In This Review

Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington's Futile War on Drugs in Latin America
Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington's Futile War on Drugs in Latin America
By Ted Galen Carpenter
Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, 288 pp

A refreshingly candid, controversial, and hard-hitting assessment of Washington's increasingly expensive, internationalized, and, according to Carpenter, utterly futile campaign against illegal drugs. This "war" was first proclaimed three decades ago by President Richard Nixon. Yet more illegal drugs now flow into the United States than did during the mid-1980s, and consumer demand has created an international industry in which the average drug-trafficking organization can afford to lose 90 percent of its product and still remain profitable. Meanwhile, Washington's abrasive tactics and focus on "supply side" interdiction have increasingly led Latin American governments to wage vigorous wars against their own citizens. In the United States, the tactics promoted by drug-war zealots and some local law enforcement agencies pose a serious threat to civil liberties. Carpenter vigorously argues for a radical change in policy: "The only realistic way out of this morass is to adopt a regime of drug legalization" and the termination of what he sees as counterproductive "prohibitionist" strategies. Will any politicians take up his challenge? Unlikely. Is a sober debate needed on the 30-year failure of U.S. drug policies? Without question.