[unrev-II] Fwd: [issues] thoughts on the crisis...

From: Jack Park (jackpark@thinkalong.com)
Date: Mon Oct 01 2001 - 07:01:35 PDT

  • Next message: Jack Park: "[unrev-II] Fwd: Re: [vims] A few small things ..."

    >From: Paul Werbos <pwerbos@nsf.gov>
    >It seems that this crisis re Bin Laden is severe enough... that we really
    >can't just let go of it
    >right now. For myself, there seem to be two lessons: (1) we cannot withdraw
    >into our own independent
    >lives and activities.. in general.. so much as we might be inclined to; our
    >thoughts, however fallible, are an essential part
    >of the overall system; (2) yet we must expect to make mistakes... and
    >correct them.. which is part of the inevitable price of
    >trying to think about something so tricky as this present situation.
    >And so... here are some thoughts which I do not endorse, but may be worth
    >thinking about....
    >FIrst, could it be that we have made a fundamental mistake here in
    >declaring war on terrorism just now?
    >Should we instead have declared war on drugs?
    >People have made a lot of comments here that "systems thinking involves
    >real awareness of multiple points of view...
    >like shifting the actors and seeing what things would look like from
    >different vantage points."
    >OK, when Al Capone claimed to represent a poor people's Catholic revolution
    >against "the real mafia -- the Rockefellers etc."...
    >the mafia tried hard to project that message for decades, because it is
    >convenient for them.
    >The message didn't get all that far in the US, because of the large
    >law-abiding Catholic population... which was able to outweigh the
    >large and significant but smaller population that did go along with
    >Capone's message. And now Osama Bin Laden has really convinced
    >most of the West that the base of his motives is a truly religious - if
    >fanatic and distorted and aberrated -- quest.
    >And even some Moslem leaders have argued, in effect, "He is well meaning
    >but slightly ignorant. He simply never understood
    >that part about jihads and the innocent." It would be as if a Catholic
    >priest said of Capone "He is truly Catholic and
    >part of our community... he just never heard about that obscure clause in
    >the footnotes about 'Thou shalt not kill.' "
    >Likewise, all this hopeful discussion of Taliban giving up Bin Laden ...
    >may be an exercise in fuzzy fantasy.
    >Let's try some different metaphors here... one crude, and one better.
    >Would Taliban give up Bin Laden? Well, would Hitler give up Rommel? It's a
    >matter of understanding the
    >relationships... Rommel was not just a guest!
    >A better analogy: there has been much debate about the US war on drugs in
    >Columbia and its neighbors.
    >Yet... it is interesting to ask... if this clumsy war on drugs had not been
    >so extreme... is it not possible that
    >Columbia (or neighbor...) today would be very similar to what Afghanistan is?
    >Last night, the TV news stated (I assume correctly this time...) that the
    >Taliban zone of influence includes more
    >than half the production of raw heroin in the world. Taliban has made
    >noises about stopping it...about as honest
    >and sincere, I assume, as their noises about turning over Bin Laden and
    >being true Moslems and such.
    >In fact, it is their government's primary source of income... and the
    >original source from which their various
    >security operations flow.
    >The Latin American drug cartels learned long ago the benefits of buying out
    >various "people's liberation" movements,
    >which have turned into nothing but shock troops for their operations. Many
    >of the fighters on the front lines still
    >believe what they started to believe... there is a big psychological and
    >practical barrier to admitting even to themselves the
    >horror of what they have become. But the midlde level people, who interface
    >between those troops and the people who
    >pay them and set priorities... know full well the whole picture... and know
    >how to manage a more conscious psychopathology.
    >In a way... Taliban is a kind of experiment... what happens when one
    >DOESN'T do a full-fledged war on drugs.
    >And then one might ask... if the US went into Columbia, why was this
    >Taliban drug cartel -- not a nation-state but an well-organized
    >drug cartel -- left alone for so long? What can we learn from all this?
    >On the US side, there are undoubtedly many factors. For example, cocaine
    >has been a far worse threat to US society than heroin,
    >for the past decade or two. Heroin has been more of a problem for Europe
    >and Asia -- suggesting that perhaps Europe and Asia
    >should take care of that half of the world's hard drug problem.
    >Furthermore, the centers of heroin production have been more
    >in the zone where European and Asian powers have influence and capability
    >to act.
    >There are tremendous difficulties in defining what is "terrorism," if one
    >insists on being infinitely broad about it.
    >Sometimes those who insist on being infinitely broad before acting end
    >being infinitely dead instead. Sometimes
    >it is important to proceed one step at a time, as the next small step
    >becomes clear. The word "heroin" is
    >a lot easier to define than the word "terrorism." And it is the greater
    >part of what really killed those people in
    >New York.
    >Perhaps the greatest need at this time would be for the other members of
    >the UN Security Council to ask the US
    >to put its resources and energy behind a new internationalized version of
    >the war on drugs... slightly modifying and
    >extending what has been done to help nations in Latin America, and working
    >to do something similar in Afghanistan.
    >And a first stage might be a UN ultimatum for Afghanistan BOTH to turn over
    >bin Laden and his lieutenants, AND
    >to burn out the poppy fields themselves... or else be prepared for the
    >international community to do it themselves.
    >People on this list have at times proposed "bomb them with food." Normally,
    >this is not a sensible approach...
    >for a long-term approach to global problems... certainly the US is not
    >physically able to feed the entire world...
    >but certainly I hope the US military have studied carefully what might be
    >possible on these lines.
    >Perhaps the ability to drop food, and burn out poppy fields, should be
    >getting the highest priorities right now,
    >in terms of large things that involve the military. (Not to downgrade the
    >important efforts to apprehend the
    >various criminals, and assist others.)
    >As for timing... who knows? There are many, many pros and cons...
    >Best of luck,
    > Paul W.
    >P.S. Speaking of the Capone analogy... some of my own staunch Catholic
    >ancestors proposed fighting
    >the Capone phenomenon by abolishing Prohibition... something which did
    >help, to a significant extent.
    >Many have argued that something like the British system of "registered
    >addicts" might also help.
    >I tend to agree that some form of that system could be a great help in the
    >global war on cocaine
    >and heroin. (Until Taliban and Bin Laden wnet so far... maybe I would have
    >said just cocaine for now...
    >one could start there...). But that is not an ALTERNATIVE to doing what
    >needs to be done in Afghanistan
    >here and now... and it may take some time to work out the details... and,
    >in all fairness, to overcome the political taboos
    >associated with the subject...

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