Unintended Consequences

Afghanistan is by far the world’s leading producer of opium and heroin (produced from opium).  Over 80% of the world’s opium originates in Afghanistan.

During the Taliban’s brief reign in Afghanistan, it declared opiate production to be contrary to Islam and managed to essentially eliminate the production of opium there. Afghan poppy production was almost entirely wiped out and the world’s heroin supply fell by 75%.

But with the U.S. invasion opium production returned with a vengeance. Opium production is now higher than ever and growing every year (despite billions of dollars spent by the U.S. to suppress it).  Drug use has skyrocketed in Afghanistan, doubling over the past two years. The sudden influx of cheap heroin has also led to an epidemic of heroin addiction in Europe and the U.S., resulting in thousands of deaths each year. And ironically perhaps, the enormous wealth being generated from the narcotics trade now funds the Taliban’s continuing insurgency.

I suppose one could make the case that it is better to have increased heroin production than to have the Taliban.

But now, of course, we have both.

The civil war, violence and fanaticism that emerged in the aftermath of the war in Iraq generates new horrifying headlines nearly every day.  I don’t think the war planners intended to create an environment for terrorism that makes Saddam Hussein seem tame by comparison, but that’s what happened.

And likewise I don’t think those who planned the Afghanistan war intended to create the environment for record levels of heroin production, addictions and deaths, but that’s what happened.

And, sadly, those environments were paid for with a lot of American blood and treasure.