With corruption crippling the U.S. Aghan effort, President Hamid Karzai preparing to steal his second election, and the CIA funneling money to Karzai's drug-trading brother, Afghanistan's massive opium economy is a frequent cause of concern. Most experts say it funds the Taliban and undermines the legitimate government. But liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias breaks with conventional wisdom to say that while heroin's bad, the opium trade isn't as disastrous as we think.
Just because the opium trade is a major source of funding for the Taliban doesn't mean that cracking down on "the opium trade" hurts the Taliban. If I deal heroin here in DC than a crackdown on "heroin dealers" would be bad for me if and only if I actually get shut down. If, instead, the police shut down other heroin dealers then that's good for me, the cops have shut down the competition. Now if what they're primarily concerned with is reducing the overall quantity of heroin dealing in the city maybe they don't care about that. But if the issue is that some heroin dealers are using drug money to buy televisions and other heroin dealers are using drug money to buy bombs that are used to kill Marines then it would make sense for the cops to be a good deal more discriminating. And this is basically the situation in Afghanistan.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.