US Drug Control Policy and International Operations
F. Andy Messing, Jr. and Bruce A. Hazelwood

Table of Contents



Obstacles to Success BUREAUCRACY WARS: Drug Enforcement "Mis"Administration (DEA)

Enters the Department or Defense (DoD)

DRUG AND INSURGENT CONFLICT Three Phases of Narco-Guerrilla Warfare





Agency for international Development (AID)

International Cooperation

COMMITMENT Considerations:


Resource Commitment

Program Preparation

Personnel Selection

SUPPLY AND DEMAND: The Crucial Areas ERADICATION: Chemicals Versus the Environment Militarization of the Drug War: The Case of Peru

Community Defense

Guerrilla Forces

Two Enemies-Two Approaches

Civilian Population

International Help



Unilateral Counter Drug Action

Government and Private Industry

Eradication: the U.S. Should Lead By Example

Narco-Guerrilla Warfare In the U.S.A.

The Cocaine and Heroin Merger:

Problems of Drug Legalization


In Washington:

Conclusion Overseas:



On September 5, 1989, America declared war on drugs. The U.S. President stated "We must rise up united and express our intolerance." He also made it clear that "The rules have changed." On the same date1 President Bush announced his administration's plan to combat drugs and identified the critical areas to be addressed. However, an analysis of the drug war and its progress so far will reveal that the U.S. 's foundation for conducting the full spectrum of drug and narcotics control options remains defective. In certain aspects, existing shortcomings of Mexican drug control policy worldwide have their root in the collective mindset and the bureaucratic structure of the United States Government.

Even though recent efforts have been made to address this problem, lack of a strategic vision is the one area that continues to plague the drug control policy. America's initial involvement in the drug war took shape without well defined objectives, a comprehensive plan of action, or a clear appreciation of the resources likely to be required. Unable to see the drug war as a whole, the United States Government improvised, addressing problems in isolation as they appeared.

If a lack of strategic vision is a shortcoming that impedes progress, then an absence of a national level experience base has equally debilitated our domestic and foreign drug control efforts.

The lack of national level credibility and competence has clearly resulted in wasted time, money and lives. This has had its effects both in the United States and abroad. Overseas, it has resulted in a failure to mobilize international cooperation and a misguided attempt to militarize the drug fight. In the United States, it has primarily resulted in bureaucratic infighting. Furthermore, it has prevented our drug control planners from adjusting to the flexibility and creativity of our drug adversaries. But most importantly, this absence of national level credibility has resulted in a failure to understand the critical importance of eradication.

The research reported here was sponsored by the National Defense Council Foundation. This report assesses the United States' foreign drug control programs and attempts to evaluate the future efficacy of
America's drug control efforts overseas. The findings are the sole responsibility of the authors. All comments should be addressed to:

National Defense Council Foundation
3220 King Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
(703) 836-3443


The Bush Administration's National Drug Control Strategy, aimed at reducing both supply and demand, has been advertised since September 5, 1989. Even though the initial domestic test area, Washington D.C., was declared a failure, the comprehensive strategy did accomplish the tasks of both identifying and raising the awareness about the critical areas necessary for success. Since the drug policy's approval, it has now become the accepted dogma that in order to win we must simultaneously attack the drug problem on all fronts.

Obstacles to Success

In America, there is a clear national consensus in favor of waging the war on drugs. Even though vast amounts of monies and resources have been dedicated to the fight, why then has there been no significant drop in drug use, drug related crimes and drug flow into the United States? Presently, the major obstacles to an effective implementation of the U.S. drug control strategy are the lack of national leadership credibility, the continuing bureaucratic infighting and the extremist environmentalists.

The first obstacle is caused by a lack of knowledge on the part of those who have been charged by the President with solving the drug crisis. Most of the U.S. government's career and appointed officials involved in planning the drug war have little or no experience. The experience they do have is often gained from trial and error during on-the-job training. Before their acceptance to serve in key positions, these major drug control strategy experts were mostly ignorant about drugs and the drug war. However, overnight, these same people became the most knowledgeable on how to solve the crisis. This lack of experience base and operational credibility is having grave ramifications for our domestic and international drug control efforts.

In an attempt to quickly educate and mask the ignorance of many of our drug control policy makers, strategy planners and bureaucratic implementers, the government bureaucrats have turned to the use of official and unofficial drug studies, drug seminars and drug war-gaming exercises to certify themselves. These short, basic introductory courses for our governmental leaders try to make up for their lack of "on the ground experience." The results of this approach may prove more dangerous than beneficial as it churns out hundreds of self-appointed overnight pseudo experts anxious either to lead the drug war or advise those who do.

This lack of national level knowledge has also had its impact on Congress, which must pass the laws and approve the money needed to fight the drug war. As a general practice Congressmen rely on committee hearings, fact-finding trips, and most importantly, work done by their committee staffers to obtain the information to do their job.

Unfortunately, all too often government officials give both legislators and their staffs. From a review of committee hearings and reports from fact-finding missions, it is clear that sometimes the information provided is inaccurate. At other times, the information, although technically correct, is totally one-sided, usually painting an overly rosy picture of the agency or program involved and downplaying or completely leaving out the negative aspects of the situation.

Further complicating the problem is that, although well intentioned, Congressmen and their staff usually do not have the operational or technical training, subject matter background or the years of on-the-ground experience to interpret this misleading and often sketchy information. This many limes results in two unhappy outcomes: either bad Congressional legislation based on the poor quality of information provided, or a Congress unhappy with the quality of information and the lack of success; therefore creating the natural tendency of attempting to micro manage operational decisions in the field -- decisions which neither they nor their staffers truly understand. Either way, the drug war suffers.

In 1988, Congress tried to address the second obstacle, bureaucratic infighting, by creating the Office of National Drug Control Policy. This agency was to have brought order and consistency to the more than 40 federal agencies with parts to play in the drug battle. However, restraining self-promoting political attitudes has proven difficult and has been much like fighting the mythical Hydra--cut off one head and another grows in a different place. In an underground manner, some federal agencies have taken on the mission of protecting their turf, their power and their budget, even if such actions weaken the President's drug control policy. This parochial, intellectual corruption is not only counterproductive but also expensive.

The third obstacle, extremist environmentalists, has proven more difficult to focus attention on. Leftist eco-radicals have unfairly labeled companies that manufacture safe and workable drug control herbicides as war criminals and planetary monsters. At the same time, these environmental extremists choose to ignore the ecological havoc being reeked on the tropical jungles by the deforestation from the slash and burn expansion of drug cultivation, and the massive contamination of streams and rivers by the toxic precursor chemicals used in drug processing. In comparison, eradication of drug plants by aerial spraying of a plant specific, environmentally safe herbicide is an attractive alternative.

Another part of the problem is that large chemical corporations, such as Dow, have been skillfully intimidated by environmentalists, resulting in a policy that runs counter to Latin American and U.S. security interests. For instance, the use of Tebuthiuron, better known as "Spike," the most effective and safe coca plant killer yet discovered, has been made a controversial issue which most of our politicians will not confront. They have opted instead to direct attention from coca crop destruction to the politically safer areas of eradication, treatment, prevention and law enforcement. To date, few seem to grasp the fact that without eradication we will never be able to build enough treatment centers, correction facilities, hospitals and classrooms to handle the problem. Simply put, eradication is the only program that can suppress the volume of the drug supply to a point that allows those other critical areas to become affordable, manageable and to have a real impact.


Presently, overall control and coordination of America's foreign drug program rests in the hands of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics Matters (INM). In each foreign country with a major drug production problem (Peru, Thailand, Guatemala, etc.), INM assigns a Narcotics Assistance Unit (NAU) field office to the U.S. embassy in that country. The NAU office is responsible for all U.S. sponsored drug control resources and coordinates the utilization of all assets for U.S. supported eradication and interdiction operations.

NAU, even though an important section, is often overlooked by the news media which is generally too busy paying attention to the Drug Enforcement Administration's effective and self-promoting propaganda efforts. Perhaps because each NAU is ultimately responsible for the drug program's long term success in their respective country, they have shown the greatest improvement of all the agencies in their office and field staffing as the drug war has progressed.

However, in spite of the above mentioned progress, INM's Washington based Aviation Division still remains poorly staffed and administrated. This long-standing problem has not been remedied even with the recent assignment of active duty military aviation personnel to the overseas elements of LNM's Aviation Division. Nowhere is this shortcoming more evident than in Peru where the Aviation Division's mismanagement of the contract aviation company has become legendary.

Although Congress had legislated the Department of State as the lead agency in the overseas drug war, State was never designed to be a field oriented agency. Recognizing this, State has adopted the practice of contracting the management of its counter drug field operations to former U.S. military personnel (usually retired Special Forces). While this has proven to be a useful stop gap measure, a more efficient approach would be for the State Department to establish a permanent Field Coordinator and Advisory Unit. This small unit would serve as the U.S. Government's field representatives, rotating to U.S. sponsored drug control programs throughout the world. The creation of such a unit would go a long way toward ensuring continued progress in foreign countries over the long haul of the drug war.

Drug Enforcement "Mis"Administration (DEA)

The continued bureaucratic infighting and the inability by other agencies to accept the State Department's lead role has lead to unnecessary redundancy in overseas field operations. A combination of desk bound conceptualizes and inexperienced field implementers has resulted in missed opportunities, wasted resources and increased drug flow. The majority of the blame for this lack of success rests squarely with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Ill-suited Drug Enforcement Administration personnel, both male and female, have been the primary reason foreign interdiction operations against traffickers, laboratories and clandestine airstrips have been expensive and virtually unproductive. DEA's lack of field knowledge, coupled with inadequate training and improper personnel selection, have made DEA's "Operation Snowcap," designed to disrupt overseas rural drug processing and trafficking, a continuing failure.

To be fair to the agency, however, by most accounts DEA's performance in domestic urban areas and their work with other agencies to attack such things as money laundering, has enjoyed success. Both of these tasks are appropriate roles for which the agency was designed.

However, in a bold move to expand their turf, funding, and power, the Drug Enforcement Administration conned Congress into believing that DEA's overseas efforts could cut the flow of drugs into the U.S. by 50 percent in three years if Operation Snowcap was approved. DEA has so mastered the art of self- publicity and media manipulation that many officials, both in and out of government are now leery of criticizing the agency and Operation Snowcap for fear of being labeled "pro drug." As one U.S. Congressman stated, "criticizing DEA has become tantamount to criticizing the drug war itself." The skillful creation of such a barrier to criticism has proven to be a major bureaucratic coup for DEA.

Even though Operation Snowcap may have been sound in concept, the effort was foredoomed to failure, in large part due to an absence of experienced jungle operators. It was soon evident that their urban law enforcement skills were not transferable and were an insufficient base to allow them to operate effectively and safely in rural Third World areas. When observing DEA personnel operate in the field, one is reminded of enthusiastic ROTC college cadets -- knowing they should be doing something but not sure what or how. When these DEA field personnel are teamed up with untrained foreign drug police, jungle operations are made unnecessarily dangerous, costly and wasteful. At some point American lives will be lost needlessly.

Another problem that seems to plague DEA is their inability to effectively interact with foreign government officials. Clearly, all U.S. participants involved in the drug war should possess an understanding for the sensitive political and security environment in which they must work. Sadly, most DEA agents overseas have little appreciation for these subtle differences, and they lack an awareness for the importance of effective cross- cultural communications. In Peru, DEA's combative and insensitive attitude is a serious stumbling block to convincing the Peruvian authorities to conduct quality counter drug operations.

Enters the Department or Defense (DoD)

If DEA is not the appropriate agency, either by experience or background, to carry out jungle operations, then what is the answer? A step in the right direction would be to allow select elements of the military, like the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets), to carry out these paramilitary missions. Recent modifications to the Posse Comitatus Act in 1981 and 1985, allowing the U.S. military to become involved in the drug fight, were welcome additions. The Department of Defense's involvement could be a possible bright spot, but one that could quickly collapse if not handled properly. The key element to assuring that DOD has a positive and beneficial effect on the overseas drug war is to ensure careful augmentation. The government must resist the temptation to abruptly pile personnel and resources onto an already troubled program. Any increase in military participation overseas should only be made in those areas where real voids exist and with only carefully selected personnel. This is a concept that has proven successful throughout the years.

With the introduction of the U.S. military, however, comes a note of warning. Due to the military's current general composition and relatively low pay scale, military personnel are more susceptible to the corrupting influence of the narcodollar. Accordingly, DoD personnel must be psychologically screened, given customized security checks and periodically reviewed.

An example of how the augmentation concept was incorrectly applied comes from DoD's recent attempt to assist DEA with military intelligence specialists in Peru. The idea was to form a small team of area oriented intelligence personnel called the Tactical Analysis Team (TAT). The purpose of the TAT was to provide professional analysis of information gathered from all sources to increase the effectiveness of interdiction missions and security operations in Peru's narco-guerrilla infested Upper Huallaga Valley. Unfortunately, the initial field representative selected by DoD to fill this slot, a Marine staff sergeant, possessed little training and experience in unconventional warfare, related counter guerrilla activities, nor did he speak Spanish--all of which should have been minimum criteria for this assignment. The end result was misread information and misinterpreted threat indicators. In this case, a well meaning but inappropriately staffed concept became a negative factor and, as a result, professional operations were hindered.

Besides selective augmentation of overseas drug control program, DoD can make immediate worthwhile contributions to the drug war by changing the way it selects key Defense Department personnel for regular duty in our embassies overseas. The most productive practice would be to assign more Special Forces qualified and experienced soldiers to those countries where the U.S. has ongoing Military Assistance Programs involving counterinsurgency or anti-drug efforts. Failure to understand the importance of this principal was seen recently in Peru where the previous and present Military Assistance Group (MAAG) Commanders were Air Force officers. Predictably, both were seemingly lost in a narco-guerrilla environment. This point becomes even more critical as Washington is making plans, to increase the amounts and types of military aid and the number of advisors/trainers sent to the beleaguered Andean nations.


But regardless of what bureaucracy is in charge or which U.S. military forces is introduced, other considerations may ultimately have an even greater impact on success or failure. For example, in the Andean region any attempt to control coca cultivation, cocaine processing and drug trafficking requires U.S. planners to take into careful consideration the marriage of convenience between narco-traffickers, insurgent guerrilla forces and corrupt host government officials. Individually, each has proven to be a serious opponent. Collectively, they are formidable adversaries.

In a narco-guerrilla situation, the affected foreign country will see the insurgents as the bigger threat to their national security. In contrast, U.S. policy makers in the beginning will selfishly view the narcotics problems as the number one enemy. This makes the development of a common strategy difficult, especially when the foreign government must decide on the distribution of already scarce resources.

The problem is further complicated by narco-dollars finding their way into the pockets of the foreign government's military and civilian officials. This point was recently highlighted when, on March 2, 1990, Peruvian soldiers, guarding a clandestine airstrip, fired on an INM helicopter which had just interrupted a drug pick-up. It was only after quick and firm pressure from the U.S. Ambassador that the Peruvian Government took the appropriate disciplinary action while somewhat disingenuously declaring it an isolated incident.

Three Phases of Narco-Guerrilla Warfare

Presently, many drug producing countries are beset with guerrilla war. Therefore, in order for our overseas drug control programs to be successful U.S. planners and field operators should have a full understanding of narco-guerrilla warfare and related activities.

The following generic outline of the Three Phases of Narco-Guerrilla Warfare represents a typical progression and details the levels of involvement of the narco organization, the insurgent forces and the likely responses of the foreign government. As will be demonstrated, of the three major players in a narco-guerrilla situation (the traffickers, the guerrillas, and the government), it is the drug traffickers who are the most adept at manipulating the other two.

As a starting point, it can be said that countries with narco-guerrilla problems did not see both the drug and insurgent activities begin simultaneously. Each organization clearly had a separate birth and a separate agenda. On the other hand, the guerrillas see themselves - as liberators of the oppressed, defenders of social justice and fighters against corruption. In sharp contrast, the drug organization is a business representing free enterprise at its extremes. The insurgents' goals are to challenge the government's legitimacy and ability to provide security to the rural population, always searching for the moral high ground. Their long term objective is to collapse the government. In sharp contrast, the drug trafficker's goals are to gain control by using their immense financial advantages and propensity for violence to corrupt and intimidate at all levels of society. Their long-term objective is to incorporate the government. The government's goal is to maintain itself in power. Most narco-guerrilla situations can usually be divided into three phases.


Phase One is the incipient stage. Here the conflict is generated because of the grave social, economic and political imbalance. The governmental forces are set on maintaining the status quo and the opposition guerrilla forces are dedicated to change. The insurgents will usually opt for a Maoist type strategy based in the rural areas where the government's control is the weakest. Their plans are to work from the countryside into the metropolitan areas. Neither side is preoccupied with funding sources as both envision an opportunity for early victory, in spite of rhetoric to the contrary. It is during this phase that the military and organizational structure of both the government and the guerrillas are defined. Both sides believe they are reaching for the moral high ground in an attempt to get support from the masses.

During this early stage, activities by the drug traffickers are covert and large scale narco actions are limited. Both drug dealings and insurgent battlefield preparations are on going but largely unrelated. Because the guerrillas are ideologically motivated and as yet possess limited armed capability, they have no need or desire to be identified with the criminal narco dealers. Therefore, both elements operate and pursue their goals on separate paths.

During this phase, the government, with its untrained policy and military forces, views the guerrillas as bandits who can easily be eliminated by increasing its repressive activities in the affected areas usually outside of the country's capital. At the same time, some ruling civilian and military officials begin to see the drug business as a way to augment their low income. They conveniently rationalize that the drug problem is one of external use and not their internal responsibility. Therefore, the lucrative drug trade is allowed to operate and flourish. This lack of government concern and understanding allows the drug operators as well as guerrilla forces to develop their essential underground infrastructure and their operational apparatus. By the latter part of Phase I, two important facts start to become evident:

    1. Through police actions the narco/guerrilla connection is dearly exposed. This results in the government finally having to admit that separating the two is difficult.
    2. That as efforts become more aggressive, corrupt government officials begin to actively throw obstacles in the path of the program designed to stop the drug trade.

By Phase II, the government and guerrillas both realize that the conflict may be protracted. Each side tries to extend their combat power to get the advantage. Accordingly, the costs in terms of "money, resources, manpower and political risks escalate. Money becomes central in the conflict, whether it is denying it or making it. As the moral reasoning of the war blurs and the "end justifies the means" rational emerges within elements of the fighting factions, the lure of easy money takes hold. Narcotics activity quickly emerges as a leading moneymaker with the drug dealers taking the driver's seat.

The principle objective of the narcos at this point is to export increasingly large quantities of the product for sale abroad. Key government and guerrilla leaders will use the military structure of their organizations to facilitate the trafficker's goal in the name of maximizing the profits for "the cause." Narco business elements make informal alliances with key leaders on both sides. In the case of the guerrillas, the overwhelming majority of drug profits are initially directed to the insurgent's formal structure; however, the first incidents of major skimming occur. On the government side, informal organizational structures are developed to distribute drug profits and formal discipline starts breaking down. Inflation of the price for drug protection services; graft and corruption are becoming routine.

During Phase lithe guerrillas expand their bases and build up their fighting forces for the introduction of coordinated small unit combat activities. Their increasing need for supplies and equipment make them more vulnerable and dependent on narco involvement. Deals are made for the protection of clandestine airfields and safe passage, and in the process money changes hand. The guerrilla leadership uses the money to buy weapons, ammunition and other war materials. This drug income, coupled with insurgent "battlefield acquisition" from the government forces, allows the insurgents to expand their area of control and further challenge the government's authority and ability to maintain law, order and security.

The guerrillas help justify their association with the narcos as a way of assisting the campesino drug farmer rise above the subsistence level. Therefore they use the government's attempts to conduct manual and aerial eradication of drug plants as rallying cries to incite the former to protest. Using this "window of opportunity'. The guerrillas establish more control and introduce their dedicated cadres to the civilian population.

The insurgents condition the farmers to believe that growing drugs is not wrong, and that the government, its military forces and the U.S. supporters are the enemy. Many become vulnerable to insurgent political propaganda and indoctrination and are slowly incorporated into the guerrilla masses with some becoming full time combatants.

Throughout Phase II, a sharp increase in drug production and trafficking occurs. Towns within the harvest areas actually start to grow and thrive off of the narco dollars. This further complicates the government's problems, because if state sponsored eradication and interdiction programs are successful, the results will lower the standard of living and possibly serve to drive more people into the hands of the guerrillas. However, any success of the government's anti-drug programs is unlikely due to the "widespread corruption of government officials by the narco dollars, which guarantees a half-hearted effort at best to implement programs designed to suppress the drug trade.

As the war between the insurgents and government forces intensifies, the balance of real campesino farmers vs. new entrepreneurs begins to change. Given the constant increase in drug demand, the narcotics growing areas start to attract entrepreneurs from economically depressed urban cities. Many of the original farmers, who only wanted peace and quiet, move into the safer government controlled towns. This makes it even easier for the new drug growers to flood into the drug growing areas. This displacement further serves to consolidate the narco's power and causes an increase in drug related activities. In many cases, the narco organization will even go so far as to provide crop growing assistance such as fertilizer and farming technique advice to drug growers.

Under these deteriorating circumstances, crop substitution is presented by the government as an option. However, the reality is no harvest can compete financially with drug cultivation. In addition, programs that encourage growing other crops soon find that the lines of communication (roads, the important accesses from the field to the market) are controlled by guerrillas and often closed. Developing alternatives such as local processing plants are tried, but prove difficult to maintain because of guerrilla attacks. Air lifting commodities is considered as a course of action but soon proves to be expensive and not cost effective. In the end, the government perceives that it has no option but to declare the area an emergency and turn major authority over to the army. This serves to further escalate the level of violence.

Quickly, existing divisions between host country drug police and the military units deepen. Each has their role: the police fighting drug dealers, the army waging their war in the countryside against the guerrillas. Both are competing for resources and greater operating authority. The army's point of view is that the guerrillas pose the most dangerous threat to national security, mostly because of existing civilian and military drug involvement and associated corruption, the idea of directing all available resources at winning the guerrilla war is given serious consideration by government officials in the capital. This serves to demonstrate bow fully involved government officials have become in assisting and protecting the narcotics traffickers.

It is during Phase II that the drug dealers begin to gain significant amounts of control and influence over the government, its armed forces and the guerrilla movement. Both the insurgents and the government consider the narco element as a necessary evil to be used in order to better their individual or group financial position and increase their power base. In most cases, countries with rural civil defense forces will see the people in drug growing areas transferring their attention from fighting insurgents to providing protection for drug operations. This change of focus leaves the isolated rural towns vulnerable to further guerrilla penetration.

It is at the end of Phase II that narco front personnel, in a move to increase their power and security, will campaign and possibly be elected to official office. Other members of the drug organization will gain sensitive positions in the government by official appointments to seek to influence the government through front groups like drug growers' unions. Laundered narco dollars are used to purchase or establish legitimate corporations which are as important to the long-term survivability of the drug organization as the drug trafficking itself. This eventually results in an economy that becomes quite dependent on drug activities to keep the country afloat.


In Phase III, both the governmental and guerrilla factions are in the process of becoming shells. Real power is being effectively transferred to leading narco elements. Every part of the society has yielded, to one degree or another, to the drug organization within their territory. Narco elements turn inward to domestic markets to squeeze out every last peso and firm up local control of the population. Cross-pollination of domestic and international drug elements occurs.

Throughout each phase, the insurgents have tried to control more of the drug system. At the same time, police and military forces have demanded more from the drug dealers for protection. The drug lords switch back and forth between the coups as it suits their purposes. It is this technique of keeping both elements off balance and dependent on the drug trade that the narcos have mastered. They play each against the other as if they were musical instruments. Both are maintained at a safe arm's length, their roles increased and decreased as it suits the drug dealers.

If this situation is left unchecked the drug organizations will succeed in their attempt to dominate the country's institutions. By this late stage the narcos clearly wield more power than the guerrilla apparatus. Although both have mastered clandestine operations and the ability to survive in challenging environments; by this point, the reach of the drug dealer's money, weapons and infrastructure is much longer than that of the guerrillas. In some cases there will even be increased involvement by the drug organizations in promoting guerrilla and government negotiations, mainly because they view continued guerrilla instability as a potential threat to their control.

As the threatened government wakes up and tries to apply serious pressure, the narco organization responds violently with brutal acts of revenge. Some government officials will then plead for compromise; they will propose that the government and drug organizations coexist. If this idea is accepted it will be a sure win for the drug dealers. Only if some brave high government official declares all out war can the country and its institutions be saved. It is then that the country's moral warriors (civilian, military and police) step out to defy the odds. It is with these individuals that responsibility for success is placed. Recognizing the drug dealer's strategy, and after several successful attacks, a special protection package will have to be developed around these key people. The critical need to strengthen the judicial system, which does not work well against normal criminal acts, much less those involving drugs, is quickly realized. It is at this late stage that the narco-guerrilla war has entered its most critical phase, a war of will and sustainment. The first to quit loses.


Narcoguerrilla warfare brings with it many problems, not the least of which is how to establish a narcotics control program without driving the rural population deeper into the hands of insurgent forces. Although attacking the drug crops may make the grower more susceptible to insurgent penetration, in most cases, without the threat of eradication, other factors by themselves will not be enough to motivate the grower to switch to legal crops. This being the case, any serious U.S. sponsored eradication program must also include plans for crop substitution and microeconomic development. Any crop substitution and rural economic development programs should be self-supporting and expanding. If not, they will soon die on the vine. Furthermore, it should be understood that these programs should be for the real farmer, not the pseudo-farmers who have just come out of the urban areas for employment and coca profits. Therefore, before deciding on a particular course of action, all interested parties should answer the questions: are there markets for the replacement crops? Are there lines of communication to move crops from field to market? Does the security situation allow for their safe passage? When formulating a crop substitution program it should be remembered that presently no crop or combination of crops provides an income equal to what the farmer can earn by cultivating coca.

The overall objective of a drug control program is to create a situation where drug growers are susceptible, either through negative or positive means, to some form of occupational alternative. Experience has shown that growers are most amenable to change when the drug processing sequence is interrupted or the narcotics delivery chain is broken. This creates a "window of opportunity" to introduce new stable agricultural possibilities and business plans, as the crackdown in Colombia has shown. How foreign country officials and the U.S. planners capitalize on these openings may well determine the success or failure of that country's anti-drug efforts. We must carefully plan U.S. development aid to take advantage of this "window of opportunity," while at the same time, avoiding the mistakes of the past.

Agency for international Development (AID)

In our recent history, many U.S. sponsored development efforts overseas have been relatively unproductive and often embarrassing. We must insure these mistakes are not repeated when the U.S. involves itself in a program of crop substitution and economic development for the drug growing areas. The most significant mistake we could make would be the failure to properly direct the costly programs of the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID). If AID's track record continues, the Andean countries could become a dumping ground for U.S. surplus farm products and substandard employees. Crop substitution, along with roads, schools, clinics water wells and other inexpensive micro economic projects, will be neglected because they require American AID personnel to leave their air conditioned offices in the capital and live in the field. That is uncomfortable as well as dangerous, and only a few will do what needs to be done.

In a narco-guerrilla situation any lack of AID project supervision in the field will allow corruption to thrive. This is a fatal flaw, because corruption has long been a theme of the leftist insurgents and if corruption persists it will only serve to make the guerrillas, the narcos and other adversaries stronger and more credible.

International Cooperation

When considering an economic development strategy, we should remember that since drug problem is a world problem, the development effort is best served when it is brought about with the cooperation of the international community. This way the chances for diverse capital and broad in scope development are increased.

Within the drug producing and trafficking countries the principal reason for the lack of cooperation lies in the U.S. government's willingness to compromise and its refusal to use financial leverage against foreign governments. Take the case of Mexico, through which the majority of the Andean cocaine enters the U.S. The Mexican Government does little to deter illegal drug transactions within and outside of its country. In spite of this the U.S. certifies the corrupt Mexican Government as fully cooperating in drug enforcement, which gives Mexico preferred trade status and allows it to bypass certain money borrowing restrictions. For more than 14 years the U.S. financed drug control program in Mexico remains a relative failure.

This being the case, and with the President's drug war announcement, why then are Mexico and other similar countries not isolated and punished? First, U.S. banking institutions are afraid that the application of too much pressure from the U.S. will cause the Mexican Government to default on its huge and increasing debt. Second, the US. Government is afraid that any decline in the Mexican economy will be an open invitation to a leftist insurrection. Neither reason however is sufficient to continue to undermine the U.S. drug strategy and American society and compromise our own national standards.

Narrow business interests and the always convenient threat of communism cause the U.S. to turn a blind eye and weaken the effectiveness of our foreign policy and drug control efforts. This shortcoming has and continues to prevent any "real" international cooperation in the drug fight.

COMMITMENT Considerations:

Defective development programs and faulty international cooperation are not the only U.S shortcomings. Already the Andean Drug Control Program is beginning to develop some of the early symptoms of the "body count" virus. Presently, a concentration on field activities is being incorrectly used as the yardstick to measure success or failure of the programs. Continuing this myopic focus of effort on field operations, instead of directing our attention to the real factors that will determine the outcome must be avoided. Planners should under-stand that it is the area of Strategy, Resource Commitment, Program Preparation and Personnel Selection that will determine the long-term effectiveness of our overseas narcotics control efforts.


Arguably, the first of these areas, strategy, is the most important. A common strategy, agreed upon and accepted by the foreign country and the U.S, is a necessary step -towards victory. In the absence of a sincere, meaningful agreement on strategic goals there will always be major conflicts between the U.S. and the foreign country. The positive impact of any successful field operation is greatly decreased without a set of strategic long-term goals to measure it against. Final success depends upon choosing the correct strategy, selling it to the foreign government, and then everybody navigating by it. Yet as critical as strategy is, there remains a temptation to spend most of our time and attention on the easier to manage field operations. U.S. planners should always remember that drug control field activities have little validity unless they are linked to a correct and implementable strategy.

In the Andean countries, the U.S. has adopted three strategic priorities to determine our level of involvement and assistance. First priority is the war on drugs, second is the maintenance of the foreign country's democratic institutions. Third is its economical development. Unfortunately, this may not be the strategic priority of the foreign country. The differences come to light primarily because the U.S. sees the drug trade as the major threat to American interests and to the foreign country's democratic stability. In contrast, civilian foreign government officials may see the militarization of the drug war as the main threat to their fragile democracies.

In obtaining our objectives, the U.S. should clearly understand the need for the foreign country to develop its own anti-drug policy from the joint strategy. Their policy should include an implementable drug control strategy. This policy must be backed up with the establishment of a national level anti-drug infrastructure that expands out to all of the country's institution, most importantly the police and military forces. One of the best methods for achieving this is by soliciting the involvement of other donor nations, and by applying diplomatic pressure for more international cooperation.

Nowhere is the failure in these areas more flagrant than in Peru. Peru, which produces 65 percent of the world's coca' has no realistic drug control policy. What they do have does not mesh with U.S. plans. To date, the Peruvian and U.S. governments have failed to achieve any meaningful level of international involvement. After more than three years, the program remains predominantly a U.S. effort and would collapse if American interest and aid were decreased.

Resource Commitment

But even when all sides have accepted a common strategy, how do we then make sure that the foreign country continues to support the strategy? The key to this can be found in establishing levels of U.S. resources commitment. After these levels are spelled out in detail, a firm agreement is then reached where in a fairly specific time frame the foreign government undertakes to produce certain results. Support flows as results are achieved and standards met. When drafted as a professional contract the arrangement allows the sponsor to halt, suspend or increase support activities without a heavy backlash of surprised political discontent. By setting predetermined thresholds of resource support, we not only ensure the drug control effort stays on track but just as importantly we prevent an unhealthy foreign country support addiction. Furthermore, America does not become hostage to an open ended commitment of support.

In the case of the Andean countries, resource commitment policy errors have already damaged the program's effectiveness. If these errors continue they will result in the U.S. being held hostage to its own policy. Amazingly, U.S. decision makers often fall to understand resource leverage and its rather paradoxical application. In a relationship between a sponsoring power and a weaker state, leverage tends to accrue to the weaker partner, a fact that has not been lost on our foreign counterparts.

Take Colombia as an example. During our rush to support the beleaguered government against the drug cartels, we almost harnessed ourselves with the complete responsibility for the country's social, political and economic woes. The recent Colombian crackdown, as laudable as it is, should not blind us to attempts by the Colombians to gain political and economic leverage. Despite what the Colombians would lead us to believe we must first lose sight of the fact that they declared war on the drug lords for Colombia not for the U.S. It was the assassination of the leading presidential candidate, Galan, by the narcos, which so stunned the Colombians that for the first time they realized that the survival of their national institutions was at stake. Colombia's government acted decisively because at that moment they saw it as a matter of national survival, not because they saw it as a matter of prime importance to the U.S. This is a fact which they often overlook for purposes of pressuring the United States. They have cleverly put forward the argument that the Americans are obligated to do more because Colombia is fighting the drug war for the U.S. The truth is, Colombia is fighting the drug war because the Medellin Cartel finally became too powerful for a sovereign state to tolerate (a classic Phase III narco-guerrilla situation).

Strangely though, mainly the gangsters from the Medellin Cartel are being assaulted and threatened with extradition. Other drug organizations with hundreds of operatives are continuing to operate relatively unmolested. As recently stated by a death-threatened Colombian drug reporter, the government negotiates and coexists with the non-violent drug organizations, something like the Italians, French and Americans do with the Mafia. The non-violent drug organizations are so closely associated with public officials and the legitimate private sector enterprises that they're almost one.' If this is true, then the Colombian government's ability to win its drug war is doubtful.

Program Preparation

For the U.S. to avoid becoming improperly committed in the overseas drug war requires careful attention to the program's preparation. When reviewing this major area of proper program preparation, it is important to remember that impatience, especially with foreign cultures, seems to almost be a national trait of Americans. This has caused us repeatedly to fail to properly prepare the ground for the national level programs we try to implement in foreign countries. All too often U.S. liaison personnel and advisors tend to press for early initiation of field action. Emphasis is placed incorrectly on immediate visible results. The prime reason for this misplaced emphasis lies in the, fact that sound political, social, intelligence and psychological preparation requires months of often boring hard work that does not necessarily lend itself to political, media or career exploitation. This historical tendency to overlook the sound program preparation stage puts the U.S. on a reactive footing. Therefore, we end up looking for responses to events, rather than the slower but more effective way of shaping events in a proactive way.

Reviewing our experiences in Peru, it is evident that the fundamental program preparation principle is being isolated. For example, long before any International Narcotic Matters (INM) helicopters and DEA personnel were introduced into the Upper Huallaga Valley, an analysis of proper program preparation should have been developed. If the U.S. had first concentrated on the non-combative areas, few of the ongoing military type actions would have been undertaken without thorough preparation of the entire area where the program was to take place.

Personnel Selection

But regardless of the common strategy adopted or what commitments are made to resource control and program preparation, it is all to no avail without proper personnel selection Failure to staff all levels of the drug control program correctly virtually foredooms it to failure. Fighting drug wars in foreign lands demands a combination of political sensitivity, cultural awareness and operational savvy rare in the general population of any bureaucracy.

It is time we rid ourselves of the notion that we can continue to send the common run of poorly trained, ill-suited, domestically oriented personnel to receive on the job training in our nation's important drug battle grounds and then expect meaningful results to follow. Unless we actively search for these assignments those whose proven expertise and training match their dedication, then we will miss the mark again and again. If the drug war is truly the U.5.'s number one priority, there can be no excuse for not finding the relatively low number of positions with top quality people.


Adopting the premise that simultaneous attack on all fronts of the drug war is the key to success should never be confused with adopting the belief that all fronts of the drug war are equally pertinent. The major problem with this conventional view--that all fronts are equal--is that it tends to obscure the one program that makes victory obtainable. America's greatest and best hope of decisively affecting the outcome of the drug war lies in eradication.

If attacking the drug problem equally on all fronts is not the most effective and efficient approach, then how is focusing primarily on crop eradication the answer? An analysis of the drug war's critical areas on the domestic side: education, treatment, law enforcement and prosecution will show that when drugs are cheap and readily available these programs are ineffective and costly. Interdiction can never decisively stop the flow. Only by eradication can we sufficiently reduce the amount of drugs available on the street to a point where the other critical domestic areas can start to have a real impact.

The current staggering size of the domestic drug supply was recently highlighted when over 30 metric tons of cocaine (approximately one year's U.S. supply) were seized in two U.S. cities in less than a week, with no effect on the price of drugs in the streets, much to the surprise of United States officials. The U.S. Government's gross under-estimating of the amount of drugs in the country served to show how large the problem is and how little our officials understand it.

The Crucial Areas

The critical domestic fronts of the drug war--education, treatment, interdiction and increased law enforcement together constitute the attack on the demand side of the drug problem. Presently, the Drug Control Policy Director has unwisely determined that education and, to some extent, domestic interdiction, are the key fronts for success. Misleading results obtained from U.S. medical and law enforcement institutions are paraded as proof of their progress in the war on drugs. Both fronts, for a variety of domestic and foreign reasons, will obtain some initial positive results but also is a belief that, if not corrected, will lead to a perceived drug war stalemate. In this type of irregular warfare, if you're not winning you're losing. Experience has shown that this type of hype usually proceeds an announcement by someone who is ready to attempt bigger and better things. This would explain the need to show the American people that his course of action has resulted in improvements, while leaving the incoming replacement the task of developing and announcing a new policy approach.

Unfortunately, the political and economic realities of life in the United States simply negate all efforts on the demand side to decisively impact on the drug war. For example, the drug education and drug treatment communities in the U.S. simply lack the political clout to obtain the level of funding and support they would need to decisively impact on the drug problem. Further complicating this situation is the fact that some leaders of our educational institutions, administrators of our treatment centers, and even mayors of our major U.S. cities are themselves former or current cocaine users, a further testimony to the depth of the problem.

Even if the above scenario were not true, and if somehow, magically, a requisite level of funding and commitment were achieved, and our nation was strewn with "Just Say No!" posters and drug treatment clinics were opened on every fourth street corner, it still wouldn't work. For a host of reasons, a significant percentage of our population will always indulge in the tragic use of cocaine as long as it is cheap and readily available, no matter what efforts we make in education and treatment.

Conversations with a captured cocaine trafficker, in Peru's drug capital, Tingo Maria, located in the Upper Huallaga Valley, revealed how determined the narcos are to keep their drugs plentiful. First, primarily due to the crackdown on the Colombian Cocaine Barons, The Peruvian narco element is seriously considering establishing their own drug cartel. Second, and more alarming, is the revelation that they are also considering, as a counter to our domestic drug strategy, slashing their profit margins in order to make cocaine even cheaper and more available, "like candy in a store." This demonstrates the huge profit margins that the drug lords can use to maneuver with as they adopt counter measures to our efforts.

The demand-siders are usually willing to concede the inherent limitations of drug education and drug treatment. However, they must that when combined with the deterrent effect of increased domestic law enforcement, strategic reductions in demand can be achieved. Unfortunately, this theory has not been born out by actual events. Already the greatly increased resources poured into drug related law enforcement have had their effect. Record numbers of people today occupy our overcrowded prisons with no noticeable impact what so ever on the drug scourge. The truth is that our system of constitutional guaranteed civil liberties insures that domestic law enforcement can never achieve the level of efficiency needed to ferret drugs out of a free society.

The truth is that neither education nor treatment or law enforcement--neither singularly nor together--can decisively effect the outcome of the drug war as long as drugs themselves remain dirt cheap and readily available. With this being the case, it is on the supply side of the drug equation that we must search for the key to winning the Cocaine War.

The supply side tools are overseas interdiction and overseas eradication. Overseas interdiction starts with efforts to stop delivery of the processed drug at or near our borders, in international waters or as they transit foreign countries (DoD, Customs, Border Patrol, Coast Guard and DEA all play roles in this type of interdiction.) Inside the Andean countries themselves, interdiction is primarily concerned with disrupting the cocaine processing and delivery chain.

The surprising thing about interdiction, especially given the fact it swallows the biggest share of the federal drug dollar, is that no one seriously suggests that it can turn off the flow of drugs into the United State. Cocaine is so portable -and so concealable and the stream of international commerce so broad - that any hope that we could somehow interdict the drug from entering the U.S. is fairly ludicrous. Present estimates are pegged at a 4 to 6 percent interdiction rate overall.

Perhaps more theoretically possible, but ultimately as unworkable, is attempting to disrupt the cocaine processing chain. Blowing up clandestine airstrips, raiding the laboratories where the cocaine processing occurs and attempting to control access to the precursor chemicals needed mainly rely for their effectiveness on the police forces of the Andean nations. The idea that we can somehow take the debt burdened, politically underdeveloped, corruption prone countries of Peru, Bolivia and Colombia and somehow transform their underpaid police and military forces into an apparatus so efficient that it could completely shut down the entire intricate cocaine processing chain, is absurd.

One of the most serious shortcomings associated with interdiction efforts is that they require accurate information in order to be successful. As Snowcap operations in Peru have demonstrated, without detailed processed information, interdiction results will be almost non-existent. In Peru, much of the lack of interdiction success can be credited to DEA's lack of field intelligence knowledge. DEA is naturally accustomed to conducting operations using urban informants. Clearly, in the rural narcoguerrilla areas the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is much better suited to take responsibility for conducting all information gathering and intelligence operations. The primary difference between the two agencies is that the CIA is an expert in the conduct of clandestine operations, and unlike the DEA, it understands the difference between a paid informant and a well groomed source.

None of this criticism of interdiction is meant to suggest that we should lessen our efforts. Interdiction has an important role to play. But like education, treatment and domestic law enforcement, it is a supporting role -- part of the chorus while the fat lady sings. And, the fat lady in the Cocaine War is eradication.


Eradication is elegant, almost beautiful in its simplicity: without the wholesale cultivation of the coca plant there is no cocaine trade. The entire long, snaking chain from the pregnant ghetto crack addict, to the drop out dealer on the corner, to the stockbroker handing out drugs at a party, to the train conductor snorting cocaine in his bedroom before going to work, to the banking official who launders the money, to the UZI-toting gang lord, to the dealer with his gold chains and blacked out Mercedes, to the newly rich customs agent who looked the other way, to the boat captain with hollowed out furniture in his ship's hold, to the young Colombian on the back of the motorcycle pumping bullets into a judge, to the drug cartel boss staring at the piles of white bricks in his warehouse, to the white coated chemist unloading the ether shipment, to the worker in a dirty tee-shirt scrapping coca paste into the molds, to the pilot lifting off from an unmarked jungle strip, to the jungle lab operator buying a coca harvest from a humble faced peasant--this whole soaring, towering Skyscraper of Cocaine is designed so that when you pull the coca plant out, the entire edifice collapses into a useless heap. And the incredible thing is we can do it. Stopping the wholesale cultivation of the coca plant is well within the financial and technological grasp of the United States.

The vulnerability of the coca plant starts with the fact that it can't grow everywhere. It is cultivated only in a zone of hot humid Andean low lands between an elevation of approximately 1,000 and 6,000 feet. Additionally, ii is hard to hide from aerial observation. Finding the coca fields is not difficult. Once you know where the fields are, the only step remaining is to employ a method of destroying them. Amazingly enough, we already have such a method. The only thing standing between us and victory in the Cocaine War, is the decision to use the herbicide, Spike.

Chemicals Versus the Environment

"Spike' is the brand name for the herbicide Tebuthiuron which was previously manufactured by the chemical giant Eli Lilly and is now owned by Dow Chemical Tebuthiuron was approved as long ago as 1974 for use in the U.S. where it is primarily employed for brush and weed control on non cropland, pasture and range land. Applied aerially in a pellet form and activated by water, Spike will remain effective for anywhere from one to three years on a given piece of land depending on a variety of climatic and dosage factors.

To understand the excitement Spike has generated in those charged with stopping the flow of cocaine into the U.S., one first has to understand that coca is a tough little punk of a plant not that easy to destroy. Coca is not a flower like the opium poppy, nor is it a shallow rooted field weed like the marijuana plant. Coca is a broad leafed, woody bush that can grow up to 9 feet tall and live for over 30 years. It will not be felled by just any herbicide.

Originally in Peru, manual eradication of the coca plant was tried with a 450 man Peruvian eradication force who were issued pick-like tools to uproot and destroy the coca plant. Although effective against individual plants, the method was agonizingly slow and soon portable hand held "weed eaters" (souped up hardened versions of what a weekend gardener might use) were issued to the crews. This speeded up the cutting of the coca plants, but had the draw back of leaving the roots intact which allows the coca plant to grow back within 12 to 18 months.

In the end, however, it mattered little which method was used because the number of coca fields that could be destroyed by manual eradication was so tiny, in proportion to the over all amount of coca planted, that manual eradication amounted to little more than a symbolic gesture of U.S. displeasure over coca growing. It certainly was not going to cripple crop production. For that something else was needed. In February 1989 manual eradication operations were suspended due to several security incidents.

In the 1980's, investigation of another eradication method was started--the use of herbicides against coca plants. In November 1987 a formal Environmental Assessment was prepared for the State Department. The report indicated that Tebuthiuron destroyed the coca plant while at the same time posing little or no threat to humans or the environment. A wave of excitement and anticipation swept even normally staid State Department bureaucrats. For the first time a practical, effective method for eradicating hundreds of thousands of acres of coca was at hand.

Suddenly in May 1988, INM's Spike plan ran into an unexpected brick wall. Lilly refused to sell Tebuthiuron to the Department of State. A furious State Department accused Lilly of desertion in the drug war while Lilly cited vague "practical policy considerations" to explain its action. In reality the use of Spike was initially thwarted because of threat: to Eli Lilly, South American facilities and employee: along with intense pressure from the radical environmental organization, Greenpeace, In the US. While negotiations continued with Lilly (State even hinted of initiating action to take away Lilly's patent to produce Spike), a new attack came from another direction--this time from inside the government. A 33 year veteran of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and long time technical advisor on U.S. drug eradication efforts, retired amid a flurry of controversy. He warned that not enough testing had been done yet to accurately access Spike's effect on the Peruvian environment. He suggested formation of a team of experts and then conducting a series of Spike applications, in ever-increasing doses, to select Spike test sites in Peru before widespread Spike use was initiated in the Andean foothills.

Greenpeace opposed even this practical step. They immediately launched a strident anti-Spike media campaign whose ostensible purpose was to point out gaps in our knowledge of Spike's effect on the environment. They erroneously compared Spike to the Vietnam Era "Agent Orange." The tests demanded by Greenpeace were so extensive and time consuming that there is little doubt their real agenda was to kill the Spike program altogether. Strangely, the Greenpeace campaign contained no analysis of the extensive Andean environmental damage caused by drug related tropical forest clearings or the extensive pollution of jungle steams by the drug processing labs dumping toxic chemicals by the hundreds of tons.

Finally, in March of 1989, serious field testing of Tebuthiuron got underway in Peru's Upper Huallaga Valley. Three randomly selected jungle plots of coca comprising about 50 acres were selected and serially dosed with Spike pellets by a specially equipped Thrush crop dusting planes. Soil and other samples were taken on a regular basis and everyone waited to see what would happen. At first nothing happened. For four months the coca plants appeared to be untouched and the inside joke was to ask the pilot if he had really dropped anything Then suddenly the coca plants died, all of them, and the remaining vegetation in the test plots appeared to be untouched and unaffected. One year later there still was no coca in the test plots and no evident damage to any other vegetation or nearby streams. More importantly, no evidence of the chemical was in the food chain. Spike had proven itself in its initial tests to be a plant specific, environmentally safe chemical with a special affinity for coca.

Naturally, herbicide eradication programs will become targets of disinformation campaigns both by extremist environmentalists and by the drug organizations themselves. In hopes of preventing any herbicide use, they will spread rumors that the herbicide will cause public health and environmental harm. If left unopposed, these disinformation campaigns will have their desired effects on the intended target audience.

Eradication programs are most effective when they are part of an all encompassing in-country anti-drug plan. In addition to voluntary or involuntary eradication, the effort should call for a combination of economic and social development, improved security, and the introduction of crop substitutes. The country's cultural characteristics and situation should determine in which order these programs are implemented and the amount of emphasis each will have. Under certain circumstances, crop substitution and area development can start before eradication is introduced Governments that mount intense eradication campaigns can succeed in driving down drug crop production. However, because the traffickers will fight back, the struggle must be a sustained one. Experience has shown that when the drug organization realize that the government is serious about the eradication program, they can be expected to redouble their efforts. If eradication is combined with effective law enforcement measures, the price of coca leaf will drop and its cultivation will slow down or stop and the drug cartels will be forced to survive off their large stockpiles. They will patiently wait in hopes either that the farmers will rebel, the development programs will fail, or the government will be lulled into a false sense of security that it has defeated the drug traffickers and won. Then the drug traffickers will try and start again. Eradication can be quite effective, but only if aggressively pursued year after year until the traffickers realize that the government will not give up.

Now that Spike has passed its initial field test, we should, as a minimum, immediately move forward with significant expansion of the herbicide test areas. If these tests also provide positive results, full-scale aerial eradication should commence. Policy makers and others must remember that only eradication can suppress the drug and narcotics supply to the point where the other critical areas--education, treatment, law enforcement, and interdiction can have some real effect. Simply put, if you don't aerially eradicate, you can take the word win out of your Cocaine War vocabulary.

Militarization of the Drug War:

The Case of Peru

Perhaps in frustration with an overall lack of progress in the drug war, the U.S. has now decided to deliver 70 million dollars of conventional military training and assistance to the Peruvian Armed Forces. This escalation is being carried out in an effort to suppress the increasing flow of drugs into the United States. However, this heavy-handed attempt to militarize the Andean drug war may result in disaster. In fact, our increasing involvement in the region has the potential to be America's most costly and biggest embarrassment since Vietnam.

Some members of Congress, who opposed our approach and our aid to El Salvador, are afraid to speak out on Peru for fear of being labeled "soft on drugs." Even some military men involved in the drug issue, from the White House and the Pentagon on down, do not believe in the current course of action for a variety of reasons. Further complicating the problem, their years of conventional warfare schooling and their lack of small wars experience prevented them from understanding just how our military aid should be properly integrated into the social, political and economic life of the foreign nation.

Accordingly, our increasing military effort in Peru, where the guerrillas have become more involved in the drug trade, will likely become a classic example of how the desire for immediate visible results (the body count syndrome), encourages the disregard for sound policy commitment considerations. Once again, the development of a long-range strategy, resource commitment, complete program preparation and proper personnel selection guidelines have been bypassed. Planners still fall to understand that these critical areas are what guide, support and sustain the counterinsurgency and counter drug programs.

Community Defense

In the case of Peru, the majority of the military assistance monies should be directed at the establishment of low-level community defenses. Community defense is to counterinsurgency what eradication is to counter drug. We will find that if the heavy handed military approach envisioned by the U.S. were to be fully implemented, without the establishment of armed unpaid community defense units, any victories would be short lived. The reason for this is simple. Once the army has secured an area it must move on and repeat the process. This leaves the community vulnerable to the insurgent's return. However, by using the U.S. assistance monies to establish a specially trained law enforcement (police) division to coordinate and oversee community defense activities, a permanent effective government presence would be maintained in the communities eventually after the soldiers had left. This way protection for the people and their U.S. sponsored development projects would be guaranteed. In situations like those in Peru's narco-guerrilla infested Upper Huallaga Valley (UHV), low visibility, low cost and cellular community based activities will obtain much better results than the proposed much ballyhooed conventional military approach.

Upon review, the current U.S. military plan for Peru is disturbingly similar to our misdirected efforts in El Salvador. In El- Salvador, the U.S. initial military assistance to that country was designed to prevent the government's imminent collapse. Under those emergency conditions, one could argue that the initial high visibility military training and assistance approach used by the U.S. was an appropriate response. However, once the situation stabilized and the war progressed, the U.S. failed to meaningfully shift away from tactical military activities into the more important Civil Military Operations (CMO) which consists of community defense, civic action, psychological preparation, development project supervision and other social, political and economic activities. CMOs are all designed to commit the civilian populace to the government's side. Since there was an absence of meaningful effort in these often overlooked CMO areas, the Salvadoran war quickly stalemated. This flawed approach greatly contributed to the loss of more than 70,000 Salvadoran lives, fifteen American dead and the expenditure of over four billion dollars. Even today in El Salvador, we continue to misplace our security emphasis on purely military efforts rather than in the CMO areas.

Luckily Peru, unlike the early situation in El Salvador, is not currently faced with the imminent threat of the insurgents toppling the government. Furthermore, the Peruvian situation is different from that in El Salvador because it must not only prevent the guerrillas from taking power but must also prevent the insurgents, coca growers and traffickers from operating jointly and being brought closer together.

The first step in Peru is to make the counter guerrilla/counter drug effort one where the civilian populace cannot ride the fence and remain non-committal to the government. Incorporation of the masses is the key for the government, just 'as it is the key for the insurgents. The establishment of community defense forces, closely tied to the microeconomic development programs, is where we get the best results for our money. In these types of conflicts, local low level aggression is best countered by local low-level defenses. We can best implement local low level defenses through a strategy of arming the rural communities under the supervision and control of s-ally trained police units while at the same time bringing in development programs to improve rural life. Under this scenario, the military should serve as secondary back-up force to the permanently assigned, specially trained police cadres charged with organizing, training and supervising a uniform national level community defense program. It is this type of widespread multi-community program that can play a decisive role in denying the insurgents and drug traffickers their all-important regional bases of operation.

Almost as important, this approach helps prevent the army from becoming the dominant force in the narcoguerrilla region, thereby, lessening the chance that the army will become an actor independent of the civilian democratic government. We may selfishly view the narcoguerrilla threat as the biggest threat to U.S. interests and Peru's democratic institutions; when in reality, over militarization of the counter drug war may well prove to be the larger threat to Peru's fragile democracy, as certainly has been the case in El Salvador.

One of the more serious obstacles to the Peruvian military taking the leading roles in fighting the narco-guerrilla war is the sharp division and deep mistrust that exists between the police and the army. What is most troublesome about this situation is the depth to which both are involved in the drug trade as revealed by U.S. Government agencies. In 1989 easily over one half of the cocaine paste flown out of the UHV left under the protection of the country's police and military forces. In essence, some Peruvian forces -- charged with combating the drug trade and fighting the insurgents -- have become business partners with their supposed adversaries.

Lastly, improper U.S. miniaturization of Peru's drug war may lead directly to some unintended benefits for the guerrillas. The guerrillas will use this high profile U.S. military effort to harness anti- American feeling deeply embedded in Peruvian society. Top Peruvian military commanders anxious to get their hands on U.S. dollars, have ignored how beneficial this type of assistance will be for the guerrilla propaganda effort. Having a high visibility U.S. program at work in their country, the communist insurgents can skillfully manipulate the time-tested "anti-imperialist" theme to attract new recruits and support. We should make no mistake about how deep the Peruvian dislike for Americans is. It has manifested itself in visible ways that dearly indicate that the United States and Peru have serious relationship problems. Two recent examples illustrate this fact well. First, Peru is the only country in South America, which has primarily armed itself with airplanes, helicopters, and weapons form the Soviet Union. Secondly, Peru was the most vociferous and strident Latin American critic of our Panamanian invasion. It should be remembered that the higher the visibility of the U.S. military assistance effort, the more it will be perceived to benefit only the Peruvian military and not the average Peruvian, the more effective the guerrilla propaganda campaigns will be. Failure- to understand the psychology of this situation further demonstrates the lack of depth that the U.S. planners are bringing into this complex narco-guerrilla war.

Guerrilla Forces

However, for the U.S. it is not only the communist insurgent's direct challenge 10 the Peruvian government that has the U.S. worried, but perhaps of even more immediate concern is how these guerrillas impact on the drug war. For us, the most worrisome trends are the increasing involvement of Sendero Luminoso (SL) guerrillas in the drug business. In Peru's Upper Huallaga Valley (UHV) the economy revolves around the drug trade. Since the arrival of the insurgent forces in 1985, the government has found it increasingly difficult to bring drug production and trafficking under control. Coca growers and drug traffickers have also had to adapt to an increasing guerrilla presence. Sendero Luminoso's primary interest is the expansion of their regional bases. They quickly realized that the government's unpopular anti-drug operations, especially eradication efforts, were a way to introduce their communist cadres into the rural population. Sendero's Luminoso's presence in the UHV has also served to lessen the rough treatment previously being suffered by the coca growers and Peruvian drug middlemen at the hands of foreign drug dealers. The guerrilla role has grown more important as they have been able to block sporadic government efforts to disrupt the cocaine trade. This being the case, many would have us believe that the guerrillas are the dominant force in the UHV, Such is not the case however. Wielding their immense financial advantage, the Narcos are still able to dominate all of the other players (government, coca grower and guerrilla).

Nevertheless, the insurgents have still profited handsomely from the drug trade. Their association with drugs has greatly increased their economic position and power both in perception and in reality. This condition was brought about by initially taxing traffickers for the use of clandestine airstrips and for allowing the free movement of cocaine paste and base within and out of the UHV. Presently all coca growers, cocaine processors and drug traffickers pay a tax to the guerrillas. However, it should be remembered that simultaneously both the Peruvian aimed forces and police are also deeply involved in the cocaine trade. Again, the drug organization has demonstrated its ability to maintain the guerrillas and the government at arm's length while skillfully playing one against the other.

However, it is the cordial relationship that has been developed between the guerrillas and the local population that has the Peruvian and U.S. governments most worried. Using their position in the UHV, the guerrillas serve as protectors and brokers in the drug business. The benefits flowing from this position were reduced somewhat recently due to the crackdown on the Medellin drug cartel in Colombia--a stroke of luck for the Peruvian anti-drug forces. The Colombian crackdown, for the first time, provided a break in the chain of processing and cocaine delivery. This has caused the price of coca leaf to drop, providing the government with an opportunity to introduce voluntary eradication, crop substitution and other legitimate employment alternatives. Sadly though, the crackdown came too late as Sendero Luminoso is now firmly entrenched in the UHV.

Regardless of how much the Colombian crackdown affects the overall war on drugs, the guerrilla's non-combative and armed activities against civilian and military targets will only increase. In accordance with Sendero Luminoso's strategy, collapse of the nation's economic infrastructure is a must. Part of this approach relies heavily on halting the cultivation and delivery of legitimate cash crops.

Presently, Sendero Luminoso is the only insurgent force operating in the UHV cocaine valley. Sendero is a rural Indian (Inca) ideologically oriented organization that uses a Soviet philosophy and follows a Mao three phased guerrilla warfare strategy. It envisions working from the countryside to the metropolitan areas relying on the Indian base of the population. Their leader declares that he is the "Fourth Sword of Communism a reference to Marx, Lenin and Mao. The organization receives no external support, except what they purchase off of the international market with their drug proceeds, and it has proven almost impossible to infiltrate because of their xenophobic nature. Given their stated strategy and their lack of outside support, it is easy to understand why. The coca producing UHV is so important to them.

However, the UHV is only one of the Peruvian areas ideal for coca cultivation. As coca production moves east, towards Brazil, the country's other insurgent forces will surely challenge Sendero's position of controlling the lucrative drug trade. Sendero Luminoso's closest rival is the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). MRTA is an insurgent organization that is closely tied to Cuba and other communist insurgent forces throughout Latin America. It is also a rural multi-ethnic based guerrilla force that believes in incorporating the rural population in the struggle. So, as our drug efforts expand so will our counter-insurgency role in a proportional way. In this situation, having to fight three creative adversaries (SL, MRTA, and Narcos) is difficult enough, but ridding the Peruvian Armed Forces and police units of their close dealing with the drug trade proven even more difficult.

Two Enemies-Two Approaches

As a form of conflict, narco- guerrilla warfare gives U.S. planners very little in terms of experience or proven doctrine to rely upon. This lack of experience base has resulted in continuing confusion over what type of U.S. economic and military aid packages would be most effective in helping the Andean countries confront this type of threat. However, one thing should be clear. Any U.S. aid for countries like Peru would consist of two separate programs, one for combating the drug problem and another for countering the insurgents.

The confusion primarily centers around the question of what is the proper role of the foreign country's police and what is the proper role of the foreign country's armed forces in both a narco-guerrilla situation or in a country involved with only drug control operations. Before embarking on a narcotics assistance campaign for the Andean nations, U.S. officials would be wise to ask themselves where does the role of one institution begin and the role of the other institution end, and what is the proper overlap? In these democratic, unstable nations the question to be answered is what role for the military and police should assistance be supported?

In countries which are beset with both a drug and an insurgent problem (i.e. Peru), the answer should be two enemies, two approaches. Ally trained and equipped drug police should attack the criminal drug organizations. The military's function (in close cooperation with the foreign country's public security forces) should remain to counter the idealistically motivated guerrillas. Naturally, there will be some degree of legitimate merging of these roles. This need for two approaches grows out of one central fact about narcoguerrilla warfare. That is, whatever connection takes place between the foreign government's two adversaries, it does not erase the essential distinctiveness and separateness of the two- groups. The fact is that in -the Andean region no guerrilla group has evolved into primarily a drug organization, and no drug organization has evolved into a guerrilla group. As the aforementioned three phases of narcoguerrilla warfare pointed out, the distinctiveness of their organizations, methods and goals endures despite any temporary alliances that are forged.

By allowing the drug police to tackle the drug processing and trafficking organization while at the same time keeping the armed forces directly focused on the guerrilla problems, the military can make its proper contributions to the drug war. First, the military can directly disrupt and lessen the influence the guerrillas have over the drug growing peasants in the drug cultivating areas.

Second, the military counterinsurgency campaign can so preoccupy and pressure the guerrillas that they become less interested in being involved with the drug trade. The military presence makes it not only uncomfortable and risky: but more importantly, financially and operationally unprofitable for the two groups to maintain any type of expanding relationship. This pressure can even eventually result in making the two groups adversaries to each other. As history has shown, driving a wedge between criminals and guerrilla terrorists is possible and only benefits the government.

Third, through effective counter guerrilla operations the military is able to interdict the ingress of precursor chemicals, the movement of partially processed drugs within the country, and decrease the flow of drugs out of the country through its rivers, highways and aerial routes. An additional benefit that is almost always overlooked is that the U.S. provided counter narcotics assets, which are presently only authorized for counter drug operations, will not be periodically confiscated to assist in support of the military's counterinsurgency missions.

Current thinking among U.S. officials, however, does not see it this way. America's Andean strategy as proposed seems to insist that the armed forces of the Andean countries become deeply involved in direct counter narcotics work. This approach will lead to more confusion, more duplication of effort, and to the military forces eventually over shadowing the drug police. In Peru, this will also result in a further deepening of the bad feeling that already exist between the Peruvian police and the Peruvian army, as they compete for always scarce resources, with the United States caught in the middle. Already a significant amount of military assistance money for Andean armed forces has been included in the FY 1990 and 1991 overseas counter narcotics budget.

One of the arguments raised for giving the military a direct role in counter narcotics is that the drug police do not have the manpower or the resources to do the job by themselves. What many U.S. officials and their supporters fail to understand is that it should never be intended for the drug police attempt to tackle the entire drug problem alone. Just as a counter guerrilla program must be part of a country wide effort, successful counter narcotics programs must be a total country wide effort to be effective, and this requires some degree of cooperation between the drug police, the regular police and the armed forces. Achieving the proper level of cooperation is best accomplished in the process of each organization performing its traditional duties.

The army, for example, while conducting its natural and assigned counter insurgency missions in the rural countryside, will also discover drug shipments at roadblocks and stumble onto jungle processing laboratories in the field. The air force, while flying reconnaissance or attack missions, will spot clandestine airstrips and identify suspected drug processing sites and drug trafficking aircraft. The navy, in its riverine patrols, will intercept both drugs and precursor chemicals being moved by boat.

American officials pushing the proposed Andean aid package continually point to the fact that the drug police are under-equipped and under-trained as the reasons why they have no alternative but to expend U.S. aid money to bring the Andean militaries into counter narcotics. These officials are ignoring the obvious and more efficient solution of spending 'hat money to increase the capabilities of the drug police. If the nature of the narcotics problem in the Andean nations has evolved outside the capability of the traditionally structured drug police units to handle it, then the most logical response is to make the needed improvements in the structure, trailing and equipment of the drug police.

For example, if the drug police need more tactical muscle and mobility to deal with the increasingly paramilitary nature of the drug organizations and the increasing involvement of armed guerrillas, then train and equip mobile drug police tactical battalions. Such units can be deployed to conduct reconnaissance, provide security during drug raids and at eradication sites, and to guard remote drug forward operating base camps.

One reason administration officials are ignoring this obvious solution and are pushing so hard for direct military involvement in counter narcotics becomes clear when we examine how the requested U.S. military assistance money will be spent. For example, military assistance money destined for Peru's Armed Forces is going to refurbish A-37 jets. As proven in El Salvador, these aircraft are ideal weapons in counterinsurgency operations. However, these same airplanes have almost no utility in counter drug work. Clearly, involving the foreign militaries in counter narcotics operations is a way to mask a major U.S. move to give the military direct counterinsurgency aid.

The principal reason for this official misleading approach has to do with the nature of the national consensus in the United States. Presently, in America there is a clear agreement for sending counter narcotics aid to Peru and the other Andean drug cultivating, processing and trafficking nations. However, there is nothing even approaching unanimity among Americans for giving money and other assistance to help Colombia and Peru fight the various guerrilla groups in their countries. It is well known that the armed forces in these countries need help with equipment and counterinsurgency skills. But U.S. planners also desire to avoid the political battle that would come from having to honestly ask for direct counterinsurgency assistance.

This approach is unfortunate for two reasons. First, it can be very short sighted to try and involve the American people and the US. Congress m foreign military commitments by misleading them. The first time U.S. counter narcotics assistance destroys an Indian village hundreds of miles from any drug growing area, there will be a substantial disruptive aid cut from a Congress upset at being deceived.

But perhaps even more damaging, the current effort to push the Andean militaries into counter narcotics work so it will be politically simpler for the Administration to slip them counterinsurgency aid, is more than likely going to backfire. Such a combined approach, without Congressional debate, will not result in a winning strategy against either problem.

Two different enemies, two different approaches, should be the strategic guiding principle. It should be combined with an honest, open approach to Congress and the American people demonstrating how dearly labeled counterinsurgency aid for the Andean armed forces will help America reach its counter narcotics goals in the region. With this combination, a successful long-term strategy for defeating the narco-guerrilla threat will emerge.

Civilian Population

The conflict resulting from all of these factors together will certainly have a disruptive impact on large segments of Peru's civilian population. History has shown, that no matter what measures are taken to avoid the consequences, internal conflict brings varying degrees of hardship to the population. Certainly, there will be a sharp increase of dislocated civilians. Given the current U.S. policy in Peru, the U.S. sponsors are certain to be blamed for whatever dislocation arises from our assistance.

Regardless of the cause for civilian dislocation, population assistance contingencies should be developed for each stage of the narco-guerrilia struggle. Prior to undertaking any military action a carefully constructed plan should be agreed upon which outlines the political, social, economic, law enforcement and military consequences stemming from large numbers of dislocated civilians. As operations begin, the plan is expanded and modified to include actions to counter the enemy's exploitation of dislocated civilians. The Peruvian communist insurgents know that by manipulating this issue, they may well be able to use a fleeing population as an offensive weapons system.

At some point in the narco-guerrilla war, the effects of the insurgents will be felt in the overall economy thus creating refugee flights. In these cases U.S. officials should avoid any public statements that would encourage an exodus. We have learned from Vietnam, El Salvador and Nicaragua, that to indicate in any way that the U.S. will provide preferential treatment to Peruvians for asylum and jobs would be a serious miscalculation. This error could set off an immigration crisis and prolong the conflict.

International Help

Since drugs have become an international plague, the international community should combat them. Therefore, U.S. policy and any joint Peruvian and U.S. strategy should encourage international cooperation and active solicitation from other donor nations This approach has several benefits: First, it ensures economic assistance to Peru is well diversified, therefore increasing the legal economy's chances of being revitalized. Second, there would be a more proportionate sharing of the burden in the fight against the international drug scourge. Third, it would prevent the U.S. from ultimately being saddled with the social, political, economic and security destiny of the country. Lastly, with increased internationalization of anti-drug assistance comes increased pressure on Peru to make real progress, while simultaneously making the programs more attractive to the Peruvians and other Latin countries by avoiding a "made in the USA" label. All of this helps to prevent the insurgents from effectively exploiting their anti-American themes.

U.S. failure to seriously pursue this goal of completely incorporating the foreign government into the drug fight, from the top right on down to its lowest operational levels, is the main reason why if U.S. interest or aid were reduced or stopped, Peru's drug control programs would quickly collapse. U.S. interests are best served and objectives are best obtained by having the foreign government take responsibility for as much of the drug control efforts as the joint strategy and operational conditions allow.


As as mentioned above, success is having the host country adopt a joint drug control strategy that addresses their own, the U.S.'s and the international community's welfare and then watching the host country back it up with the appropriate infrastructure. To best accomplish this critical task, U.S. planners have to avoid the typical American tendency of trying to run the entire program ourselves. Although much lip service is paid to the concept of getting the foreign government's drug fighting agencies to assume full responsibility for the drug control effort, and although this is the stated policy of every U.S. Ambassador, the reality in practice is quite different. Too many times, Americans, at all levels, combining half hidden feelings of superiority with the old Yankee "can do" attitude, simply ride roughshod over the foreign country's underlying nationalist desire to take the lead in their own drug fight. Experience has shown that much of the resources and technical know-how more than likely will have to be provided by the United States. However, both U.S. bureaucrats and field implementers should never lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal is to have the host involved in the drug control program in such a way that American participation can be steadily diminished and eventually phased out.

To be successful at this task requires that the U.S. take an approach, which emphasizes decreasing the foreign government's consciousness of their dependence upon the Americans. All U.S. participants should have an appreciation and high tolerance for the foreign government's natural resistance to the status of being a subordinate partner in combating what they believe to be a United States problem being fought in their turf. Everyone involved in the drug control and foreign assistance program should understand how negatively it effects the joint relationship and the joint drug control efforts when Americans exude the attitude that failure can only be due to the unwillingness or inability of the foreign officials to perceive the validity (indeed, the "brilliance") of the American ideas and apply them as indicated.

Again, Peru provides the best example. In the field, time after time, when U.S. personnel had a choice of either playing the major role in a drug control operation to insure it ran effectively, or instead holding back and allowing Peruvian personnel to take the lead and grow through experience, the Americans would inevitably take the lead role themselves. This reoccurring situation continues to be a very shortsighted view of "success" in the drug war. This approach, short term, may lead to some foreign operations running more smoothly. But when the Americans eventually leave to go home and the foreign country is still unable to fight its own drug war, we will have little more to blame than our own attitude. This attitude in fact has become so imbedded in INM's Air Wing that attempts have been made to impede the development of Peruvian aviation personnel in order to insure the job security of American contract pilots.

However, the ramifications of not having the Peruvians take more responsibility for the conduct of the joint drug control operations goes far beyond causing deterioration in relationships, it makes interdiction, eradication and daily support missions overly dangerous. Perhaps of even greater concern is the fact that this attitude allows the foreign government to escape its Share of the criticism for any of the real or perceived shortcomings in the drug control program, therefore, saddling the United States with the complete blame.

Lastly, we must understand that with the proliferation of drug war scenarios and the present U.S. policy, we do not have the personnel or material resources to be in charge of leading the effort in every one of the drug countries concerned. Therefore we realistically have no choice but to be "advisors," not the "doers" in these efforts.


Unilateral Counter Drug Action

The phrase "Drug War" may be an overused metaphor, but not an inaccurate one, and like all wars a vocabulary starts to develop around certain techniques or actions. One- of the more interesting terms to resurface out of the drug war is "unilateral action." Much like the old Vietnam War "terminate with extreme prejudice," unilateral action is an innocuous sounding bureaucratic word that masks a much more "dynamic" concept. As used by drug warriors, unilateral action refers to the concept of America going into another country without the permission of that country and taking some sort of direct action against the drug trade. Theoretically, unilateral drug actions could range from kidnapping a single drug kingpin protected by corrupt foreign officials, to conducting a full scale military operation in a drug growing valley which the foreign government refuses to suppress. In the parlance, unilateral actions are contrasted with "bilateral actions" which refer to joint anti-drug operations agreed upon and conducted by the foreign government with U.S. assistance of direct participation

Opponents of unilateral operations have reasons to be concerned. First, unilateral actions understandably may inflame the nations they are directed against. The resulting uproar may temporarily undermine relations and hinder cooperation between the effected country, regional, leaders and the United States. Many of the skeptics will always worry that unilateral drug actions may become a legal and moral quagmire. However, the best guarantee for avoiding the risks associated with unilateral actions and implementing them successfully is to fully plan and prepare for their use before they are needed. Being prepared for these types of counter drug operation and having already established strict but reasonable commitment guidelines, is the best deterrent for preventing their hasty "off the shell" use.

Whatever the risks inherent in the use of unilateral action, it must be one of the contingencies we prepare for. It should not be forgotten that on September 5th, 1989, things changed in the U.S.--we declared a war on drugs. As in any war, the United States should be prepared to utilize a full spectrum of options depending on the circumstances confronting our decision makers. This being the case, our National Command Authority should design contingencies for the eventual use of unilateral actions in the drug war. We have to confront the fact that the course of the drug war is far from certain. Should the drug problem significantly worsen, or certain key nations completely withdraw from cooperation in the drug fight, or narco-guerrillas seize control of entire regions away from the central government, our President should have well thought out, carefully pre-planned courses of actions to consider, of which, unilateral actions may well be the most appropriate.

Favoring the President if he should opt for the use of drug related unilateral actions, is that public opinion in the U.S. supports their use once all other approaches have been tried and failed. Also not to be overlooked is the fact that almost all drug activities violate three sets of law (international law, the foreign country's law, and U.S. law). This makes the use of unilateral actions against such activities more palatable worldwide.

Additionally it should also be remembered that unilateral actions do not even have to be implemented to positively effect the drug war. Just the knowledge that the U.S. has contingency plans for their use could have positive beneficial effects:

The success of any unilateral actions will have the additional benefits of: The truth is that unilateral actions may become more of a necessity if the drug problems worsens and there is an absence of meaningful bilateral or multilateral cooperation Although there are clear risks associated with unilateral action, it still has a role to play in the drug war. It has to be an option on the menu of options; education, treatment, law enforcement, interdiction, eradication--carefully planned for and available to the President for his consideration. When properly used unilateral operations can be one of the most threatening, beneficial an effective weapons against the international drug scourge.

It must be stressed that before unilateral actions can occur, bilateral efforts must be deemed a failure and multi-lateral actions unfeasible. Unilateral actions are a measure of last resort.

Government and Private Industry

A successful partnership of government and industry has been responsible for most of the United States' national triumphs ranging from WWII to the moon landing to winning the Cold War. However, government and private industry's small wars relationship started in Vietnam. It was here that it was soon recognized that limited combat, special operations and later Low Intensity Conflict (to include counter drug operations) needed special low cost technology. Unfortunately, government and private industry have not yet forged a partnership to fight the drug war. This is a shortcoming for which both sides are at fault.

For its part, much of industry has become addicted to government contracts that are not well supervised, allow cost overruns and rarely provide any incentive for anything to be done right the first time. This has created a complacent attitude where much of industry is not competitive and often waits for government business to come to them. Complicating the problem even further is that the process of fielding the correct type of technology has become overly theoretical and detached. Most of the decisions are made by PIID's and engineers in air-conditioned offices, far from both the operator who must use the equipment and from the environments where their equipment would have to actually work.

Such an approach may or may not have been appropriate under the conditions of the Cold War, but it has no place in the conduct of the Drug War. Clearly, the war on drugs is neither theoretical nor detached. It is going on right now in jungles, alleys, ports, bases, mansions, borders, neighborhoods, and in the American workplace. There is nothing theoretical about it, and there exists very little need for a laid back, ivory tower, complacent industry approach.

The drug war is both a technical and operational conflict. In order for industry to be able to make a decisive difference (and earn some major profits in the process) it has to start visiting the field operators. Just like old time news reporters, it used to be impossible to keep industry out of the operational environment, but now it's almost impossible to get industry to visit. Until industry gels back into the field, its contributions to the drug war will be minimal.

Government, for its part, is doing little or nothing to get private industry properly involved. Government's contribution to the problem was recently highlighted by its reaction to a major Washington, D.C. conference, Drug Summit One. The conference was designed to bring representatives of private industry from all over the country into direct contact with U.S. government officials from the different agencies charged with running the drug fight. Instead of welcoming and embracing this initiative, the government informally boycotted the entire affair.

Part of this government attitude can be traced directly to the political clout of the large laboratories and big defense contractors. Because of previous over spending and now fearful of coming reductions, they are seeking to direct as much government business as possible through these corporate conglomerates. Many government officials in the drug war are bowing to this pressure. They justify their position by saying that the contracting procedures and mechanisms are already in place and it would be time consuming and difficult to start anew. Typically, those with a bureaucratic mindset allow ease of paper flow and political pressure to be their first consideration when making a decision In sad reality, channeling drug war technology developments to the federal government laboratories (who then subcontract much of the work anyway), usually does little more than add another layer of bureaucracy between the field operator and the equipment designer, making success all the more unlikely.

To correct this problem requires the effort to become a field operator driven process, emphasizing high tech devices that are eminently usable and practical. It can start by changing government's attitude to one that encourages private industry participation. Private industry must be willing to go out to the field to identify the types and designs of equipment needed. It is only through this combination that the critical connection between user, government administration and the private sector will be forged.

Eradication: the U.S. Should Lead By Example

In order for the United States to successfully propose both manual and, aerial eradication of poppy, coca and marijuana crops in foreign countries, we must avoid the hypocrisy of not pursuing the full spectrum of marijuana eradication options in our own country. A double standard in this area could very well undermine foreign cooperation in our overseas narcotics control efforts.

For years the United States has insisted that the drug war being fought abroad have as its central focus the element of eradication But the idea presently being conveyed to foreigners by the U.S. Government is don't bother us with the same standard in America. Accordingly, as the drug war grows, and the United States increases its pressure on countries to eradicate drug crops, our double standard will be continually referred to and used as an excuse for inaction.

It is no secret that so much marijuana is now grown in the United States that our nation has become an exporter of the drug and one of the major cannabis growing nations. Due to the success of marijuana eradication programs overseas, the U.S. market has turned inward to fill the void. The marijuana plant is grown throughout the U.S. on both private and public lands, gaining a reputation as a major cash crop. Federal, state and local agencies have all but given up on trying to eradicate this psychoactive drug by manual or chemical means because of the enormity of the problem, the political and environmental questions raised, and lack of resources allocated. They are instead concentrating on interdiction, which will prove incapable of having a decisive effect, primarily because of the creativity and resourcefulness of the criminals involved in the narcotics enterprise.

If the United States desires to make its overseas narcotics control programs a credible effort and to make narcotics cultivation in foreign countries an unattractive alternative, through eradication, then we need to aggressively eliminate the cultivation of our own leading narcotics crop. Failure to do so will rightfully be viewed, and unfortunately explained, as a primary example of American hypocrisy by the narcotics producing, processing and trafficking nations.

But the need for U.S. to be successful in the eradication of our marijuana crops goes much further than impressing on the other foreign countries that our drug control programs are sincere serious efforts. Clearly, when taking society as a whole, marijuana is generally a precursor to heroin and cocaine use. The introduction of marijuana sales into any area in the U.S. establishes the business network that hard drugs piggyback on. Furthermore, failure to rid our country of marijuana production will eventually lead to a wide acceptance that dealing in drugs is acceptable. From what may mistakenly be viewed as seemingly passive involvement with narcotics dealings may very well turn into a more active participation in the harder drug trade. If domestic and international indicators are correct, this situation could develop into a narcoguerrilla war within our own borders.

Narco-Guerrilla Warfare In the U.S.A.

Almost automatically when Americans think about insurgent and narcotic warfare we mentally refer back to Third World Latin, Asian and African countries. Most Americans can not bring themselves to believe that this country's social, political and economic conditions could deteriorate to a level where narco-guerrilla warfare could emerge as a feature of U.S. society. But the fact is that Americans have a long history of violent resistance and for the last two decades they have also become increasingly more involved in the drug trade. Both of these factors are precursors to narcoguerrilla warfare.

To fully appreciate this danger requires an understanding of how social, economic and political events affect the possibilities that a narcoguerrilla conflict could emerge. One should look at Washington, D.C., New York City, Detroit or other critical urban areas nationwide. History has shown that in addition to having a segment of the nation's population willing to resist, narco-guerrilla warfare is to require that certain other critical elements be present. The existence of violent clandestine political movements, economic depression in both rural and urban areas, existence of a narco infrastructure, a violent underground criminal organization and economic instability are all preconditions to a narco-guerrilla situation.

The trend of U.S. citizens becoming increasingly more involved in the drug trade will skyrocket in the 1990's, and not only because of an increase in domestic demand or population expansion. Several external factors will effect this dramatic rise in the percentage of Americans that become involved in the narcotics trade.

To start with' the early 1990's will be the years that the infamous foreign drug barons will choose a strategy to significantly lower their previous high visibility profile. Now, they will opt for a plan that includes decentralizing (cellular organization) their drug operations and the creation of an expanded network of mini drug lords. This will have the benefit of making it more difficult for any outside penetration and will make the loss of their drugs, capture of their personnel and destruction of their processing sites less probable. Next, in order to farther shield themselves from the continuing judicial onslaught and camouflage their connection with drug dealers, the drug kingpins will become more amenable to sharing their immense drug profits with foreign middlemen. Wisely, they will adopt a business attitude of we will harvest and process the merchandise, someone else will traffic and distribute it. All of these adjustments will be made in order to preserve their most valuable drug market--the United States. From this process will emerge the first American drug barons.

Prior to 1980, most American citizens were not mentally conditioned to accept drug dealers and related activities as a way of life. Then for the past ten years, the United States has been protected from widespread insurgent and narco-criminal actions primarily because of this country's relative economic well being. An additional factor preventing the drug trade's cancerous growth during that period was the fact that foreign drug lords wanted to maintain control of the entire narcotics apparatus by installing their own resident managers at the major drug entry and distribution points throughout the U.S. It was the nation's previous psychological barriers to drug dealings, the country's economic well-being and the foreign drug lord's micro-management style, that has kept the American entrepreneur on the fringe of the drug trade and was an additional obstacle to any serious narco-guerrilla development.

Many government officials and noted academicians would say that the United States could never succumb to any type of narco-guerrilla conflict. On the other hand, some drug and insurgent warfare experts would declare that (he U-S. is already involved in a limited ad hoc narcoguerrilla conflict. Whether we are or not could possibly be better determined by reviewing the aforementioned Three Phases of Narco-guerrilla Warfare.

The Cocaine and Heroin Merger:

The Latin Cocaine Valley and the Southeast Asian Heroin Golden Triangle have shown initial indications of merging. Make no mistake; drug dealings know no politics or boundaries. Both communist and anti-communist governments and guerrilla forces are involved in the narcotics trade. The 1990's will be the decade that sees a sharp escalation in the international cross-pollination of drug commerce. The Latin and Southeast Asian marriage of the drug markets will come about for a variety of reasons, some of which are fears over the effectiveness of the US's war on drugs to stop the drug flow into the U.S., the need to look for additional ways to move and launder their money, and the need to diversify and expand their markets. The recent arrest of twenty Colombian prostitutes in Bangkok, Thailand in April 1990 is an indicator of what is to come. As law enforcement all over the world knows, drugs and prostitution walk hand in hand.

As cocaine was the drug for the 1980's, heroin will be the drug of the 1990's. Although it will not supersede our nation's craving for cocaine, in the 1990's heroin will obtain equal status with cocaine. This will be due to the advanced drug user's need for both artificially induced highs and lows and also to heroin's increasing availability.

Problems of Drug Legalization

As the drug war starts to be fought in earnest, and the true costs, both financial and emotional, of fighting it to the end, become apparent, it is not surprising that some noted Americans (to include a former Secretary of State, a Federal Judge, a well known conservative columnist, and a Nobel Prize winning economist) are now calling for the legalization of drugs. Up until these drug war defeatists spoke out in favor of legalization, such a position was considered, by most, a bad idea. This has all resulted in some intense debate on the airwaves and in leading journals and newspapers of the nation. Perhaps the most surprising feature of this emerging national debate has not been the issue of the increase in drug addicts that legalization will bring, but rather the extent to which both sides have completely ignored the international repercussions of legalizing drugs in America. Up to now the debate has focused on the impact such a decision would have internally. We seem to have temporarily forgotten that any decision the United States makes on this issue will reverberate around the world. It would be unwise policy and an abuse of our position as a world leader for us 10 debate legalization without fully examining the international ramifications of such a decision.

When examining the legalization issue, we must understand the impact both on the industrialized Western nations and on the politically unstable and economically bankrupt Third World countries. In the Industrialized World, we note that every Western government has passed laws to prevent mind altering, potentially addictive drugs from becoming accepted, legal features of their society. Although there is some variation in the content of the laws, the most striking feature is the unanimity with which the Western Democracies in their collective wisdom have taken a common stand against drugs.

Therefore, it would be a very serious move for the U.S. to become the first nation to break ranks with the rest of the Western World and simply give in on the drug issue. The first effect of such a move would be an immediate legal quagmire. Not every Western nation or even a majority would immediately follow the United States lead on legalization. Many nations would adopt a wait and see attitude towards America's risky legalization experiment, waiting to gauge the outcome before deciding whether or not to tamper with their own Systems. In the meantime, questions of what constitutes a drug crime and in which country1 and who is extraditable to where, would cause an unprecedented clash between western legal systems.

But these legal complications would be minor annoyances cow jarred to the earthquake effect that America's withdrawal from the drug light would have on the worldwide supply of drugs. Currently, American leadership, resources, technology and dedication have been primarily responsible for holding world drug supplies at their current levels. If these were now to be withdrawn, because drugs were legal in the U.S., it would be like a darn breaking on world drug supply. Entire nations and millions of entrepreneurs would be jockeying to produce more drugs to position themselves to profit off the new legal market in the United States. The result will be quantities of drugs never before witnessed in world history, much of it looking for new markets--legal or illegal. If there is one lesson we learned from our own experience with crack cocaine, when supply soars and drugs become common and cheap, addiction rates and social havoc soar with it. The United States' decision to legalize will unleash unprecedented amounts of drugs onto the world market with unforeseen results.

Any survey of the negative international effects of legalization will probably trigger an automatic counter argument that we are overlooking the positive effects of legalization on the drug growing and processing nations. Anyone who believes the argument that legalization will help politically unstable, economically bankrupt and crime-ridden countries recover and develop shows very little understanding for the multi-dimensional dynamics of the Third World nations.

First, any increase in monies flowing into these countries (which is a debatable point itself) does not automatically translate into increased economic well being. Few, if any, of these countries have the political or social maturity to spend the money in ways that will help the overall society. Second, the certain increase in addiction that will be inflicted upon these unfortunate countries must be factored in. Unlike the U.S., Third World countries do not have the resources or the infrastructure to deal with such a problem. Third, the proven secret to development is crop-diversification and the revitalization of the country's legitimate economy. This becomes difficult when any one of the major drug crops dominates an economy.

As important as the discussion of all the previous legalization issues is, it still leaves the one issue that is perhaps most crucial to the entire debate: Irreversibility. Legalization is an experiment that can never be reversed if it goes wrong. Once a drug becomes an accepted, legal part of society, it will be almost impossible for the government to change its policy and reverse course--no matter how much social harm may be occurring. If reversing course in our own country would be very difficult, doing it overseas in drug producing and processing nations would be unimaginable. The fatal flaw in legalization is that it is an experiment that can not be reversed if its proponents are wrong in their predictions. Additionally, we could not count on a uniform application within the international legalization context, which could further jeopardize our citizens abroad. Legalization, therefore, is an experiment the United States Government, the United States people, and the international community cannot afford to try.


Despite the flaws in our foreign drug policy, it is not too late to correct our overseas narcotics control strategies and field implementation plans. As we go forward, the difference between losing and winning the narco- guerrilla war will be found in a qualitative approach throughout rather than a quantitative one. Having a proper organization, correct planning, good tactics and operational structures, our foreign efforts can have a positive impact on the overall drug war. Simply by modifying our mindset and then reviewing our other not so distant overseas experiences a list of Dos and Don'ts can be compiled and used as an operational checklist.


Here are some recommendations the United States should follow both in Washington and overseas so that our drug control and counter-guerrilla programs are successful.

In Washington:


The National Command Authority should begin preparation for the possible use of unilateral drug actions against the cultivation, processing and trafficking of drugs in case bi-lateral and multi-lateral efforts fail.


Having laid out the major shortcomings connected with the overseas war on drugs, we are now left with the question of commitment to win. The U.S. has wrongfully assumed that a modest investment of energy and resources would suffice. Our various narco-guerrilla adversaries, however, see matters differently. They do not deceive themselves into thinking that drug and insurgent warfare is a simple enterprise. Nor is their commitment to victory less than absolute. Until the United States Government can muster the same commitment exemplified by our adversaries, such as the Sendero Luminoso in Peru and the Medellin Drug Cartel in Colombia, then the U.S. involvement in the drug war will likely lead to further disappointment and failure.

 For Further Information, contact: 

 Major F. Andy Messing

The National Defense Council Foundation
1220 King St. Suite #1
Alexandria, VA 22314
Telephone: (703) 836-3443
Fax: (703) 836-5402