Imperialism and Drug Prohibition

There is increased recognition to the fact that access to gains from drug trafficking and drug production by insurgents has a huge contribution to prolongation and intensification of intra-state military disputes between countries (Felbab-Brown, 2006). In line with imperialism, the United States has provided numerous anti-narcotics policies, with a major emphasis on crop eradication, with priority been given to countries such as Peru, Colombia, Afghanistan among others. The US has also insisted that other Western Nations adopt the same policy. However, this approach as a solution to the drug menace neglects numerous key issues, including the fact that there are so many underlying dynamics to the drug economy. In Yemen, for instance, chewing qat is regarded as part of the nationals’ culture. Efforts to undermine its consumption through imperialistic measures could not only counter the overall drug-stoppage efforts, but it could also undermine government stabilization, and ultimately, war on terrorism (Varisco, 1986).

An analysis of the relationship between insurgent movements and the narcotics economy in Peru shows that by belligerents accessing the illicit economy, strengthens their movements all the more (Felbab-Brown, 2006). However, contrary to popular opinion, the gains that the belligerents make are not only financial in nature, but they also come in the form of increased military capabilities and improved relations and interactions with the local populations (Felbab-Brown, 2009). Prompted by the desire to reduce the belligerents’ capability in countries such as Afghanistan, the US government attempts to promote drug eradication, a move which ends up being counterproductive (Felbab-Brown, 2006). A crucial component in the reconstruction and stabilization of any country where the illegal narcotics economy thrives is the counter-narcotics effort. However, any such effort that is premature or inappropriate (given the existing culture) complicates these counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and stabilization goals, ultimately sabotaging political consolidation and overall economic reconstruction.




Felbab-Brown, V. (2006). Trouble ahead: The Cocaleros of Peru. Current History105(688), 79-83.

Felbab-Brown, V. (2009). Peacekeepers among poppies: Afghanistan, illicit economies and intervention. International Peacekeeping, 16(1), 100-114.

Varisco, D. M. (1986). On the meaning of chewing the significance of qat (Catha Edulis)in the Yemen Arab Republic. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 18(1), 1-13.

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