The Public Interest

Eternal hope: America’s quest for narcotics control

Peter Reuter

Spring 1985

THROUGHOUT THETWENTIETH century, the government of the United States has maintained that the solution to the American drug abuse problem lies with the foreign nations that produee the most important illicit drugs. This has been the view of administrations as different as John Kennedy’s and Ronald Reagans and it has been held about drugs as different as heroin and marijuana. The tone of the official statements on this matter has beeome somewhat less accusatory over the years—the government no longer suspects Communist governments of attempting to corrupt American moral fiber and fighting power through drug exports, though the Bulgarians, North Koreans, and Cubans have in fact been caught in minor facilitating roles from time to time. But there has been no change in the view that cutting exports from countries such as Burma, Colombia, and Pakistan is the best method for reducing U.S. consumption of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.  As the White House stated in 1982, “elimination of illegal drugs at or near their foreign source is the most effective means to reduce the domestic supply of these substances.”

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