In This Review
Snow Job? The War Against International Cocaine Trafficking

Snow Job? The War Against International Cocaine Trafficking

By Kevin Jack Riley

Transaction Publishers, 1996, 303 pp.

This book is a thorough and informative Rand corporation study of the international aspects of the U.S. war on drugs, especially the efforts to eradicate coca production in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru and to interdict cocaine shipped mainly from Colombia. It reports many tactical successes, but overall strategic failure. The primary reason is the underlying economics. Compared with alternatives, coca can be grown widely with attractive returns to the peasant farmer. Successful limitations on supplies reaching the market would drive up the price, attracting new areas into cultivation and new refiners into production. In fact, street prices of cocaine declined erratically over the decade 1982-92, despite greatly intensified U.S. and local efforts to stop the flow.

The book does not offer a comprehensive survey of the U.S. campaign against cocaine but observes that the total U.S. effort is fragmented among many agencies and corresponding congressional committees, making budgetary reallocation among the components extremely difficult. The author suggests that, per dollar of effort, the rewards are likely to be much higher for prevention and treatment than for eradication and interdiction, but this otherwise valuable study presents only part of the analysis required to reach that conclusion convincingly.