THE United States ``war on drugs'' took a more peaceful turn this week.
President Clinton and his top drug fighter, Lee Brown, proposed a higher budget for the gentler side of the narcotics war, including another $360 million for drug treatment.
President Clinton would also pump $448 million extra into drug education and community action programs to prevent the use of illegal narcotics in US schools and places of work before it begins.
The president explained: ``We know that no nation can fight crime and drugs without dealing honestly and forthrightly with the problem of drug addiction.''
Greater emphasis on treatment upsets some critics, particularly because spending for drug interdiction will be cut.
Sen. Phil Gramm (R) of Texas blasted the Clinton administration budget proposals as a ``welcome mat for drug thugs.'' The senator said: ``Not surprisingly, it reflects a fundamental view of most Democrats that when things go wrong, society is to blame, and more social programs are the answer.''
Not that the police and military will see their overall funding reduced. The budget for the criminal-justice portion of the drug war increases 4 percent to $5.93 billion, the largest share. Efforts to reduce the supply of drugs through police action in other countries gets an extra $427.8 million, an increase of 21.7 percent.
Overall, the drug-fighting budget will climb by $1.1 billion to a record $13.2 billion.
At $5.4 billion, prevention and treatment will get about 41 percent of the overall drug budget, somewhat more than during the Reagan and Bush years in the White House.
Mr. Brown, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, says critics overlook the president's plans to hire another 100,000 police officers. That is also part of the drug war, he says. However, Kevin Zeese, president of the Drug Policy Foundation, says both sides have it wrong.
Clinton's program leaves hundreds of thousands of drug addicts without treatment, he says. And expanding the drug war in other nations ``is a repetition of the failed strategy [of] the 1970s.''