Narco-Terror: the United States, the Drug War, and the War on Terror
The United States has had a long-standing policy of intervening in the affairs of other nations when the country has thought it within its best interests to do so. Since the 1970’s the United States has tried to impose its will on other nations to combat the most pressing political enemy of the day often linking the war on drugs to the matter to stoke support both domestically and abroad. In the times of the Cold War, this enemy was communism and the government tried to make the connection of the “Red Dope Menace” insinuating drug links with China, Castro’s Cuba, and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. However, as the world has evolved and communism’s prominence has waned, there is a new enemy whose existence has become intertwined with the drug war. That enemy is terrorism. The connection has gone so far that politicians and journalists have coined a new term to describe the link calling this new problem of our time “Narco-terror.” This paper will examine US efforts to control the drug trade and fight terrorism in Colombia, Peru, Afghanistan and the desired and often undesired consequences that have come about because of those efforts.
Narcoterrorism has a long past in the history of Colombia, focusing mainly on the market development of one drug: cocaine. Colombia, with its arid tropical climate and lush land, is an ideal place for the sowing and reaping of the coca plant whose extracts are synthesized into the powder cocaine drug. As Colombian cocaine production skyrocketed in the 1970’s and 1980’s thanks to booming demand for the product in Americas, drug kingpins in Colombia began to wield immense power in the country. Flush with the profits from the drug trade, these drug kingpins had the cash reserves to do whatever it is that they wanted free from the intervention of the impotent Colombian government. These kingpins consolidated their operations into cartels that would control the entire supply chain of the drug trade to maximize logistical efficiency along with revenues and profits. In the early 1980’s there were two major cartels in Colombia named for the cities that they were headquartered in. The older cartel was the Cali cartel, an immense enterprise with subsidiaries in banking, real estate, and even an airline (Scott 94). Competing with the Cali cartel for market share was the Medellin cartel led by a man who would become synonymous with Colombian narco-terrorism, Pablo Escobar.
The two cartels had vastly different styles with the Cali cartel preferring to view itself as more of a legitimate business with an executive structure that mirrors the organizational designs of many Fortune 500 companies complete with vice-presidents and divisions. Indeed, Colombian police began referring to the Cali cartel as “Los Caballeros” or “the gentlemen,” giving rise to the great respect enjoyed by the cartel throughout Colombia. ...