Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We Must Have Been Stoned to Believe This

Some opponents of the war in Afghanistan have claimed that the war has made things worse, invoking the claim that the Taliban actually cooperated with us to fight drugs back in the 1990s. (And I apologize for the vagueness of this statement, I'm going by memory and not pointing to a specific article.) With drug crops big right now, this development is supposed to be another indictment of the war that failed to see through to unintended consequences.

I never bought the idea that it was worth having a jihadi state in exchange for reduced drug traffic. To me, making that trade was worthwhile, but that's my opinion.

However, this trade off never actually existed:

It's a myth that the Taliban cracked down on the drug trade back then. For one year, the Taliban went through the motions of shutting down the drug business. They did this in order to qualify for foreign aid, which was money they desperately needed. But the drug taxes continued to roll in. That year, the drug gangs had a surplus of stuff to move, and the Taliban shut down many poppy growing operations, with foreign reporters looking on, to keep the surplus from getting any larger.

So, the Taliban didn't actually fight the drug trade. They were merely willing to play along to get our aid and in the process prop up drug prices to their benefit. Our press was willing to go along without probing whether this drug-fighting claim was true. And we were (and many still are) willing to believe their charade.

Heck, I believed it. That's all I've read. But this conventional wisdom apparently was not based on fact.

Go figure.