Foreign and Drug Policy
In examining the transitions in US government policy related to drug abuse and trafficking, historians are consistently confronted with the difficult task of analyzing the different motivations for variations in strategy from the Nixon administration to the present. In this specific case, our investigation centers upon the interplay of United States foreign policy in Latin America in the 1980’s (pursued mostly by the CIA) and the broad campaign against drugs both at home and abroad. At first glance, one might suppose that a moral ideology such as the war on drugs would be a multi-faceted operation with little available room for compromise. After all, an analogous crusade against terrorism has emerged as the overriding logic and driving force behind current foreign policy, so why shouldn’t narcoterrorism have a similar place in initiatives abroad?
It would make sense that since we are now committed to eliminating any support for states that sponsor terrorism, nations like Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras should be dealt with in a similar manner for their complicity in drug trafficking. As we now know, this was not the case, thus further scrutiny is required. The framework for this analysis will be an in depth reading of multiple sources with differing viewpoints chronicling the events in the expansion of the Latin American narcotics trade.
Our analysis begins with Oliver North, the military coordinator ultimately empowered by the National Security Council to conduct and oversee covert operations supporting Nicaraguan rebels, the Contras, in their resistance campaign. As part of Reagan’s fierce stance against communism, Latin America had become a battleground between American CIA operatives and undemocratic regimes consistently providing support to drug trafficking operations that sought to massively export cocaine to the United States. In an interview with PBS Frontline, North details the difficulties of concurrently pursuing law enforcement through the DEA on one hand while continuing to finance and arm non-communist forces seeking revolution. Strangely enough, however, he does not see any inconsistency in pursuing those dual objectives in this case, and this is a main point of contention. The explanation he provides, “that there were individuals within the resistance who were doing illegal things,” but the drug problem can’t be blamed on the Contras, is somewhat of a distortion. While narcotics trafficking was clearly a directive of the Sandinistas and their involvement with the likes of Pablo Escobar is well documented, it seems imprudent to contend that the lower level of individuals involved in trafficking amongst the opposing force, the Contras, reinforces the claim that we rightfully supported them.
…our policy has always been consistent, in one, opposing Communism, and number two—certainly in the Reagan administration—doing what we could to staunch the flow of drugs into this...