[War on Terrorism] Isn't Like The War On Drugs
David Grinspoon &
From the Boston
Globe, Friday September 28, 2001.
David Grinspoon is a planetary scientist
and author of Venus Revealed.
Lester Grinspoon is associate professor emeritus at Harvard Medical
School, author of Marihuana, the Forbidden Medicine, (among other
books) and a member of the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethic's Board of Advisors.
THIS ISN'T LIKE THE WAR ON DRUGS
new war, we are being told, will not be like the other wars, when we knew
where to drop our bombs. TV commentators repeatedly make the analogy to
the "war on drugs."
there is a valid comparison between these two struggles that goes beyond
the one which the pundits have mentioned. Their point is that in each the
enemy is shadowy, nonlocalized, shifting, and hard to target or eradicate.
All true. But there is a reason why the war on drugs is unwinnable and,
unfortunately, the same may become true of this conflict.
problem with the war on drugs is that the enemy was misidentified from the
beginning. The struggle was miscast, and the end result is a
"war" that has done much more harm than good for our society. If
we had called it a "war on addiction" we might have won it by
now. But instead drugs were used as an omnibus enemy in which questionable
moral crusades against substances that many Americans use to harmless, or
even positive, effect, were lumped in with the real enemy: addictions to
heroin, crack, and amphetamines.
legitimate rights of Americans to the pursuit of happiness were targeted
along with legitimate enemies: a smaller list of genuinely dangerous and
addictive drugs. This imprecise targeting has led to the incarceration of
millions of innocent Americans and a lessening of freedoms and civil
rights for the rest of us. It has fostered a lucrative trade in illegal
drugs, created a drug-industrial complex of testing labs and teen boot
camps with an economic life of its own, and caused a general erosion of
trust in our law enforcement, political, and justice systems.
cynicism, cruelty, corruption, and dishonesty of the war on drugs has
helped erode the social contract at the foundation of our society. A war
with a Big Lie at its heart causes massive collateral damage to the
society which mounts it. This war will never be won because it was
originally launched under false premises in which unjust goals have been
lumped together with just ones.
similarity with this new war is that we are again in danger of framing the
fight in the wrong terms, thereby creating new enemies and igniting a
conflict which we cannot win. Only this one could have much more horrible
consequences. This is a unique moment when we are able to pause and
contemplate if not the beginning of the war, certainly a well-defined
moment of terrible escalation.
people who planned the attacks on Sept. 11 were clearly smart. It seems
there are some things about us that they have understood better than we
have understood ourselves. They may also understand some geopolitical
realities better than we do. They will stop at nothing. The brainchildren
of Edward Teller may soon be available to them. One of their goals is to
frighten and shock us. This they have done. But we suspect that their
ultimate goal is to provoke a world war between Islam and the West.
the talk of "This is war, let's show them what we're made of"
and even "bomb Afghanistan back into the Stone Age" causes us to
fear that our government, with the blessing of a public whipped into war
fever, will give the perpetrators exactly what they want. Will we, with
our response, play right into their evil hands?
eyes are now on America to see how we respond. Our response will define
our relationship with the rest of the world for generations. If we
identify specific perpetrators or legitimate targets that threaten more of
the same, then force is justified in removing these threats. But if we
lash out with force just to show the world how tough we are, and if we
kill many innocent civilians, then we may create hundreds of bin Ladens
and thousands of suicide bombers, help foment radical Islamic revolutions
among moderate states, and ultimately bring upon ourselves and the world
much greater destruction.
war must be against hate, inequity, and blind, unthinking nationalism.
Along with any military response, we must look honestly at our role in the
world, at all the sources of anti-Americanism, legitimate and
illegitimate, and proceed with our eyes open. Let us learn from the
failure of the war on drugs that if we misidentify our enemy and frame our
struggle incorrectly, we will do harm to many innocents and democratic
institutions, and we will all lose.
Grinspoon & Lester Grinspoon
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