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Mark Kleiman provides some valuable perspective from the US drug control side of things and says that what kind of poppy eradication the Karzai government pursues won't really make a difference to American heroin consumption. Good to know. There are internal-to-Afghanistan reasons to think it's a bad idea to just let the poppy growers run free, but also good internal-to-Afghanistan reasons to worry about the consequences of pushing too hard, too fast. Fortunately, one of the good things about setting up a democratic-ish semi-functioning government in Kabul is that we can, if we choose, let said government make up its own mind about how to strike the right balance.

May 23, 2005 | Permalink


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Saddly, the afghan poppy cultivation does have a lot to do w/ the exceedingly cheap heroin in Eastern Russia (and the rest of Russia to a slightly lesser degree) that is contributing greatly to the huge spread of AIDS there, and the general break-down of society. For those of us the care about _that_ country, things not getting under control are somewhat harder to feel unworried about.

Posted by: Matt | May 23, 2005 12:04:05 PM

The Associated Press
Updated: 11:44 a.m. ET May 23, 2005 "Karzai said that he hoped Afghanistan would be free of poppy crops within five to six years and that Afghan farmers could find alternative crops like honey dew melons and pomegranates."

I'm sure there's far more money to be made selling melons than heroin precursors. Karzai must be using the Columbian model of victory over drug cartels. Didn't the U.S. teach everyone in the Cali cartel to weave those wonderful little ornate baskets and colorful throw rugs?

Posted by: steve duncan | May 23, 2005 12:53:06 PM

Afghanistan is never going to be a centralized, modern nation-state, and we need to quit pretending that a national election made it so.

Posted by: Adonais | May 23, 2005 2:34:01 PM

I'm confused. Who gets high from pomegranates?

Posted by: wishIwuz2 | May 23, 2005 2:37:26 PM

here we go.

Posted by: praktike | May 23, 2005 3:17:28 PM

"""Fortunately, one of the good things about setting up a democratic-ish semi-functioning government in Kabul is that we can, if we choose, let said government make up its own mind about how to strike the right balance."""

Which says everything that needs to be said about the independence of the so-called Afghan government, and about the USA's commitment to democracy in that country.

Getting back to the subject, what right does the west have to tell Afghanistan what crops it can grow? I note that the tobacco grown in the USA, the grapes in France, and the hops and barley in the UK, kill more people than the poppies in Afghanistan. Perhaps Afghanistan should invade the West and stop us growing these evil drugs.

Posted by: Phil Hunt | May 23, 2005 6:14:06 PM

Phil, we kill other people, they don't kill us. Another thing, we're never wrong, we know all the answers and God chose us as his special people. Dispute any of the above and an M-16 or mortar will reacquaint you with the truth.

Posted by: steve duncan | May 23, 2005 6:18:54 PM


You are George Bush AICMTP.

Posted by: Phil Hunt | May 23, 2005 8:13:51 PM

"Fortunately, one of the good things about setting up a democratic-ish semi-functioning government in Kabul is that we can, if we choose, let said government make up its own mind about how to strike the right balance."

Yes, Matt: and just how much of a "balance" do you think the Karzai government (or any Afghan government for that matter) is going to strike - or even be able to strike- with a technically illegal industry which provides such a ludicrously high percentage (30%? 40%? 50%?) of the entire country's GNP? Not to mention a considerable amoount of said government's miltary support?
Sorry, folks: return of effective control of Afghanistan to drug-running warlords was the devil's bargain we signed on for when we enlisted them to overthrown the Taliban. Melons? Pomegranates? Maybe: remember where the root of the word "grenade" come form......

Posted by: Jay C | May 24, 2005 11:59:10 AM


Afghan poppies have nothing to do with the deterioration of Russia. The laws banning heroin do. No anti-heroin laws, no needle spread of AIDS.

Posted by: epistemology | May 24, 2005 5:29:47 PM

I assume from your remarks that you don't know much about the situation in Russia, especially in the far east. There heroin is sold in kiosk in the street. While it's offically illegal, that's not the problem. It's a different problem from that in the US. Even if it were legal, it would still be a huge HIV problem there. (Compare that the alchol problem in Russia is vastly higher than in the US, for example.) So, I don't think you understand the situation there well enough to speak of it. I'm in favor of much more liberal drug laws, but even if they were much more liberal in Russia, I find it hard to believe they'd have much effect there.

Posted by: Matt | May 24, 2005 11:17:43 PM

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