Defund the Terrorists

Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. It’s certainly a lot more fun. Who wants to wait in a heightened state of alert all the time waiting for the terrorists to strike? Let those who would be terrorists do the sweating. Hit them first.

There are some problems with offense, alas. Fire a drone at the village terrorist hideout, and you might kill some innocent children. This makes the villagers very angry. The number of terrorists goes up as a result of the operation. Even if you only get the bad guys you still might create more terrorists than you kill off. Execution without trial is frowned upon in some nations – including the United States, come to think of it.

Nonlethal attacks are generally better, especially when we are being preemptive. Don’t shoot at suspected terrorists; just take away their money. It is hard to carry out elaborate operations without funds. And being a member of a severely underfunded terrorist organization just isn’t as cool. One might as well stick to the third world equivalent of flipping burgers.

Our government knows this, and is trying to defund the terrorist organizations – badly. Though U.S. efforts to defund world terrorism overlook major revenue sources, they do succeed in making enemies abroad and crushing liberty at home. Embargoes hit the innocent. You don’t need to be a radical libertarian to be annoyed at the NSA and other alphabet soup agencies prying into your financial affairs.

And, my word! Look at the financial privacy we have lost over the past decades! To deal in cash is to be considered a criminal these days. I’m not being a radical libertarian here; I’m being what was considered mainstream when I was a child. Just watch some old movies and television. In the movies rich people are portrayed walking around with wads of thousand dollar bills. Today, they don’t even print thousand dollar bills even though such bills would be worth a tenth of what they were worth when Thurston Howell, III went travelling around with suitcases filled with them.

Today, Mr. Howell would be immediately arrested for money laundering. Actually, the police would simply take the cash without benefit of a trial or formal charges. We need to change our national anthem. The one we have is false advertising.

Or we could restore some liberties that this country took for granted when I was a child. And yes, we can do so while doing a better job of defunding the terrorists.

Terrorism as Crime

Most of what we call terrorism today is activity in the grey area between war and venal criminality. It is a mix of war carried out criminally – breaking the laws of war, and for profit crime using the tools of war.

War is expensive. Using the tools of war for crime doesn’t pay unless crime pays – a lot. Jesses James could fund a private army that paid because he could take over a town to loot its bank before federal forces could arrive. The third world suffers its Jesse James equivalents, alas, and will continue to do so until either most villagers are well armed or their central governments become competent and respected.

But such Jesses James activities are not the big source of funds for warlike criminals and terrorists. Defenseless villages tend to be poor. No, the big source of funds for warlike criminals is growing and smuggling recreational drugs. Drugs funded the Shining Path and drugs continue to fund the Taliban. Drugs fund the non-political narco-terrorists who threaten the stability of Mexico today.

And no, increasing the Drug War won’t solve the problem. Just the opposite. When the United States first ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan, we had started off with quite a bit of goodwill. The Taliban had worn out its welcome. We squandered that goodwill going after poppy fields in the hinterlands. If you want to make a dirt poor mountaineer violently angry, destroy his crops. And that is what our military was tasked to do. Mission creep led to quagmire.

Indeed, our worldwide Drug War makes the entire Moslem world restless and prone to anger. Moslems are forbidden to drink alcohol to chill out. The traditional Arab chill out drug was cannabis (hashish). Via the United Nations, the U.S. has been fighting a worldwide jihad against cannabis. Today many Middle Eastern Moslems are doing caffeine and sugar without anything to calm down with afterwards. Where polygamy is practiced, you have lots of men who don’t even have sex as an option. Violence results.

End the worldwide war on cannabis and tensions should drop. Few remember, but once upon a time Afghanistan was a hippie tourist destination. It could be again.

Defunding the Drug Gangs

Outright drug legalization would defund the drug gangs and their terrorist allies, but outright drug legalization is politically unacceptable, at least for the hard drugs. So I will provide some less libertarian alternatives. (And yes, while I personally think cannabis should just as legal as liquor, even I am nervous at the prospect of free-flowing crack cocaine or easy to get heroin.)

The current War on Drugs fails miserably and funds terrorism because it focuses almost completely on the supply of recreational drugs. Cut the supply and all you do is raise the price. For hard drugs an increased monetary price has very little effect on consumption because the biggest price of doing cocaine or heroin is time it consumes and the toll it takes on mind and body. Legalize these drugs and give them out for free and the only people who would consume more are the extremely law abiding and the very poor. [This is not an original insight on my part, but I have lost track of the original reference. Sorry.]

Higher price and fixed consumption means huge profits for those willing to break the law. Increase penalties at home and you move the market from petty lawbreakers to organized crime, where those who get caught can get paid for doing time in return for keeping their mouths shut. Seize drugs at the border and you increase the price for outlaw farmers and the terrorist gangs who protect them.

To reduce drug abuse without funding terrorists, you have to either legalize the drugs or look at the demand side.

A Demand Side Drug Policy

Recreational drugs do no harm until somebody takes them. The blame belongs to the user, not the dealer. A drug war based on user responsibility could work. Whether we should implement such a war is another matter. I’ll voice my preferences after laying out the options.

For example, it is trivial to find out who is using cannabis. We have tests which can detect use which work months after the last use. If you wanted to eliminate marijuana smoking, you could simply test everyone and toss everyone who tests positive into forcible rehab. Of course, we would have a gulag population which would rival Stalinist Russia at its worst. If we go this route we should definitely ditch the Star Spangled Banner for something more appropriately authoritarian. May I suggest the Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back for the tune. Maybe we could even have some Constitution burning rallies while we are at it – treat those hard drinking drug crazed dead white males the way Hitler treated Jewish writers.

Or, we could make responsible recreational drug use legal while making drug abuse a crime. Fail to feed your kids because you are strung out on methamphetamines, and you get thrown into the rehab center. Drug abuse is much easier to catch than mere drug use. If you can handle your high, it takes surveillance or entrapment to catch you. If you are lying in the park surrounded with heroin needles, your habit is on public display – no need for no-knock searches, etc. I could go for a policy along these lines, but do have some concerns about equal enforcement.

For hard drugs like cocaine and opiates, we might legalize the dilute forms only. Powder cocaine is less bad than crack cocaine. Coca leaves for chewing are less bad than powder cocaine. Likewise, our Founding Fathers were able to function while doing opium in the form of an alcohol tincture (laudanum). Chinese railroad workers were productive enough to draw complaints from less productive whites even while smoking opium on their days off. A legal channel for the dilute forms eliminates the competitive advantage terrorists have at the beginning of the supply chain. Yes, there would still be enforcement difficulties for basement chemists who refine the dilute forms into something stronger. But the problem would be bounded. In a legal regime, most consumers prefer the dilute forms – liquor replaced beer and wine during Prohibition.

One could also limit where people could legally consume certain drugs, just as we limit where people can enjoy casino gambling.

And finally, for what it is worth, here is where I currently stand:

  • Cannabis should just be legal. I feel plenty safe on a city street with idle stoners.
  • Concentrated hard drugs should be limited like casino gambling to certain venues, and maybe even require the equivalent of a driver’s license to make sure partakers know what they are getting into. [Timothy Leary favored such licenses.]
  • I’m not sure about dilute forms of opiates and cocaine. They should definitely be legal in restricted areas. Whether they should be generally available is something to be determined by experiment in a limited area first.
  • I can go for laws against drug abuse as long as the penalties are limited and the ACLU makes sure such laws are enforced evenly.

The Other Source of Terrorist Funding

The other big source of terrorist organization funding is oil. As long as Saudi Arabia has enough surplus funds to export its despicable ideology of whipping women for the crime of being raped, we will be pestered by fanatics who hate us for not being evil enough. To peacefully put the Saudis Arabians in their place, we will next turn from the libertarian playbook, to the green playbook.