Another foolish intervention abroad

Over the past few years, it has become obvious that the United State’s war against drugs is an ineffectual policy that requires either total revampment or complete abandonment. With this in mind, President Clinton’s offer of $1.3 billion in funds going towards assisting the Colombian government’s fight against the drug cartels is the logical extension of our drug policy. It is also a foolish move that could potentially propel the United States into the middle of three decades of bloodshed.
Plan Colombia, as it is called, is a $7.5 billion project that mixes military efforts to fight drug trafficking and production with economic and social development. The United States’ contribution will primarily be in military equipment and expertise. U.S. military advisers will travel to Colombia to train battalions to fight the drug trade. Helicopters and other equipment will also be sent.
Although our government, in principle, has intentions to stay out of the civil war that has swept through the South American nation, the reality of the situation is that the war and the drug cartels are integrally connected. The guerrillas who are fighting the government get part of their financing by protecting the fields of coca and poppy, as well as from drug labs where those substances are turned into cocaine and heroin.
When Colombian soldiers begin to attempt to dismantle the infrastructure set up by the drug cartels, they will quickly meet resistance. The guerrillas have already declared that the U.S. helicopters will be subject to anti-aircraft fire. When our helicopters are destroyed and our advisers are wounded or killed, the tone our government has taken toward the drug cartels and guerrillas will likely begin to change. Instead of supplying advisers and equipment, we might begin to offer our forces to fight these vilified guerrillas.
During a recent meeting of leaders from South America, they gave support to the economic and social developmental aspects of Plan Colombia, while remaining silent on the military aid from the United States. There were also substantial concerns that the violence from Plan Colombia could spill into other countries bordering Colombia, such as Venezuela, Peru, Brazil and Ecuador. Brazil, for example, has already ordered thousands of troops to their Colombian border to prevent any fleeing guerrillas or drug labs from entering their country.
The United States has had many experiences with military interventions abroad. Usually, they turn out to be bad experiences. While we have been able to enact some positive change, it comes at a high cost. Either our servicemen are killed, or our reputation is tarnished. Our government’s involvement with the military aspects of Plan Colombia is the start of a slide down a slippery slope. The United States apparently thinks that the best way to fight drugs is to cut off the source rather than destroying the need. The beginning of our latest involvement with Colombia truly is an extension of our already foolhardy drug policy.
Hopefully, we will be able to reverse this course before it is too late. If not, Plan Colombia will potentially be added to the list of good-intentioned but bloody American interventions.