More than 90 percent of the world’s opium comes out of Afghanistan, where poppy crops blanket the provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul.
The U.S. and its allies have led efforts to eradicate poppy crops, with hopes that they can cut off drug money going to the Taliban. But some poor Afghan farmers have become dependent on income from narcotics.
Jonathan Power of the World Policy Blog argues that rather than eradicating poppy crops, which runs the risk of driving desperate farmers into the willing arms of the Taliban, the West should buy crops.
Legalizing Poppy Growing in Afghanistan
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine who lived 460-357 B.C., concluded that diseases were naturally caused and were cured by natural remedies. Opium, he wrote, was one of the latter. But he was also of the opinion that it should be used sparingly and under control.
If only our governments today could take such a sanguine and informed view of the use of opiates in medicine today.
No one needs a more enlightened attitude than the Western forces now operating in Afghanistan where they are committed to destroying the peasants’ main source of income.
The tough, no-nonsense eradication program has done as much as Western military action to push country people into the Taliban camp. The West has long been shooting itself in the foot.
Both the former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf and the wise senior statesman and former finance minister Sartaj Aziz, who probably knows more about the economics of agriculture in Pakistan than anyone else, have told me that it would be more sensible for Western governments to help buy the poppy crop. This would solve two problems in one blow. First, it would help deal with the world-wide shortage of medical opiates which, according to the World Health Organization, are causing a “global pain crisis.” In Africa hundreds of thousands of people are dying in agony for lack of pain relief. Second, it would prevent the opium farmers of Afghanistan being driven into the arms of the Taliban.
There are many practical problems with the idea of buying up the crop. If the price were set too high, it might encourage even more farmers to grow opium poppies. If it were not high enough, they would go on selling at least some on the black market. Nevertheless, they would probably rather sell their crop legally than to the mafia.
How would the Muslim world react to buying up the crop? Before the U.S. invasion the Taliban with their rigorous, fundamentalist, view point were against the growing of poppies and that effectively ended poppy growing. But after the invasion they turned 180 degrees and encouraged it, mainly for the purpose of providing revenue to buy military equipment.
To read more, see the original post.