New challenge in drug war: semi-subs
At $2 million apiece, the craft poke out only a foot above water and can carry 12 tons of drugs.
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That's due in part to the focus on the wars overseas; in part to a lack of consensus about how to approach the problem, drug and defense experts say.Skip to next paragraph
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For example: even before 9/11, then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had discouraged actively battling drug cartels. Today's antidrug effort continues to be divided over questions about whether to emphasize reducing the supply or the demand for drugs.
American drug policy needs a rethinking of strategy on both the demand and supply sides, says Peter Hakim, president of Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based policy group. "US drug policy is something of a disaster in terms of any concrete results or progress." [Editor's note: The original version misstated Mr. Hakim’s view on US drug policy.]
The wars have weakened the effort even more.
"Given Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terror, they completely walked away from Latin American policy," says Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army four-star general who also served as the so-called drug czar in the White House under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.
Although US Southern Command, headed by Adm. James Stavridis, has not received as much attention support as its sister commands, particularly US Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has quietly focused on the drug fight, interdicting about 200 metric tons of cocaine last year.
To make more headway, General McCaffrey says, the American government as a whole needs a broader strategic policy in Latin America that would help address the growth in effectiveness of drug cartels.
If semi-subs represent one way in which narcotics traffickers have adapted, the growing use of tunnels on the US-Mexico border represent another.
"These narcotics traffickers, much like terrorists in other parts of the world, are learning adversaries," said Gen. Victor "Gene" Renuart, head of US Northern Command, on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program on Sunday. "As you close one loop, they will open another."
General Renuart, who among other things focuses on border-security issues, said: "If we believe we have solved the problem, we are almost guaranteeing it will come back. You can't take your eye off the ball in this kind of situation."