enemy, leftist guerrillas. Military officers sometimes compromised police raids in exchange for trafficker information on the location of guerrilla bands.

Colombia accepted both police and military aid, for it faced danger from gangsters and guerrillas, but refused to increase U.S. military activity. Bogotá has consistently argued that it does not need nor want foreign troops on its soil and that its principal need in the antidrug fight was more equipment for its police and judicial systems. Although U.S. military personnel no doubt played a role in Colombia's crackdown on its drug traffickers by providing intelligence information and logistical support, both governments downplayed it. Colombian politicians understand that self-respect demands that Colombians find a solution to Colombian problems.(6)

The power of the Colombian military vis-a-vis the civilian government is growing, which may explain why the Colombian military received 84% of the $65 million in emergency aid in 1989 when it only accounted for twenty percent or less of antidrug efforts. Bush administration officials have insisted that the Colombian government demanded the equipment which many consider inappropriate for antidrug efforts. If true, it may reflect military pressure on the Barco government to insure military and not police supremacy inside Colombia. That the military subsequently used this equipment primarily for anti-guerrilla campaigns would seem to support this proposition.

Although the crackdown which began in August, 1989 achieved some success, the price has been so high that, in 1990, the Colombian government began seeking a non-violent solution to its domestic problems. The government started serious negotiations with the traffickers and, more important, held elections for a constitutional convention to meet in February, 1991 in hope of incorporating guerrillas into the electoral system. In the convention elections, the former M-19 guerrilla movement became the nation's third largest political party. The Peoples' Liberation Army agreed on January 29, 1991 to lay down its arms and take two seats in the constituent assembly. Negotiations with the ELN and FARC have been unsuccessful, however, and the Colombian army attacked the FARC ferociously in the fall of 1990, partly as an attempt to force FARC leaders to negotiate. Apparently, it used U.S. equipment which had been supplied by the US for anti-drug purposes. President Gaviria, while still threatening drug gangsters with extradition to the United States, has promised that those who surrender will be tried in Colombian courts and imprisoned only in Colombia. By late February, 1991, the Ochoa brothers had accepted the offer and surrendered to Colombia police; more were expected to follow suit.(7)

PERU

Peru provides a much better argument for the use of the military, for it is both the principal source of coca and a place where guerrillas are involved in the drug enterprise. Crop and lab destroyers in Peru soon faced two serious problems. Farmers planted fields and traffickers built labs in new and more isolated locations. More serious, however, was the inability or unwillingness of Peruvian security forces to protect antidrug workers against the violent resistance which inevitably occurred, especially that of Sendero Luminoso. If the crop eradication and lab destruction program was to succeed, the Upper Huallaga Valley (UHV) had to be made secure.(8)

Many UHV residents welcomed the arrival of Sendero in the Valley. When coca growing and trafficking boomed in the lawless UHV and tensions were subsequently raised by the antidrug campaign, Sendero Luminoso moved into the Valley and imposed order, something the Peruvian government had not done. Colombian traffickers, who had been abusing the growers, were disciplined and taxed; Sendero thus gained support from the growers and income with which to pursue its political ends. In a very real sense, Sendero became the government of the UHV. The Peruvian military could not dislodge them.

The Peruvian military failed largely because it was ordered to follow a contradictory policy. It could fight Sendero or engage in antidrug efforts but not both. Antidrug efforts drove people into the protective arms of Sendero while attacks on Sendero gave the drug producers a free hand to pursue their business. Peruvian military leaders, by and large, preferred to concentrate on Sendero, believing that Sendero was a serious threat to national security and one that the military was trained to fight. The United States, however, more interested in destroying drugs and protecting antidrug workers, pressured Peru to focus on drugs.

For Peru, and thus for U.S. foreign policy there, it is important to recognize that eliminating Peruvian drug production will not eliminate Sendero, eliminating Sendero will not eliminate drug production, and eliminating both may not be possible.(9)

By 1990, faced with the continued threat of Sendero to Peruvian antidrug efforts and the commensurate inability to eradicate crops, Washington unsuccessfully tried to up the ante through a proposed $35 million military aid package. DEA had reported in late 1989 that Peru was unlikely to militarize its antidrug campaign, but the new proposal called for the construction of a military training base near Santa Lucia to train six Peruvian strike battalions and a second base on the Tombo and Ene rivers. The U.S. would also supply more river patrol boats, refurbish ground-attack jets, and install more radar in the Valley.(10) In other words, Washington thought more force would solve the problem. Some Americans began arguing that the Peruvian situation was low-intensity conflict (LIC), the current military euphemism for counter-insurgency warfare.

The newly-elected government of Alberto Fujimori rejected the proposed aid in September, 1990, arguing that Peru's problems could only be solved by political and economic, not military, means. Peruvian officials believed that combining the antidrug campaign and the anti-Sendero war was the road to disaster. Sendero has power in communities whose residents believe that they have been abused by the government, so the key to defeating Sendero lay in the Peruvian government regaining the confidence of its people. Military campaigns, especially if directed by U.S. soldiers, would have the opposite effect. Thwarted by Fujimori, Washington threatened the cancel all aid to Peru. Peru stood firm against militarization, however.(11)

The Low-Intensity Conflict Argument

Some analysts advocate an even larger military role in the antidrug campaign, arguing that it apply its low-intensity doctrine in the Andes. One argument is that the traffickers are equivalent to guerrillas. In this view, the illicit drug trade destabilizes these governments through bribery, intimidation, and the flaunting of authority to the extent that the traffickers have become a "state within a state." Further, the traffickers conduct economic warfare against these countries when they use their illicit profits to purchase farms, factories, and business firms, for the state is robbed of revenue and legitimate business cannot compete on even terms. Moreover, the influx of narcodollars induces inflation and "dollarizes" local economies. Finally, the traffickers not only often possess better weaponry than public security forces but also have demonstrated their willingness to use it, as they have done in Colombia. LIC proponents assert that police techniques cannot overcome the traffickers because the police, unlike the military, do not have sufficient discipline or adequate technology, nor a unified command and control system. These proponents point to the operational success of Operation Blast Furnace as proof of the applicability of LIC doctrine. Other pro-LIC writers agree but argue that the presence of leftist guerrillas requires the use of LIC techniques because police forces cannot successfully prosecute a counterinsurgency campaign. They argue that the traffickers and guerrillas must be attacked simultaneously because the two are interrelated, something only the military can do.(12)

It is within this context that the United States in 1990 sought to beef up the military establishments of Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru and better prepare them for counter-insurgency warfare. President Bush proposed $68.3 million for FY90 and $134.9 million in FY91 to Colombia, $66.6 million and $128.8 million, respectively to Peru, and $96.7 million and $159 million, respectively, to Bolivia. For FY91, the majority of each of these aid packages was to be for non-military purposes, but the increases in military aid was to be dramatic. Between FY88 and FY91, military aid to Colombia was to go from $4 million to $60.5 million, to Peru from $0.4 million to $39.9 million, and to Bolivia from $0.4 million to $40.9 million. The actual expenditures changed because Peru refused the military aid.(13)

Using LIC doctrine to solve the drug trafficking problem in Latin America is more than an intellectual exercise or something mentioned in Congressional hearings. Special Operations units are sent to Andean countries to teach LIC techniques to local antidrug police, DEA personnel, and some military units. Although forbidden to accompany their pupils on raids, it is likely that some U.S. military personnel have done so. In Colombia, the U.S. military has probably given important intelligence data and logistical aid not only in such efforts as the killing of Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha but also for counterinsurgency campaigns. When President Bush, through Secretary Cheney, ordered the military into the antidrug fray on a serious basis, it turned to LIC doctrine. Panama was invaded in December, 1989 to capture a drug trafficker, President Manuel Noriega, who, of course, was attacked for other reasons as well. DEA, the State Department, and the Office of National Drug Policy began advocating a more substantive military role in the Andes instead of just the logistical help they had previously wanted from DoD and testified to Congress in favor of the administration's 1990 proposal to increase military aid to Andean nations. By the summer of 1990, General Maxwell Thurman, commander of the Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and planner of the Panamanian invasion, had begun planning a low-intensity conflict in Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru, one in which local military forces, aided by the U.S. military, would launch simultaneous strikes against drug traffickers.(14) Certainly, the proposed increases in military aid in 1990, which included the training of strike battalions, was part of this new interest in using LIC doctrine although it is possible that the Thurman plan was just one more instance of contingency planning by the military. Regardless, the refusal of the Fujimori government to accept military aid delayed implementation for the present.

The most surprising element in this increased interest in LIC is that the definition of low-intensity conflict is unclear. In 1981, the United States Army defined two types of low-intensity conflict, both of which said it was aid to prevent efforts "aimed at internal seizure of power." Michael T. Klare argues that the military does not agree on the definition of low-intensity conflict doctrine and that the definition adopted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff is so broad that it is virtually meaningless. Richard J. Barnet argues that LIC doctrine is being redefined to give police functions to militaries and, if actually implemented, would seriously compromise police forces. David Silverstein asserts that the maintenance of an intimidating, large military force is LIC because it threatens potential opponents, a definition which means that the U.S. has been engaged in low-intensity conflict with virtually every nation in the world since each nation is a potential opponent of the U.S. This is nonsensical. Bernard McMahon use a more workable definition: "political-military confrontation between contending states or groups at a level below conventional warfare but above routine peaceful competition among states." Anti-guerrilla warfare is low-intensity conflict as were Operation Blast Furnace and the invasions of Grenada and Panama.(15)

How LIC might be used against drug traffickers was fictionalized in the popular Tom Clancey novel, Clear and Present Danger(16) wherein Special Operation teams were sent into Colombia to attack drug traffickers. The soldiers did the job they were sent to do. The glamour and suspense of the story, involving as it does a number of issues besides a surreptitious military effort against crooks, can prevent readers from recognizing its most fundamental message. The novel is a very effective argument against using low-intensity conflict doctrine against the drug trade. In spite of the effective work of the special operations teams, subordinates quickly replaced their leaders and continued the drug business. In fact, the military inadvertently became an ally of an ambitious criminal.

LIC does not work against drug crime for a number of reasons. Too many people have a vested interest in the continuance of the trade. Besides the obvious examples of the criminals and the drug consumers, there are also the numerous persons who sell all kinds of goods or provide services to drug farmers, processors, transporters, bankers, and so forth. One tenet of LIC is "winning the hearts and minds" of the people in order to deny support to the opponent. Opposition to drug traffickers in Latin America emanates primarily from their use of violence not from the fact that they are engaged in drug trafficking. If, for example, there are 300,000 persons benefitting financially, directly or indirectly, from the drug trade in Bolivia, then at least 30% of the economically-active population has a vested interest in the continuance of the trade. In Peru, at least 15% of the economically-active population benefits from the trade. The fact that coca-chewing is part of Andean culture makes gaining popular support even more unlikely. LIC units need other militaries to fight. The goons used by traffickers are not armies, even guerrilla armies. Although the U.S. has the physical capability of destroying coca fields in short order, the tactic could only be used if the U.S. also wanted mass uprisings against it. Destroying coca-processing labs is more difficult for they are dispersed and relatively easy to replace. If, for example, all the Colombian and Peruvian labs were destroyed, would the U.S. then penetrate Brazil, Ecuador, and Chile, where some labs currently exist and more would be sure to follow? Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru are not small nations; combined, their land area equals one-third of that of the United States, the area east of the Mississippi River. The number of troops required would be large, a factor which would move the operation to a level higher than LIC. If the U.S. tried to use local troops, it would inevitably find operations compromised by the influence of nationalism, familial ties, and money.

CONCLUSIONS

The strategy of using Andean militaries to suppress the drug business in Latin America is problematical at best. It assumes a mutuality of interest between the United States, on the one hand, and Andean militaries, on the other, which does not exist. Further, it incorrectly links drug traffickers and guerrillas and, by doing so, inadvertently aids both. Finally, it threatens democracy in Latin America, a longterm foreign policy goal of the United States.

Many Latin American military officers do not want to get involved in the antidrug crusade.

Counter-insurgency warfare in Colombia and Peru, even with U.S. aid, will not end the drug trade, for leftist guerrillas and rightist businessmen are natural opponents who have only occasionally cooperated for mutual convenience. Traffickers want the guerrillas beaten; the guerrillas raise the cost of doing business and attract too much attention from the government, thus complicating normal business operations. The traffickers can reach accommodations with the military. To varying degrees, the militaries of these nations are riddled with narcocorruption. Using militaries to arrest criminals and destroy crops and factories further institutionalizes militaries as the authority within those states, encouraging them to marginalize or replace civilian government.

The solution of the insurgency problems in Peru and Colombia must come from those countries, not the United States. Both the Peruvian military and Sendero Luminoso are Peruvian, and the Peruvian government should be able to find Peruvian military leaders smart enough to outwit fellow countrymen. There is no evidence that Sendero has received outside aid. Although Peruvian counter-insurgency measures attack the symptoms of Peru's problems, the civilian government has to deal with the causes of the insurgency, something the Fujimori administration wants to do. Colombia has begun using political accommodation as well as repression to solve its insurgency problem; it is too early to estimate its potential success, but the entry of M-19 into electoral politics suggests that other guerrilla movements might also be persuaded to make a similar move.

The Andean Initiative contains no inherent limits to how much the U.S. military will do in the Andes. The United States is not going to invade Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, or Mexico; that is not the issue in spite of the fears of some Latin Americans. Washington policy makers understand very well the adverse consequences of such an action. Latin Americans have made it clear that they do not want foreign troops, from the U.S. or elsewhere, on their soil. Many barely tolerate the presence of U.S. advisors. Neither civilians nor military personnel want to get bogged down in an unwinnable war in one or more large Latin America nations. But if the military aid sent for FY90 and FY91 is insufficient to make a significant dent in the drug trade, will the U.S. send more? What is the cutoff point or the point of diminishing returns?

Militaries are killing machines; they are trained to kill people in sufficient numbers to convince the survivors not to fight. Military personnel are not trained nor suited to nation-building. Is there any evidence from any country that suggests that military units are good economic entrepreneurs? Are these bureaucratic entities, dependent as they are upon convincing governmental leaders and the public that the latter should transfer some of their wealth into the military, people who know how to farm and market the resultant products, to start and foster business enterprises, etc.? In real wars, the military is unleashed like a pit bull and then rechained once the conflict is over, but the "drug war" is not a war and will not end quickly. The evolving antidrug strategy calls for a greatly enhanced military establishment performing a civilian function indefinitely. The anti-smuggling screens and the maritime-aerial patrols would have to be sustained else drug smuggling would resume if demand for foreign drugs continued or could be regenerated. If true military emergencies occur, either even more resources would have to be devoted to the Pentagon or the military's antidrug mission would have to be compromised.

Using the military in drug foreign policy raises a very fundamental question. Should the personal habits of five percent of the population (or a much smaller percentage of the population if one only counts cocaine use) be allowed to change the traditional relationship between the military and civilians?(17) Using the military in what promises to be a decades-long antidrug campaign shifts, even if moderately, the balance of power away from civilians. If those who believe that the illicit drug trade will only end when consumer demand ends are correct, then the use of the military presents no gains but, instead, many losses.

The very fact that militaries are being used for civilian law enforcement is an admission of the failure of civilian government. This is particularly true for the United States with it historic tradition of keeping the military out of civilian affairs. Civilian law enforcement agencies such as the Coast Guard did not fail; they were never given the resources to do the job. Civilian government officials failed to resist the seductiveness of the popular image of the military and the personal political gains which come from supporting the military establishment. Dazzled by the glitter, glory, and gold of a putative military solution, these leaders fail to see that illicit drug use is a domestic, civilian problem, both in the United States and Latin America, one wherein free enterprise capitalists are servicing the American consumer market. Public concern over the spread of illicit drug use and the violence associated with crack prompted the United States government to call in the military. Using the military for the police function of illicit drug suppression emanates from anger not reason.

Not surprisingly, many Americans think that the use of military force abroad will solve the nation's drug problem. The message that violence works permeates its films, athletic events, novels, television programs, and music. Many citizens believe that they have lost control of their lives and believe that the use of violence will enable them to reassert control. They want to use the police or the military to repress those they believe are "misbehaving." Within the United States, they have demanded and received more monies for police action and incarceration. In foreign policy, they have sent U.S. policemen and U.S. military advisors to Latin America to supervise the destruction of property and the arrest of malefactors and, in the case of the military, to help suppress leftist insurgencies in the name of drug control. Yet, illicit drug use and drug-related street violence persists.


1. Another reason for trying to solve the U.S. drug epidemic abroad is the historic belief that foreigners and U.S. ethnic minorities cause the epidemics; see Douglas Clark Kinder, "Nativism, Cultural Conflict, Drug Control: United States and Latin American Antinarcotics Diplomacy through 1965" in The Latin American Narcotics Trade and US National Security ed. by Donald J. Mabry (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1989).

2. Stephen Duncan, Testimony to hearing of Subcommittees on Legislation and National Security and Government Information, Justice and Agriculture, U.S. House of Representatives, October 17, 1989, 101st Congress, 1st Session. Mimeo.

3. United States. Congress. House. Committee on Government Operations. Stopping the Flood of Cocaine With Operation Snowcap: Is It Working? 13th Report (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990). 101st Cong., 2d Sess., HR 101-673.

4. See United States, Antidrug Abuse Act of 1988; HR 5120, Congressional Record-House; House of Representatives, Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 4481; and United States, National Defense Authorization Act for FY 1989.

5. On Operation Blast Furnace, see Lt. Col. Sewell H. Menzel, "Operation Blast Furnace," Army, 39:11 (November, 1989), p. 25; and Major Mark P. Hertling, "Narcoterrorism: The New Unconventional War," Military Review, LXX:3 (March, 1990), pp. 16-28.

6. Colombia cracked down on the traffickers in the mid-1980s but the public eventually tired of the effort. During the course of the crackdown, the drug kingpins went into hiding, mounted a massive nationalistic propaganda campaign within Colombia to portray that government as a tool of the United States, and tried to bargain for amnesty. The Colombian government made no deal but did ease up on its attacks on the traffickers. See Guy Gugliotta and Jeff Leen, Kings of Cocaine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989, 170-77, and Bruce M. Bagley, "Colombia and the War on Drugs," Foreign Affairs, 67:1 (Fall 1988), 70-92. Fabio Ochoa made a similar offer after the August, 1989 crackdown began; see Eugene Robinson, "Kin of 'Extraditables' Calls for Negotiations; Bombings in Medellin," The Washington Post, August 30,1989.

7. Bruce Bagley, "Colombia and the War on Drugs," 87.

8. The two best books on the coca enterprise and U.S. drug policy in Peru are: Rensselaer W. Lee, III, The White Labyrinth: Cocaine and Political Power (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1989) and Edmundo Morales, Cocaine: White Gold Rush in Peru (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989).

9. The literature on Sendero Luminoso is growing at a rapid pace. The best single book on the subject is Gustavo Gorriti E., Sendero: historia de la guerra milenaria en el Perú, I (Lima: Editorial Apoyo, 1990). A summary analysis can be found in Gustavo Gorriti, "The War of the Philosopher-King," The New Republic (June 16, 1990), 15-22. Tina Rosenberg, "Guerrilla Tourism, " The New Republic (June 16, 1990), 23-25 is based on her interviews with Senderistas. See also Norberto Cesesole, comp. Peru: Sendero Luminoso, ejercito y democracia. 1a ed. (Madrid: Prensa y Ediciones Iberoamericanas; Buenos Aires: Instituto Latinoamericano de Cooperación Tecnológica y Relaciones Internacionales, 1987); Carlos Ivan Degregori, Sendero Luminoso. 4a ed. (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1986); Raúl González, "Sendero: Los Problemas del campo y de la ciudad ... Y ademas el MRTA", QueHacer, 50 (Jan-Feb, 1988), and "Trafficking, Subversion in Upper Huallaga," Quehacer, (September-October 1987), 55-72; William A. Hazleton and Sandra Woy-Hazleton, "Sendero Luminoso and the Future of Peruvian Democracy," Third World Quarterly, 12:2 (April 1, 1990), pp. 21-, and "Terrorism and the Marxist Left: Peru's Struggle against Sendero Luminoso," Terrorism: an International Journal, 11:6 (1988), pp. 471-; Rogger Mercado, El Partido Comunista del Peru: Sendero Luminoso. 3ra. ed., corr. y aum. (Lima: Librerías Studium-La Universidad, 1986); and Thomas G. Sanders, Peru Between Democracy and the Sendero Luminoso. Hanover, NH: Universities Field Staff International, 1984.

10. New York Times, April 22, 1990. On the DEA assessment of Peru's priorities, see DEA Review, December 1989), 60-61, as quoted in Government Operations. Anti-Narcotics Activities, 38.

11. Alex Emery, "Fujimori: Won't Sign U.S. Military Aid Agreement to Combat Drugs" Associated Press Dispatch, published by peru@ATHENA.MIT.EDU, September 13, 1990. Emery quotes U.S. Ambassador Anthony Quainton as having said in an interview with the news magazine Caretas that if Peru ``does not sign the agreement, the aid would go to other countries.'' See also Michael Isikoff, "Talks Between U.S., Peru On Military Aid Collapse," Washington Post, September 26, 1990. César Atala, Peruvian ambassador to the United States in 1989, argued that a better solution to the coca-growing problem in his country was for the United States to buy the entire crop; see his testimony in United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Governmental Affairs. Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. U.S. Government Anti-Narcotics Activities in the Andean Region of South America. Hearing before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, 101st Cong. 1st sess. September 26, 27, 29, 1989. S. Hrg. 101-311 (Washington: GPO, 1989), 74. Gustavo Gorriti testified in the same hearings, arguing that mixing drug eradication and counterinsurgency was akin to pouring fuel on a fire; see his testimony on pages 128-132.

12. Bernard McMahon, "Low-Intensity Conflict: The Pentagon's Foible," ORBIS (Winter, 1990), p. 3-4]; Abbott, "The Army and the Drug War, 4; Menzel, "Operation Blast Furnace,", 25; Hertling, "Narcoterrorism," 16-28. Moreover, there has been some support in the Senate for the military to assume this role; see Benjamin F. Schemmer, "Senate Leaders Ask Scrowcroft for New White House Focus on Low-Intensity Conflict," Armed Forces Journal International, 126:8 (March 1, 1989), pp. 66-.

13. United States. House. Committee on Government Operations. United States Anti-Narcotics Activities in the Andean Region. 38th Report. (Washington: GPO, 1990), 17. Hereafter cited as Government Operations, Anti-Narcotics Activities; and Raphael Perl, "United States International Drug Policy: Recent Developments and Issues," Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, 32:4 (1990), 123-135.

14. "Risky Business," Newsweek (July 16, 1990), 16-19.

15. United States. Department of the Army. Field Manual 100-20, Low Intensity Conflict (Baltimore: US Army Adjutant Publications Center, 1981); U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. Army Operational Concept for Low Intensity Conflict. TRADOC Pamphlet No. 525-44 (Fort Monroe, VA, 1986). p. 2.; Michael T. Klare,"The Interventionist Impulse: U.S. Military Doctrine for Low-Intensity Warfare," in Low-Intensity Warfare. ed. by Michael T. Klare and Peter Kornbluh (New York: Pantheon Books, 1987); Richard J. Barnet, "The Costs and Perils of Intervention," in Low-Intensity Warfare. ed. by Michael T. Klare and Peter Kornbluh (New York: Pantheon Books, 1987); and David Silverstein, "Preparing America to Win Low-Intensity Conflicts," Backgrounder, No. 786, August 31, 1990.

16. (New York: Berkley Books, 1989).

17. See R. Harwood, R. "Hyperbole Epidemic," The Washington Post National Weekly Edition (October 9-15, 1989) for an excellent analysis of the misuse of drug usage statistics.