So, the U.S. is trying to eradicate Afghanistan’s opium crop again. The sheer, neck-snapping cluelessness of this leaves me practically speechless. All at once, we are trying to:
a) Make the Afghans like us, get them to appreciate our good will, and therefore convince them not to join or lend assistance to the Taliban.
b) Destroy their livelihoods.
In an additional sign of brilliance, the U.S. government* conflates the drug trade with the profits that the Taliban skims off the drug trade. Basically, the Taliban is shaking down rural farmers and drug traffickers by “levying taxes.” Does the Bush Administration think that, if the drug trade were ended or replaced with equally profitable legal transactions, the Taliban would just stop shaking people down?
This is like trying to reduce robbery by deciding that nobody is allowed to have money.
* In olden times, instead of “the U.S. government” or “the Bush administration,” I would say “we,” as in “we Americans” or “our U.S. government, of, by, and for the people.” Nowadays, when somebody says “we” and means “the U.S. government”, I think: “Who’s we? Speak for yourself, buddy.”
[UPDATE] If you like a dash of facts with your outrage and colorful metaphors, see Mark Kleiman (via Mr Yglesias). Bottom line, our policy priorities should be: first, defeat the Taliban, distant second, control the drug trade. And: steps taken to control the drug trade should probably have some measurable effect on the drug trade greater than or equal to their (deleterious) effect on priority the first.