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Essay on Global War on Drugs


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The Global War on Drugs

The common acknowledgment that CIA initially intervened in Cold War Era Afghanistan through the recruitment, funding and training of rebel fighters, the Mujahedeen, to counter the Soviet backed Afghan administration remains true[1] (Scott 219). Later, the same foreign agency went on to further support and avail funding for the impoverished nation’s drug lords. The outcome was the opium volumes generated in Afghanistan exploded enabling smaller scale operations morph into mass exporters of 90% of opium traded globally[2] (UNODC 37). Such a case is not unique to Afghanistan as US interventions in Central America and South East Asia led to massive increases in domestic narcotics production in affected countries and by extension, regions. The Nicaraguan Contras remain a peculiar instance of CIA support systems, which contradict the war on drugs as first posited in 1971 by President[3] Nixon (Singer 158-160). The two pronged war on drugs discourse and policies usually conversed by American politicians occurs domestically as well as globally through its foreign policy. On the domestic front, the war on drugs resulted in an ever-growing underclass American demographic devoid of state welfare, voting rights and perpetual unemployment.

On the international front, the war on drugs warranted military operations in nations like Panama, Mexico, Honduras and Columbia where the CIA availed military training and funding to both state armies and militant insurgencies Boivin[4] (237). Even where the original purpose of CIA interventions involved curbing leftist political groupings, the effect was to provide assistive environments for drug suppliers. The blatant incongruity concerning the war on drugs driven by the reality that the CIA consistently propped up drug producers as well as traffickers even to the point of trafficking narcotics[5] (Scott 128).

A clear example is the case of CIA underhand operations in Afghanistan, creating Mujahedeen where many thereafter emerged as high-ranking drug lords. Similarly, the CIA worked to fund traffickers in South East Asia in countries like Burma, Laos and Vietnam with the end market being the US[6] (Klausen 47). The all important question arises as to why the US continuously intervenes leading to huge increases in narcotics production. The Drug Enforcement Agency mandated to apprehend and curb drug trade seems to be in severe contradiction to the CIA covert actions[7] (Ali, and Dong 43). Is it that disorganization, poor communication and negligence compels the CIA to actively progress the global drug trade? Miscommunication cannot be the case as the CIA has on numerous occasions openly blocked DEA efforts to keep in known drug kingpins in custody[8] (Scott 63). These are behaviors sturdily proposing that the war on drugs as a narrative overtly propagated while also pushing for the clandestine support of drug production implies motivation for an unaccredited political and strategic necessity within the US[9] (Ali, and Dong 43).

American War Machine by Peter Dale Scott remains a reputable narrative pointing out that the CIA undertaking as a major proponent of the global drug trade networks sources its mandate from apparatus within and external to the American government[10] (167). Drug traffickers are an integral component of a war machine, both massive and aggressive vouching for US global supremacy while ultimately profiting from the global narcotics trade[11] (Boivin 237). Hegemony or Survival, the international drug trade and military interventions spearheaded by the US are sanctioned and protected by a distinct elite socio-economic group[12] (Skoll 111). This peculiar class boasts the power and capacity to manipulate military, political and economic parameters to ensure an Imperial Grand Strategy in effect since the culmination of the Second World War[13] (Boivin 237). The Imperial Grand Strategy explained through the Hegemony Theory and the World Systems Theory is primary profit oriented and ultimately results in unrivalled social class dominance[14] (Segev 415).        

Hegemony, specifically neo-hegemony offers an authoritative lens explaining the actions as well as strategic purpose of the CIA towards the imperial objective of the US government and the global war on drugs as an effective rhetoric[15] (Boivin 239). The Hegemony theory posits that the governing elites aver and continuously profess power through consent as well as coercion simply because others in the society’s structural order accept their ideals as dominant[16] (Boister 23). As scholars conceived, societal groups manifest through two avenues, moral and intellectual leadership as well as through domination[17] (Bergen-Cico, 9). The government structures based on bureaucratic frameworks cover such quotas as the media, education and religion. The state is thus a critical player such that in the global scheme of things, countries react in accordance to the hegemony theory. Hegemony therefore rises from the individual community to a global reach. The US as a dominant economy is the global hegemonic power employing global drug trade as a profit avenue and as a repressive apparatus[18] (13).

The world system theory applies to the international narcotics market where drug production regions are in the periphery, the semi-periphery and the core, which are the first world countries[19] (Segev 415). The poor periphery states offer low wages to unskilled labor to progress the application of low capital intensive production technologies. As the finished products move to the semi-periphery onwards to the core, prices increase tremendously though profits do not trickle back to the periphery nations[20] (Trocki 99). The ideal of the world system theory is founded on capital accumulation where the CIA and US government dictate social political structures with the sole objective of profiting those at the heart of the core.


Ali, Imran, and Xiaochuan Dong. “The Revenge Game: US Foreign Policy During Afghan-Soviet War and Afghan-Pakistan Falling Into Hell.” Asian Social Science 11, no. 27 (2015): 43.

Bergen-Cico, Dessa K. War and drugs: The role of military conflict in the development of substance abuse. Routledge, 2015.

Boister, Neil. “Colonialism, Anti-Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism in China: The Opium Question at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.” In War Crimes Trials in the Wake of Decolonization and Cold War in Asia, 1945-1956, pp. 25-50. Springer International Publishing, 2016.

Boivin, Rémi. “Drug Trafficking Networks in the World-Economy.” International Journal of Drug Policy 25.2 (2014): 235 – 243. Print.

Cabañas, M. A. (2014). The Global Drug Trade and the War on Drugs in the Americas A Historical Review.

Klausen, Jimmy Casas. “Michael Rogin on American Empire: A Retrospective.” Theory & Event 19, no. 3 (2016).

Scott, Peter D. American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010.

Segev, Elad. “Visible and invisible countries: News flow theory revised.”Journalism 16, no. 3 (2015): 412-428.

Singer, Merrill. “Does America Really Want to Solve Its Drug Problem?.”Understanding and Applying Medical Anthropology (2016): 155 -163.

Skoll, G.R., 2016. Spreading the Fear: The Global Empire. In Globalization of American Fear Culture (pp. 107-120). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan US.

Trocki, Carl. “The Criminalization of Drugs. Drugs before they were criminalized.” In Histories of Transnational Crime, pp. 91-102. New York, NY: Springer New York, 2015.

United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention. World Drug Report 2010. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print.

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