Shooting Up Colombia

U.S. aid will do more harm than good

Presidents who require that all major foreign policy initiatives undergo detached, searching analysis by foreign-policy professionals immediately make this world a saner and more secure place. In most cases, President Bill Clinton has done this. Overall, his record of confronting international crises with eyes wide open merits respect, even praise. In Northern Ireland, the Korean peninsula, and the Middle East, he has achieved solid progress toward peace through diplomatic support for negotiations and, in the latter two cases, by timely financial support to guarantee the durability of any agreement. These promising initiatives owe much of their success to the candor and openness with which the administration has conducted its diplomacy.

In Colombia, however, the limits on our power to intervene effectively have been ignored-a victim of Washington’s dotty war on drugs. Clinton may insist, as he did in Cartagena, Colombia on August 30, that his policy is only a counter-narcotics strategy. Colombians know better: while more than 2 million square miles of land is suitable for growing of coca leaf, only 1,000 square miles is needed to meet the world’s demand for cocaine. Thus, aerial eradication makes no sense except as a weapon to reduce the wealth of the insurgents in Colombia’s long-running civil war, who depend for a share of their income on the "taxes" they collect from campesino cultivators.


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About the Author

Robert E. White, a former United States ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay, is president of the Center for International Policy.