Despite the “several hundreds of millions of dollars” that the Bush administration has poured into Afghanistan, in an effort to curb the production of poppy, cultivation has increased. A State Department official denies Afghani sovereignty even on the most basic of humanitarian grounds; denying that “excuses” like abject poverty are not enough to justify the production of opium. By all accounts, opium production in Afghanistan has increased significantly in the last few years.
“[Opium has] become an industrial production,” said Doris Buddenberg, director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime here, noting that Afghanistan’s opium output this year was a staggering 6,700 tons. Rural poverty, dashed hopes for economic recovery, Taliban blandishments and anti-government sentiment “all added up to more families deciding to grow poppy,” she said.
Of course, hand-in-hand with prohibition, there is the widespread corruption, which is always, everywhere, encouraged and rewarded by the prohibitionist tactics which support an otherwise unjustifiable black-market price. People will continue to grow the poppy from which opium is made as long as there exist economic incentives to do so. As long as there exists the possibility for a marginally better existence, Afghani subsistence farmers will continue to cultivate poppies, and those poppies will continue to be used in the production of opium.
The laws of economics are not subject to popular vote. They cannot be overturned or repealed by intra-governmental pressure, legislation, fines or penalties. Prohibition’s history is a one of near total failure. There is little reason to believe that it will be any different in Afghanistan.