A very interesting conversation took place in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday when Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) asked one innocent question of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Christine Abizaid. His question? ‘How is the war on drugs in Afghanistan going?’ Her answer, ‘I don’t know.’
So began a short bit of testimony that revealed a stark truth, we have lost the war on drugs in Afghanistan.
Thomas Massie: “I’ve read reports that opiate production has as much as tripled, since we invaded Afghanistan, in that country. How much do you think it’s gone up? Has it gone up or down?”
Christine Abizaid: “It’s not something I follow on a daily basis and part of my portfolio, but I’ll check with those that do.”
The two go back and forth like this for about 3 minutes (from 1:40 – 4:15 in the video) with Massie asking important questions, and Abizaid explaining that she doesn’t have any answers. After growing weary with his colleague’s ineptitude, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, steps in to provide what should become the most important testimony to be remembered from the hearing.
Thomas Massie: “How do you measure success if you don’t know? Would you testify today that opiate production has gone up since you started the counter-narcotics effort?… I trust that you have a lot of activity, because you’ve spent $8 BILLION there. But what about progress?”
After Abizaid refused to offer any real response, again, Sopko stepped in…
“I think what you’re focusing on is so important… The outcome is opiate production is higher today, 2014 was the highest production year in Afghanistan. So if you look at any metrics for success or failure… you look at arrests, you look at seizures, you look at the amount of crops under production… you look at the number of addicts.
If you look at every one of those metrics, we have failed.
More important for Afghanistan, the amount of money going to the insurgency has increased since we’ve been there.
So sir, to you… I don’t think we’ve succeeded in Afghanistan.
If this is ‘winning,’ what is ‘losing’ the drug war?”
Wow. Massie then summed up what he heard in the testimony. “The war on drugs in Afghanistan… has been a failure. We’ve spent $8 Billion over there, production is the highest its ever been… I think its time to reevaluate our strategy and our tactics in the war on drugs in Afghanistan.”
This conversation is about more than the war on drugs. It’s also about the failure of liberal government policies. There is no real accountability when it comes to government programs, which means that success and failure is always going to be measured in input vs. output as opposed to measuring success by outcome. The war on drugs in Afghanistan has been a failure, just as the war on drugs in America has and the war on poverty, on and on and on. The wars may be different, but the outcomes are the same. Because the government, by its very nature, is not equipped to do the job.
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