Shooting Up

Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 273
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  • Book Info
    Shooting Up
    Book Description:

    Most policymakers see counterinsurgency and counternarcotics policy as two sides of the same coin. Stop the flow of drug money, the logic goes, and the insurgency will wither away. But the conventional wisdom is dangerously wrongheaded, as Vanda Felbab-Brown argues inShooting Up.

    Counternarcotics campaigns, particularly those focused on eradication, typically fail to bankrupt belligerent groups that rely on the drug trade for financing. Worse, they actually strengthen insurgents by increasing their legitimacy and popular support.

    Felbab-Brown, a leading expert on drug interdiction efforts and counterinsurgency, draws on interviews and fieldwork in some of the world's most dangerous regions to explain how belligerent groups have become involved in drug trafficking and related activities, including kidnapping, extortion, and smuggling. Shooting Up shows vividly how powerful guerrilla and terrorist organizations - including Peru's Shining Path, the FARC and the paramilitaries in Colombia, and the Taliban in Afghanistan - have learned to exploit illicit markets. In addition, the author explores the interaction between insurgent groups and illicit economies in frequently overlooked settings, such as Northern Ireland, Turkey, and Burma.

    While aggressive efforts to suppress the drug trade typically backfire,Shooting Upshows that a laissez-faire policy toward illicit crop cultivation can reduce support for the belligerents and, critically, increase cooperation with government intelligence gathering. When combined with interdiction targeting major traffickers, this strategy gives policymakers a better chance of winning both the war against the insurgents and the war on drugs.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0450-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Strobe Talbott

    America’s single most acute military and diplomatic challenge has come to be known by a geographical neologism: “Afpak.” The vocabulary of that conflict features another, more familiar term that has acquired totemic significance: “counterinsurgency.” And definingthatword requires another: “counternarcotics.” That is the subject of Vanda Felbab-Brown’s deeply knowledgeable, powerfully argued, and timely book.

    In Vanda’s cutting-edge work at Brookings, she has been influential in deepening the understanding in policy circles of the nexus between illicit narcotics and insurgency. In the summer of 2009, as casualties and controversy associated with Afpak mounted, her analysis and recommendations helped shaped a...

    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-12)

    A story from Afghanistan’s rural south, the region that has been at the core of the Taliban’s effort to regain control of the country, suggests the complexity of the relationship between illicit economic activity and military conflict. Taliban insurgents had hammered up posters offering to protect farmers’ opium poppy fields against government attempts at eradication, with a cell phone number to call if the eradicators appeared. In one village near Kandahar, the villagers caught on to a counternarcotics sting operation in which an agent posed as an opium trader.¹ After his visits to the village to buy opium were followed...

    (pp. 13-33)

    As a corrective to the conventional narcoterrorism view of the nexus between illicit economies and military conflict, I present a richer, more complex framework—the political capital model—that explains how belligerents’ involvement in the illicit economy affects their strength and how government policies toward the illicit economy affect the conduct and outcome of conflict. This model describes the strategic interactions among belligerents, traffickers, the population, and the government in the context of illicit economies. It also specifies a set of factors that affect the size and scope of the gains that belligerents derive from the illicit economy.

    The conventional...

  7. THREE PERU: The Coca Path
    (pp. 35-67)

    From the 1980s through the mid-1990s, Peru was the world’s largest supplier of coca leaf and coca paste, the raw ingredients for cocaine.¹ The illicit narcotics economy in Peru employed up to 500,000 people, generated large inflows of hard currency at a time of acute economic crisis, and represented at least 4 percent to 5 percent of Peru’s GDP (during some years, perhaps even more).² The United States devoted a large amount of resources to combat the drug trade in Peru and put a great deal of pressure on the Peruvian government to do so as well.

    At the same...

  8. FOUR COLOMBIA: The Narco Wars
    (pp. 69-111)

    Colombia has had one of the world’s largest illicit narcotics economies for almost thirty years. The country produces roughly 80 percent of the world’s supply of cocaine and 90 percent of the cocaine sold in the United States.¹ It is also the Western Hemisphere’s largest producer of heroin, supplying 50 percent of U.S. heroin. Returns from illicit drugs as a percentage of Colombia’s GDP have hovered between 0.5 percent and 3 percent since the mid-1990s.²

    Over the same period, Colombia has been torn by a civil war pitting leftist guerrillas, rightist paramilitaries, and the Colombian state against one other. The...

  9. FIVE AFGHANISTAN: Swimming in a Sea of Poppies
    (pp. 113-155)

    One of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan has been torn by war and insurgency since 1979. In the process, it has become the ultimate example of the “narco-state.” In 2007 opium production climbed to a staggering 8,200 metric tons before declining slightly, to 7,700 metric tons, in 2008 and to 6,900 metric tons in 2009.¹ Afghanistan now supplies more than 90 percent of the global illicit market for opiates, up from no more than 50 percent in the mid-1990s, and more than 95 percent of the European market. Profits from drugs constitute more than one-third of the overall...

    (pp. 156-184)

    To varying degrees, Peru, Colombia, and Afghanistan have all served as testing grounds for the narcoguerrilla perspective, and in all three cases, the conventional government wisdom has proven to be sadly deficient. Eradication of illicit crops has not fatally weakened any of the insurgencies active in these countries. Instead, as the political capital model of illicit economies and military conflict predicts, aggressive drug suppression measures have served primarily to increase the guerrillas’ legitimacy and political support among the populations involved. When governments have succeeded in bringing belligerents to heel, as in the case of Colombia’s FARC, success has been a...

  11. APPENDIX A Involvement of Belligerent Groups with Illicit Drugs
    (pp. 185-192)
  12. APPENDIX B Methodology of the Study
    (pp. 193-196)
  13. APPENDIX C Case Selection
    (pp. 197-200)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 201-260)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 261-274)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 275-276)