Thursday, March 14, 2013

Comment Spam

Hello Debaters, Coaches and Friends,


It seems no matter how much work you put into putting up a useful resource, there are those who's mission in life seems to be to ruin it for everyone.

Everyday Debate has a major spam problem.  I am deleting several hundred spam comments per day and since I receive notification of new comments, I receive hundreds of emails per day which are telling me, often in very broken English, how wonderful my site is and oh, by the way, visit my site over here.  The Blogger platform filters much of it, which keeps it from appearing on the posts, but a lot does get through and I am continuously monitoring to keep Everyday Debate a quality site.

Of course I get various pranksters and assorted trolls who make comments that are useless for debate but most of these I leave alone figuring if you want to prove to the world you are a troll or prankster, go ahead.  In any case it is obviously not spam.  Trolls don't invite people to visit their website.  They just try to attract attention to themselves.

To control this, I am implementing a new comment feature which will require you to enter a code word prior to leaving a comment.  You may already be familiar with these "CAPTCHA" controls which stop non-human spamming.

You may still leave comments, even anonymously, if you desire.  You may even choose to make useless remarks.  I will still read them all, return comments on most, and delete the vulgar ones.  Unfortunately you will need to take the extra step.

I am sorry for this measure, but there are always opportunists that want to ruin the freedom of the world-wide web.  I support web freedom but I hate spam.


Monday, March 11, 2013

PF April 2013 Drug Policy - Con Position


Resolved: The continuation of current U.S. anti-drug policies in Latin America will do more harm than good


For part one of this analysis, click here.


Con Position

Admittedly, the Con position is a difficult one in this debate considering the world-wide web is awash in literature critical of the policies and claiming the Drug War is a failure.  We need to find ground in the wording of the resolution and then expand that foothold through analysis and logic since straight-up support for the "current" policies will be difficult to find.  Fortunately, the web is a wonderful thing and one can find evidence that states whatever you want it to say.  No one really questions sources do they?  Okay, in our district they often do so be careful.

One of the main factors to consider in this debate is the resolution phrase, "continuation of current U.S. anti-drug policies".  In this analysis, I have listed, in very broad terms, the current U.S. policies but because we have focused heavily on one or two parts of a multi-faceted strategy it is possible to overlook the remaining parts and understand their impact on the big picture.  The U.S. policies are comprised of domestic and foreign components and we have mostly looked at the foreign policies.  It would be great if Con could say, yes continuation of the current policies are a failure but there is no guarantee current policies will continue.  It's true, there is no guarantee but of course as a Con debater you don't even want to remotely suggest such a thing.  If you do, you might as well turn off the lights, shut the door and leave, the debate is over.  You do want to suggest that your daddy's anti-drug policies are not YOUR anti-drug policies.  In other words, they have changed and they continue to change and so much of the Pro evidence is citing events and policies which were set into motion more than 30 years ago when, for many of you, your grand-parents were wearing tie-dye and dancing with flowers in their hair.  Indeed, the strategies evolve year to year, sometimes subtly, sometimes obviously.

Another thing to consider, overall, while the statistics may state that a huge percentage of Americans have, er, imbibed controlled substances, the number of regular users is small.  No matter what the current policy, regular use of illicit drugs remains fairly constant around 6-8 percent of the population (src: SAMHSA).  These numbers are for addicts, not casual users.  Actual numbers are difficult to obtain since users rarely answer surveys.  In any case, a few percentage points of change one way or the other, while perhaps significant, may be within the margin of error.  Because, the rate of consumption has ebbed and flowed but overall remained pretty steady, the argument is made the U.S. "Drug War" is a failure.  But, not all abused drugs are coming from Latin America.  There is a significant quantity of drugs arising from domestic sources as well as a huge problem with pharmaceutical drugs.  I would guess, that even if it were possible to completely seal the borders of the U.S. and cut-off all illicit drug imports, the rate of addiction would still be a constant.  (just my opinion - not necessarily a fact.)  Okay, so the point is this: how do we measure success in the so-called drug war, but more specifically how do we measure success with respect to anti-drug policy in Latin America?  Perhaps it is misleading to think we can measure it by looking at the rates of domestic drug use/abuse.  If the U.S. succeeds in reducing the flow of drugs from Colombia to the U.S. (even if the source of the flow now shifts to another place), has the U.S. policies with respect to Colombia been successful?  As long as the abusers in the US are not snorting Colombian cocaine, perhaps we can claim our policy in Colombia worked, so this has significant implications in the Con framework.

Finally, I want to look to the impact of the U.S. policies on the nations of Latin America.  It is important to understand, we do not go into a country like Colombia or Honduras or Costa Rica without invitation.  It would violate every standard of national sovereignty if we were to just cross a border and launch an attack on a cocaine processing facility.  The culture of drug trafficking breeds violence which soon spills-over into the lives of citizens, forcing governments to take actions to reduce the violence.  When the government has difficulty gaining the upper hand it asks for help and that is when the U.S. steps in and most of the time provides assistance in the form of money, equipment, and training.  BUT...and this is huge...that is not the only kind of assistance we provide.  We also provide, education, infrastructure and resources aimed at improving the lives of the affected people.  The gun battles with traffickers are the things we read about in the headlines, the schools or roads are never mentioned and this is unfortunate for the Con side of the debate looking for advantages.  Another difficulty in one's assessment of the drug war is how do we separate the problems induced by US policy from the problems induced by the policies of the host country.  For example, one of the most criticized aspects of the so-called Plan Colombia initiative was the development of paramilitary security forces in Colombia which are accused of human rights of abuses.  But, it seems very difficult to argue the formation of these groups and their subsequent actions were mandated by the U.S. anti-drug policies because they were not.  In addition, I may give you money with every intention it be put to good use.  I may even give on condition you meet certain requirements, but apart from the conditions, what happens to the money and how it is ultimately used is out of my control.  So if I give you money for college and you buy a few books and squander the rest on video games and candy, is that a failure of my intentions?


The Con Framework

I think the Con must be very careful about which framework is used by the judge.  Obviously the Pro will want to use standards which favor their side and so they may for example prefer a standard such as the reduction of the current rate of drug consumption in the US.  As Con you should not allow this kind of framework to stand since the rate of consumption is only partially, perhaps marginally impacted by US policies in Latin America.  There is probably no reasonable way to measure it that is not heavily influenced by alternative causes such as changes in domestic policies, and indeed, the evidence will show domestic policies are changing.  As the wording in the resolution suggests, Con should establish standards which look to the impact of US policy in Latin America.  Indirect impacts may not be applicable.  For example, if the US institutes a policy to improve cargo screening at borders in an effort to stem the flow of illegal drugs, and that policy ends up hurting the economy of some region in Mexico which supplied the drugs. That would be an indirect impact.  However, if the US worked with Mexican authorities to target that supply region, that would be a direct impact.  Generally, I would expect Con's case to be best served by looking at the direct impacts as much as possible.  Within the borders of the Latin American country, do the US policies result in the reduction of violence, reduce the flow of drugs, result in a more secure and stable government and do they improve the national security of the US in the region?  These are valid and I think reasonable standards for the Con that are measurable and favorable.  Along those same lines, I believe that while it may be tough to measure progress by looking at the amounts drugs consumed in the US, Con can certainly claim victory if the amount of drugs smuggled from Latin American countries decreases or if the amount seized increases.


US Drug Policy Is Changing

The basic idea of this contention would be the Pro is trying to use past results to predict the future.  One may make that kind of argument if all things remain the same, but Con can show that conditions and policies are changing and when the situation is changing the expected results are bound to change.

Valencia (2013):
While both Mexico and the United States have adamant objections to drug legalization, their first order of business is to transform their common enemy: the drug war that is so rooted along their shared border. Luckily, for President Barack Obama and Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto, a series of developments across the continent—including new administrations in Latin America, a change of rhetoric in the region, and U.S. gun control proposals—may open the door to change in current drug policies, which have thus far failed to effectively assuage the so-called war and restore its collateral damage.

Another scenario that could act as a potential stepping stone in shifting drug policies is the rising discussion over U.S. gun control. Spearheaded by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, the string of shootings in the United States last year has obliged the U.S. Congress to evaluate the current state of gun laws in the country. If stricter gun control were to take place this year, it would curb the influx of weapons through the porous U.S. Mexico border, and thus avoid transporting these guns through drug cartels. According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), 90 percent of the weapons confiscated in Mexico hailed from the United States. Given these numbers, the gun control factor is important in the fight against drug-related violence.

One can not assume the US anti-drug policy is some immovable beast that can not respond daily to the changing landscape of drug trafficking.  The policies are very open-ended and allow a great deal of variation in the responses US day-to-day action can take.  The change of administration in Mexico will no doubt require new strategies in the region so why should we think the current policies will continue unchanged?

The existing policy was already altered from within the term of Obama's presidency. Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative are not current policy.  They are components of past policy.

ONDCP 2012:
The Administration’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy, published in 2010, represented a new direction in our efforts to reduce illicit drug use and its consequences in the United States. The spirit and substance of that Strategy reflected the unique nature in which it was developed—at the President’s direction, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) engaged in an unprecedented consultation process, collecting input from Congress, Federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and international partners, nongovernmental organizations, and the American public...We will continue to counter drug production and trafficking within the United States and will implement new strategies to secure our borders against illicit drug flows. And we will work with international partners to reduce drug production and trafficking and strengthen rule of law, democratic institutions, citizen security, and respect for human rights around the world.

 
One of the key changes of the new strategy is happening on the domestic side of the anti-drug policy spectrum.  This is significant because, as I have stated several times in this analysis, the core of the drug problem is the demand for drugs.  If the US domestic policy can reduce demand, the entire landscape of the trafficking world will be impacted.  It is impossible for Pro to draw any future inferences under these changing conditions.

Hananel 2010:
The White House is putting more resources into drug prevention and treatment, part of President Barack Obama's pledge to treat illegal drug use more as a public health issue than a criminal justice problem.
The new drug control strategy to be released Tuesday boosts community-based anti-drug programs, encourages health care providers to screen for drug problems before addiction sets in and expands treatment beyond specialty centers to mainstream health care facilities.
"It changes the whole discussion about ending the war on drugs and recognizes that we have a responsibility to reduce our own drug use in this country," Gil Kerlikowske, the White House drug czar, said in an interview.


Strategy Change Is Working

Traffickers are clever and resourceful.  Developing strategies which work require innovation and adaptability on the part of those tasked to limit the ability of traffickers to operate freely.  Just because strategies have failed or proven ineffective does not mean the policy is a failure.  Our policy is to cooperate with international partners and work together to stem the flow of illicit drugs.  Nevertheless, it seems the ever-evolving strategies operating under our policies are now starting to bear fruit.

Cave, et al (2012):
Throughout 2011, counternarcotics officials watched their radar screens almost helplessly as more than 100 small planes flew from South America to isolated landing strips in Honduras. But after establishing a new strategy emphasizing more cooperation across various United States departments and agencies, two smugglers’ flights were intercepted within a single week in May, a development that explains why American officials say they are determined to press forward with the approach.
“In the first four months of this year, I’d say we actually have gotten it together across the military, law enforcement and developmental communities,” said William R. Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs. “My guess is narcotics traffickers are hitting the pause button. For the first time in a decade, air shipments are being intercepted immediately upon landing.”

Another important factor to consider, is the limited number of resources the US can apply to drug interdiction in Latin America will increase as the war in Afghanistan is ended.  This will potentially lead to sharp increase in the success rate of US policy initiatives.

Freedberg (2012):
The U.S. military command covering South America intercepts only about a third of the drug shipments and other illegal traffic that it knows about, because it and allied nations simply lack the assets to intercept most of the suspect boats and aircraft that their intelligence identifies, locates, and tracks. That shortfall in interception results in part from a shrinking U.S. Navy and the diversion of Air Force reconnaissance assets to the war zone in Afghanistan. "We intercept about 33 percent of what we know is out there, and that's just a limitation on the number of assets," said Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, chief of the U.S. Southern Command, at a breakfast with reporters this morning. And, Fraser admitted, that percentage is "going down... More is getting through."
The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and, after 2014, Afghanistan may free up some aircraft and boats for drug interdiction, Fraser said.

However, even if the US military is able to supplement its limited resources after the war in Afghanistan, the Latin American partners may still limit our ability to be effective.

Freedberg (2012):
But the limitations on what some partner nations can do are more intractable – and any improvement in American capabilities is at the mercy of increasingly tight budgets and a possible sequester...Helping friendly nations to secure their own territory and airspace is crucial, Fraser said, holding up the U.S. cooperation with Colombia as one model; and the Administration's new strategic guidance puts an emphasis on such "building partner capacity" missions as America's direct involvement in Afghanistan draws down.


The True Source of Failure

The Pro side of the debate and indeed many in the press want to paint a picture that US policies are failures which result in more harm than good.  Overwhelmingly, the evidence suggests, that rather than meet the definition of insanity by continuing to do the same thing and expect different results, the US anti-drug policy is responding to the challenges and adapting.  Certainly, given the scope and quality of the changes (the application of more and better resources) it is impossible to predict future harms until we have seen the results.

Mendoza (2012):
One persistent problem is that in many of the partner nations, police are so institutionally weak or corrupt that governments have turned to their militaries to fight drug traffickers, often with violent results. Militaries are trained for combat, while police are trained to enforce laws. "It is unfortunate that militaries have to be involved in what are essentially law enforcement engagements," said Frank Mora, the outgoing deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs. But he argues that many governments have little choice. "We are not going to turn our backs on these governments or these institutions because they've found themselves in such a situation that they have to use their militaries in this way," Mora said.

And the results are already showing promise.

Medoza (2012):
The Obama Administration sees these deployments as important missions with a worthy payoff. Hundreds of thousands of kilograms (pounds) of cocaine are seized en route to the U.S. every year, and the Defense Department estimates about 850 metric tons of cocaine departed South America last year toward the U.S., down 20 percent in just a year. The most recent U.S. survey found cocaine use fell significantly, from 2.4 million people in 2006 to 1.4 million in 2011.


Have We Really Failed?

While the Pro side tries so desperately to characterize the US anti-drug policy as a failure, there is little to truly link direct negative impacts to US policies.  Undeniably, we are awash in negative consequences and for most of these we can recite many reasons why certain tactics and strategies have failed to yield the hoped-for results but we can not necessarily say that the policy to intercept drugs or work with partner nations to eradicate the production of illicit drugs are flawed policies.  Because our ideas do not always work, the policy allows for adaptation and as the foregoing evidence proves, our tactics are evolving continuously to meet the challenges.  But let's look at the past results.  Was Plan Colombia truly a failure when we look at the good things that came of it?

ONDCP 2012:
The cooperative effort between the United States and Colombia to disrupt the cocaine market is a case in point. During the past decade, the United States and Colombia have worked together to reduce drug production, strengthen the rule of law, and increase citizen security that had been threatened by drug funded terrorist and criminal organizations. As a result, potential production capacity for pure cocaine in Colombia was reduced from an estimated 700 metric tons in 2001 to 270 metric tons in 2010, a 61 percent decline.61,62,63 This unprecedented reduction in cocaine availability has been accompanied by
  • lower rates of cocaine use in the United States as reported in surveys of both adults and young people;
  • significant declines in the number of arrestees testing positive for cocaine in many U.S. cities; and
  • historic reductions in the rates of adults testing positive for cocaine in the workplace.
The Administration’s international counternarcotics programs are ultimately designed to reduce drug production and trafficking, promote alternative livelihoods, and strengthen rule of law, democratic institutions, citizen security, and respect for human rights.

So there you have it.  Success according to our framework.


Double-Effects

Finally I want to leave you with one final bit of strategy to help the Con, one your Lincoln-Douglas debaters probably already know.  There is a moral philosophy called the Doctrine of Double Effect and it essentially states that if your actions intend a moral and just outcome, then secondary, negative consequences which may occur are not your fault.

McIntyre (2011):
The doctrine (or principle) of double effect is often invoked to explain the permissibility of an action that causes a serious harm, such as the death of a human being, as a side effect of promoting some good end. It is claimed that sometimes it is permissible to cause such a harm as a side effect (or “double effect”) of bringing about a good result even though it would not be permissible to cause such a harm as a means to bringing about the same good end. This reasoning is summarized with the claim that sometimes it is permissible to bring about as a merely foreseen side effect a harmful event that it would be impermissible to bring about intentionally.

Perhaps if you run DDE, the Pro will say it is tantamount to conceding but if you feel your case is tanking despite your best efforts to prove the US policies really are beneficial, you may want to pull this out of your arsenal and say, hey, what we have done was well intentioned and actually yielded beneficial results.  I can't help it if our international partners were not always able to come through and if in the process of doing what needed to be done, harms resulted...well, we are not morally culpable because our intentions are right.

Sources:

From Montevideo to Washington: A New Dawn for Drug Policy
World Policy Blog
Robert Valencia, 2013
http://www.worldpolicy.org/blog/2013/01/16/montevideo-washington-new-dawn-drug-policy

2012 National Drug Control Strategy
ONDCP
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/2012_ndcs.pdf

A New Front Line in the U.S. Drug War
New York Times
By DAMIEN CAVE, CHARLIE SAVAGE and THOM SHANKER, May 12, 2012

Obama Drug Policy Focuses On Prevention, Treatment
Huffington Post
SAM HANANEL  05/11/10
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/10/obama-drug-policy-focuses_n_571087.html

US Intercepts Only 1 of 3 Drug Smugglers It Tracks, Says General
By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.
Published: March 7, 2012
http://defense.aol.com/2012/03/07/us-can-only-intercept-33-of-drug-smugglers-it-tracks-says-gene/

US Military Expands Its Drug War in Latin America
Associated Press
Feb 04, 2013, Martha Mendoza
http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/02/04/us-military-expands-its-drug-war-in-latin-america.html

McIntyre, Alison, "Doctrine of Double Effect", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2011/entries/double-effect/>

Sunday, March 10, 2013

PF April 2013 Drug Policy - Pro Position


Resolved: The continuation of current U.S. anti-drug policies in Latin America will do more harm than good


For part one of this analysis, click here.


The Pro Position

The Pro side of this debate must convince the judge the current U.S. anti-drug policies will result in harms which outweigh the benefits.  Since the resolution specifies "the continuation" we can see the final results will be a future determination but that does not mean we are not able to draw conclusions today.  It is said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results and this is a sort of rationale for the Pro case.  If we continue down this path without making significant changes we will continue to make the same mistakes.  Indeed, we have a really good idea, that despite some modification of domestic policy, the Obama administration is focused on continuing the same strategy.

Youngers:
The election of President Obama raised hopes that Washington would recognize the failure of present drug-control policies and the tremendous damage they have caused, and change those policies accordingly. Those expectations, unfortunately, have not been met. After two years in office, the Obama administration has softened the drug war rhetoric, but the change in discourse has had little impact in the actual implementation of programs and policies. In short, for all practical purposes, the U.S. “war on drugs” is alive and well.

The Pro Framework

Both sides are expected to provide a "comparative advantages" type of framework for evaluation.  By the end of the round the Pro must convince a judge to weigh the harms versus the benefits and vote Pro.  In order for that to happen, the Pro must show the harms are greater than the benefits.  In my opinion, the best way to do this is create an additional evaluative standard which essentially states, the goal of U.S. anti-drug policy is reduce drug usage and reduce trafficking in the U.S.  The Pro can then show how that has not happened and impact the position by citing the harms.  Pro is then saying to the judge, not only have we failed to meet our primary objectives but we have also created all of these negative consequences which are continuing to mount as we continue down this failed course.

Upholding the "sense" of policy failure in the mind of the judge should not be difficult.  Most evidence will confirm there exists a consensus of failure even though it may not be provable one way or the other.

Hakim (2011):
No one has yet discovered how to objectively measure the success or failure of national drug control policies—or what success or failure even mean in practice. Most Americans, however, today believe that the US “war against drugs” has failed.

And statistics (which are notoriously unreliable) confirm the suspicions of most adults that drug usage, though it may have fallen slightly, has been and continues to be significant in the U.S. and despite the billions of dollars spent to combat the problem, the cost effectiveness of our policies has not been good.

The "Plan"

Much of the Pro debate revolves around the U.S. anti-drug policy which became known as "Plan Colombia".  This arose from legislation enacted in the late 1990s to eradicate cocaine production in Colombia.  In a nutshell, the initiative provided billions of dollars to train and equip Colombian security and military forces to combat the drug problem and curtail in-country violence and lawlessness.  It also involved a comprehensive program of spraying herbicides and scorched-earth tactics to eradicate cocoa fields.  The program did seem to break the backs of the major cartels in Colombia and reduce the atmosphere of fear and violence.  Additionally, foreign businesses began to reinvest in Colombia and return to the region offering jobs and hope.  That, at least, is the view the U.S. promotes: Plan Colombia was a success.  However, other, perhaps less biased points of view paint a different picture.  The flow of coca from Colombia has not significantly abated and while the large visible cartels are no longer active, the cocaine industry continues to thrive deeper "underground".  Even worse, a large and powerful, paramilitary-style police force has emerged which has been accused of all sorts of crimes including corruption and mass murder and the flow of U.S. dollars reinforces the oppressive regime.  I encourage you to study this plan extensively because Plan Colombia is the heart and soul of the U.S. anti-drug policy in Latin America and the evidence will show, it is this plan which is being duplicated over and over as the model for how to deal with Latin American drug trafficking and violence.

Hakim (2011):
Latin Americans have long been critical of Washington’s anti-drug policies, and tend to blame US consumption of illicit drugs for the escalating crime and violence in their countries...The two pillars of the US battle against drug trafficking—eradication of source crops and interdiction of narcotics shipments—have done little to curtail the supply of drugs headed for the US and other international markets. From time to time, individual countries report some significant declines in the drug cultivation, production, or transit, but these have invariably been offset by increases elsewhere—the so-called “balloon effect.”  Diminished coca leaf production in Peru and Bolivia in the 1990s led directly to expanded cultivation in Colombia. In response to government spraying, coca production shifted to other parts of the country. When the US closed Caribbean drug routes in the 1990s, cocaine shipments were redirected to Mexico.

The Colombia Failure

If the model for the continued U.S. drug policy in Latin America is Plan Colombia, one would hope the initiative truly succeeded in not only meeting the objectives of the US anti-drug policies but did so with minimal "collateral" damage.

Isacson (2010)
Colombia’s security gains are partial, possibly reversible, and weighed down by “collateral damage.” They have carried a great cost in lives and resources. Progress on security has been stagnating, and even reversing. Scandals show that the government carrying out these security policies has harmed human rights and democratic institutions. Progress against illegal drug supplies has been disappointing. And wealth is being concentrated in ever fewer hands.
 
Okay, maybe there has been a little collateral damage but that is one person's opinion.  It doesn't necessarily mean it failed and should not be used as a model for additional initiatives.

Armenta (2013):
“A radically different approach to the current war on drugs must be developed and integrated into the peace plan for Colombia, otherwise the drug circuit and armed conflict will continue to undermine the prospect of realising the goals of the peace process ultimately bringing to an end the war in Colombia”.TNI wrote this in 20002 during the so called Caguan Peace Talks between the FARC and the Pastrana government. Everything we predicted would happen - if the country did not implement an alternative policy for resolving drug-related problems instead of the ill-designed Plan Colombia - has come to pass. There has been a further escalation of the conflict, more internal displacement, worsening state legitimacy in vast regions, increased human rights violations, and devastation of the environment.

Paley (2012):
In Colombia, the war has gone on for decades and involved billions of U.S. dollars, but is being rebranded as a fight against crime. Through the 1980s, the Colombian state became increasingly paramilitarized, a process which “manifested itself as threats, bombings, and selective assassinations or collective massacres of government officials...and of popular political leaders, workers, peasants, professors, human rights activists, and members of nongovernmental organziations.”
U.S. assistance to Colombia in the form of anti-narcotics program funding resulted in the strengthening of paramilitary and unofficial police groups, reported to have patrolled alongside the Colombian Army and involved in the vast majority of massacres and forced displacements in the country.

 
Alright, so paramilitary groups are flourishing in Colombia.  As long as they are operating to reduce violence and curtail drug trafficking, the goals of the anti-drug are being met.  Paramilitary organizations should be not equated with harms.  That is, unless you are an international corporation that wants to keep the labor unions out of your business.

Paley (2012):
In Colombia, paramilitarization is also beneficial to transnational corporations wishing to dissuade labor organizing:
 
As part of the protracted U.S.-supported counterinsurgency campaign, paramilitary–state violence continues to systematically target civil groups, such as trade union organisations, which are considered a threat to the political and economic “stability” conducive to the neo-liberal development of Colombia. This has made Colombia very attractive to foreign investment as poor working conditions and low wages keep profit margins high.
 
Well-documented cases of Chiquita Brands, Drummond mining corporation, and BP, the oil giant, have traced the links between paramilitary groups and U.S. and transnational corporations. In March of 2007, representatives of Chiquita Brands pled guilty in a Washington, D.C. court to making payments to the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries. “Chiquita made over 100 payments to the AUC amounting to over $1.7 million,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. “Chiquita Brands paid blood money to terrorists like Carlos Castaño to protect its financial interests,” according to the law firm representing the victims.
 

Plan Mexico

Even if the judge concedes that Plan Colombia did give rise to significant harms, perhaps the situation in Colombia is unique.  The anti-drug policies in Mexico are framed in the Mérida Initiative, started in 2008, some 10 years after the legislation which initiated "Plan Colombia".  One would think, if Plan Colombia resulted in failures, the U.S. would learn from its mistakes and change its policies.  As we said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting a different result.

Alvarez (2010):
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared the problems plaguing Mexico and Central America to “Colombia . . . twenty years ago . . . where the narco-traffickers controlled certain parts of the country.” Clinton even hinted that the Obama White House was formulating a more intense version of the Merida Initiative — mimicking Plan Colombia — for Mexico and Central America to squelch drug trafficking in the region.

The rise of paramilitaries in Colombia has its counterpart in Mexico.  One of the most notorious and dangerous such groups is the Los Zetas.  The Zetas originally were the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel and recently separated from them.  The Zetas seem to be operating as an independent security organization for hire by traffickers or legitimate busnesses alike.  And so we, in a repeat of the Chiquita case, see a similar pattern emerging.

Paley (2012):
Both the U.S. government and critics agree that the Mérida Initiative in Mexico and Central America is a refined iteration of Plan Colombia...
But already we know that a group of Texas companies are accused of colluding with the Zetas to illegally import stolen fuel. “The Zetas are a paramilitary force,” Dr. William Robinson, author of A Theory of Global Capitalism, told me when I interviewed him last summer: “Basically it’s the creation of paramilitarism alongside formal militarization, which is a Colombian model.”
 

Plan Central America

In a never ending cycle of "insanity" the US continues to perpetuate the same policies as it extends its interdiction policies down the Central American isthmus.

Alvarez (2010):
A “Plan Central America” would be modeled on Plan Colombia and the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement, and might allow U.S. armed forces to land in Mexican and Central American military bases...Many activists see the landing of U.S. troops in the region as an attempt for Washington to retain power in the region through force. A leaked U.S. Air Force document outlined that the purposes of U.S. forces in Colombian air bases would not be restricted to counter-narcotics operations but would offer “full spectrum operations throughout South America” and would meet threats from “anti-US governments.” There would be nothing stopping the U.S. government from using similar bases in Central America to maintain pro-neoliberal and pro-U.S. administrations in those nations. An increasingly independent and confrontational Latin America is not in Washington’s perceived best interest.
 
And resistance is futile.  National leaders which fail to see things the US way, will not only loose millions of dollars, they also run the risk of destabilization and political intervention.

Kozloff (2010):
As ousted Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya found out, challenging U.S. economic and military power can have consequences. As I revealed at the time, Zelaya had been a staunch critic of the U.S. militarized drug war prior to the 2009 coup. Indeed, Zelaya even went so far as to write personally to newly-elected President Obama, claiming the drug war was misplaced. In the event, his controversial outbursts on the drug war cast Zelaya afoul of Washington. But the Honduran leader didn't stop there, going so far as to suggest that Honduras should turn U.S. military bases which were used for drug surveillance over to civilian control. Now that the military and the Honduran elite have gotten rid of Zelaya, the Central American nation has returned to the U.S. orbit.

Ulterior Motives

Now, having coached and judged Public Forum debate for a number of years I realize that the fact the US continues to push a seemingly failed policy year after year and locale to locale seems to indicate, either the US federal government does indeed meet the definition of insanity, or there is another reason it continues to push the same agenda.  And in this case one may argue the current anti-drug policies are not entirely about keeping drugs out of America in the first place.  Perhaps, just perhaps, there are ulterior motives which are not insane at all.

Kozloff (2010):
Moves to bring the U.S. Navy to Costa Rica have sparked widespread suspicions that Washington is looking for a justification to remilitarize the Central American region. It's undeniable that a recent increase in violence has sparked panic. However, some have argued that the real issue has to do with the causes of violence. While the right argues that the spike has to do with drug cartels, the left believes that the violence has more to do with poverty and rising inequality. In Costa Rica, the gap between rich and poor has been widening dramatically in recent years. Consider that in the 1990s, the wealthiest 10% of Costa Rica's population made 15 times what the poorest tenth earned. However, in the 2000s that figure was nearly 25 times.
 
(There is an important clue in the first sentence of Kozloff's quotation above.  Nevertheless, I will not take it any further.  I leave it you to pursue if you think it may be of value to your case.)

Other Harms

Having pursued the continued push of Plan Colombia as a solution to the Latin American anti-drug campaign, I would like to offer a few more arguments which illustrate the failures of current U.S. drug policies.

The Harms of Helping the Farmers

As I have noted several times in this analysis, one of the strategies of the government has been to undermine the incentives of the various farmers to continue to grow things like marijuana and cocoa bush.  To be sure, these are cash crops so if a farmer is going to uproot his cocoa to grow soybeans or corn there better be some money in it.  For this reason the government subsidized these farmers without fully comprehending the consequences.  Additionally, it was thought that economic development in some of these regions would improve the lot of the farmers and thus provide further incentive to grow "legitimate" crops.  I leave it to Ian Vasquez to summarize the results.


Vasquez (2003):
Here, too, serious obstacles and unintended consequences undermine the best-laid plans of Washington and the governments of drug-source countries. Coca plants, for example, grow in areas and under conditions that are thoroughly inhospitable to legal crops, making a switch to legal alternatives unrealistic. (Only 5 to 10 percent of the major coca-growing regions in Peru and Bolivia may be suitable for legal crops.) Farmers can also earn far higher returns from illicit plants than from the alternatives. For that reason, even when they enter crop-substitution programs, peasants often continue to grow drug plants in other areas. Ironically, in such cases, the U.S. government subsidizes the production of illegal drugs.
The drug industry also benefits from improved infrastructure. One World Bank report reviewed road projects, funded by the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Inter-American Development Bank, in coca-growing regions in Peru. ‘‘While the roads were useful in expanding coca production, they have severely hampered the development of legal activities.’’ It is interesting to note that the major coca-growing regions in Peru and Bolivia— the Upper Huallaga Valley and the Chapare, respectively— were sites of major U.S.-funded development projects in previous decades.
Colombia’s efforts to convince the United States that it wishes to cooperate in the fight against narcotics led Bogota´ to undertake coca eradication and other counternarcotic initiatives. Those initiatives have created resentment among peasant populations, who have consequently increased their support of major guerrilla groups, and have reinforced the business relationship between drug traffickers and the rebels who protect illicit drug operations.

Overcrowded Prisons

Finally, I will end this topic by discussing the prison situation is Central America.  The US has long taken a prohibitionist stand on drugs and initiated zero-tolerance policies for traffickers.  Those hard-line stances have been exported into the regions in which we provide foreign aid.  But tough laws aimed at curtailing trafficking often disproportionately harm those who are poor and unable to legally protect themselves.

Metaal, et al (2011):
the shift toward punitive drug laws came in response to international pressure, specifically stemming from the three major drug conventions adopted under the aegis of the United Nations, which promoted stiffening sanctions for drug offenses. These treaties required that the countries modify their domestic legislation so as to criminalize all acts – except use – related to the illicit market in controlled substances. In some cases, the legislation went beyond what the treaties required. The Andean countries in particular submitted to the pressures of the “war on drugs” waged by the U.S. government, which conditioned economic assistance and trade benefits on the acceptance of its drug strategy...Washington has used its political influence and aid and trade policies to ensure collaboration with its so-called “war on drugs.” By the late 1980s, the U.S. government was demanding implementation of harsh drug control legislation that included steep sentences and mandatory minimums – and much of the legislation that appeared in fact went beyond the requirements of the UN Conventions. In some cases, such as Law 1008 in Bolivia, the U.S. government was even drafting the proposed laws. By the 1990s, the United States was routinely using arrest and seizure statistics to evaluate levels of Latin American drug-control cooperation. Washington has thus exported its model of harsh drug laws and mandatory minimum sentencing across the region.
 
The findings in this study are therefore deeply disturbing: countries across the region have filled their jails with consumers and low-level offenders, whose roles in the drug trade are quickly taken by others. Even in countries that have launched major campaigns against drug traffickers – such as Colombia and Mexico – the number of major traffickers behind bars remains miniscule. The region’s harsh drug laws and their aggressive enforcement are having a devastating effect on people who come from the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of society, while failing to achieve any meaningful success in curbing the illicit drug trade.

Youngers:
The emphasis placed on criminal sanctions has created overwhelming caseloads in the courts, the study found, and has contributed significantly to the region’s prison overcrowding crisis. Harsh sanctions have led to the imprisonment of tens of thousands of people—mostly from the most disadvantaged and marginal sectors of society—for disproportionately long periods of time for small-scale drug offenses or simple possession. Yet their confinement has proven to be ineffective in controlling the drug trade, as low-level offenders are those most easily replaced. Paradoxically, many enter jail with no direct connections to drug organizations but eventually leave as part of organized criminal networks. The study revealed that even in Colombia—put forward by Washington as the model country for drug control—only two percent of those deprived of liberty for drug offenses appear to be major participants in drug trafficking networks.

Click here for the Con Position

Sources:


Rethinking U.S. Drug Policy, Politica Exterior, Inter-American Dialogue
Peter Hakim, 2011
http://www.thedialogue.org/page.cfm?pageID=32&pubID=2790

The illicit drugs market in the Colombian agrarian context, Why the issue of illicit cultivation is highly relevant to the peace process, Transnational Institute
Amira Armenta, 2013
http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/brief40_0.pdf

Donʼt Call it a Model, On Plan Colombia's tenth anniversary, claims of “success” don't stand up to scrutiny
Washinton Office on Latin America
Adam Isacson, 2010
http://justf.org/files/pubs/notmodel.pdf

Systems Overload - Drug laws and prisons in Latin America
Washinton Office on Latin America
Editors: Pien Metaal & Coletta Youngers, 2011
http://www.druglawreform.info/images/stories/documents/Systems_Overload/TNI-Systems_Overload-def.pdf

Militarization & Economic Transformation in Colombia & Mexico
Drug War Capitalism
Dawn Paley 2012
http://www.solidarity-us.org/pdfs/Dawn.pdf

A Plan Colombia for Mexico, Americas Program
Posted on: 10/09/2010 by Laura Carlsen
http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/3202

U.S. Marines to Costa Rica: What's Behind the Story?, Th eHuffington Post
Nikolas Kozloff, 2010
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nikolas-kozloff/us-marines-to-costa-rica_b_672130.html

The Drug War: Towards a 'Plan Central America'
North American Congree on Latin America
Kevin Alvarez, Oct 28 2010
https://nacla.org/node/6784

Drug Control Policy: What the United States Can Learn from Latin America
Washington Office on Latin America
Coletta A. Youngers
http://lasa.international.pitt.edu/forum/files/vol42-issue2/debates2.pdf

Time to Debate a Change in Washington’s Failed Latin American Drug Policies
Council On Hemispheric Affairs
BY COHA Director Larry Birns and COHA Research Associate Michael Ramirez
April 1, 2009
http://www.coha.org/time-to-debate-a-change-in-washington%E2%80%99s-international-drug-policies/

Cato Handbook for Congress: Policy Recomendations for the 108th Congress
Chapter 56, The International War on Drugs
Cato Institute
Ian Vasquez, 2003
http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-handbook-policymakers/2001/9/hb107-56.pdf

Saturday, March 9, 2013

PF April 2013 Drug Policy - Background


Resolved: The continuation of current U.S. anti-drug policies in Latin America will do more harm than good


For part one of this analysis, click here.

Background

While the history of anti-drug policies in the US go back to the early 1900's there is no need to review the timeline of the various US initiatives to limit the import of "illegal" drugs into the US.  The issue has long been one of supply and demand.  Rather I should say demand and supply because the demand for drugs drives the efforts to supply them and as long as there are people who demand something, there will be those willing to try to supply the demand.  However, some may argue it is a not just a problem of supply and demand, because the prevalence, or easy access to drugs constitutes a threat because it makes it easy for those who may be prone to such things, to "discover" drugs.  For sure, if drugs are difficult to obtain, they would likely be much more expensive and so there would be less chance of obtaining the drugs.  The so-called 'War on Drugs' began in the early 1970's, really after the formation of the Drug Enforcement Administration, a division of the US Justice Department and became a sort of national paramilitary force aimed at enforcing the Controlled Substances Act and working to reduce drug smuggling across the international borders of the US as well as state borders within the US.  The DEA began to work with similar agencies in foreign countries to find and eradicate the source of illegal drugs and arrest the individuals in the so-called drug cartels responsible for supply.  In the 1980s, the federal government authorized the use of CIA and US military units to assist in the War on Drugs.  Millions of dollars were handed over to foreign governments to establish and equip their drug eradication efforts.

Much of the anti-drug operations were being conducted in Mexico, Columbia, Peru, and other Latin American countries as well as Asia and Africa.  Of course, as we look at this topic of debate we need only concentrate on the policies relative to Latin America.  The development of the drug trade in Latin America began with farmers in certain regions in which the plants which yield drugs thrive, growing and cultivating the plants.  The people in these regions have historically been poor and it was said that a farmer can make more money growing marijuana or cocoa than he could growing corn.  So there was a financial motive to cultivate these kinds of crops.  Groups organized and expanded to buy the crops and set up the various operations required to process the drugs and smuggle them to the US and Europe.  Early anti-drug policies attempted to encourage farmers to convert their fields to normal crops, such as corn and were paid subsidies to do so.  Also, US agencies in cooperation with agents of the host country would raid these farms, uproot and burn the marijuana or cocoa crops.  Such actions would devastate the livelihoods of the farmers which served to foster anti-American sentiments among the citizens of these areas.  Meanwhile, enriched by the flourishing drug consumption market, the various organizations which manufactured and supplied the drugs became increasingly well organized, heavily armed, and influential in the regions in which they operated, often using murder, torture, and terrorism to maintain their regional dominance of the trade.  They eventually organized themselves into cartels.  A cartel is a cooperative group of members which work together to fix prices, establish manufacturing operations and setup distribution networks.  The "Drug Cartels" of Mexico and Colombia are well-organized, rich, very large and dangerous, willing to do whatever it takes to maintain their operations.

 Dictionary.com:
Cartel - a consortium of independent organizations formed to limit competition by controlling the production and distribution of a product or service
Drug cartel - an illicit cartel formed to control the production and distribution of narcotic drugs; "drug cartels sometimes finance terrorist organizations"

The Colombian-based cartels supplied most of the cocaine to the world.  The two largest organizations, the Medellin and Cali cartels were targeted by DEA and CIA which organized efforts to cut off their trade routes through the Caribbean Sea.  This forced them work with Mexican organizations to move cocaine through Mexico across the southern border of the US.  The Mexican groups grew in power and wealth as a result.  The ongoing drug war in Columbia, which at times was conducted with full military strikes, eventually led to the collapse of the major Colombian cartels.  The Colombian supply chain broke up into smaller, less organized groups while the Mexican groups took over the distribution operations.  Today the major drug cartels are all based in Mexico including the Sinaloa, Tijuana, Juarez, and Los Zetas among the largest and most active.

In early 2000s, the Mexican government objected to the heavy-handed and often unilateral tactics being taken the US in Mexico.  The US and Mexican authorities negotiated and developed a cooperation plan known as the Mérida Initiative.  The main components of the plan supplied funds to train and equip Mexican police and troops to control trafficking.  The initial funding, set to expire in 2010 has been extended with $1.9 billion earmarked for 2012.  Mérida has its critics and is seen as the US sponsorship of extremist police tactics including torture.

The ONDCP

The federal government created the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 1982, as the central executive organization for establishing and overseeing the US policies aimed at eliminating illegal drug use in the US as well as the associated trafficking, crimes and negative economic impacts.
 
 ONDCP Pamphlet (2009):
A key role of ONDCP is to evaluate and coordinate the international and domestic anti-drug efforts of other Federal agencies and to ensure such efforts sustain and complement State and local anti-drug activities.The Director advises the President regarding changes in the organization, management, budgeting, and personnel of Federal agencies that affect the Nation’s anti-drug efforts...The primary purpose of ONDCP is to establish policies, priorities, and objectives for the Nation’s drug-control program. Using an approach that is flexible and responsive to current trends, the agency works to curb the use, manufacture, and trafficking of illicit drugs, reduce drug related crime and violence, and minimize the health consequences of drug use. To achieve these goals, the ONDCP Director is charged with producing, on behalf of the President, the National Drug Control Strategy. The document directs the Nation’s anti-drug efforts and establishes a program, a budget, and guidance for cooperation among Federal, State, and local partners.

The head of the office is known in the press as the nation's Drug Czar.  The first was William Bennett and the current director is Gil Kerlikowske, appointed by President Obama in 2009.

US drug policy is complex and multi-faceted. The ONDCP is responsible for establishing those policies and coordinating some 34 other agencies in carrying out the US anti-drug policies.

The Status Quo

Illegal drug use in the US is a problem which has economic impacts on the US.
 
 Kilmer et al (2012):
More than 40 million Americans use cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, hallucinogens, or prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes each year, with roughly half consuming only marijuana. In the last five years, marijuana use—particularly daily use—has increased, and cocaine use has declined. As homicides associated with flagrant street markets for crack have declined, there has been a sharp rise in deaths associated with prescription drugs. A more recent policy challenge involves new substances, often referred to as designer drugs or “legal highs,” because they are—at least initially—not covered by existing prohibitions...The most recent estimate puts the economic cost of illegal drug use under current policies in the United States at $193 billion in 2007 (National Drug Intelligence Center, 2011).3 Costs were classified into three categories: crime ($61 billion), health ($11 billion), and productivity ($120 billion). The latter includes missed work and “presenteeism” (being less productive while on the job), as well as wages lost due to incarceration and homicide. These costs do include the nonmedical use of prescription drugs and are not broken down by specific drug.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the federal government has a goal to reduce illicit drug use by 15% in 2013.  The policies, as we shall soon see, are comprised of domestic and foreign components.  In order to achieve this goal, the US administration has asked for $25.6 billion dollars.

ONDCP (2012):
For 2 years this principle has guided the Administration’s efforts – and we will continue to pursue a balanced approach that brings all sectors of society together in a national effort to improve public health and public safety. The requested Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 National Drug Control Budget demonstrates commitment to these goals, requesting $25.6 billion to reduce drug use and its consequences in the United States. This represents an increase of $415.3 million (1.6%) over the FY 2012 enacted level of $25.2 billion.

Of that money a full $3.7 billion is earmarked for interdiction, whereby, according to the ONDCP: "The Departments of Homeland Security and Defense perform activities designed to interrupt the trafficking of illicit drugs into the United States by targeting the transportation link;"

Approaching the Policies

According to the ONDCP, the major strategies of the US anti-drug policies are the following (ONDCP 2013):
  • preventing illicit drug use and addiction before their onset;
  • bringing more Americans in need of treatment into contact with the appropriate level of care;
  • protecting public safety while also ensuring that drug‐involved offenders have the opportunity to end their drug use and rebuild their lives;
  • countering drug production and trafficking within the United States;
  • implementing new strategies to secure our borders against illicit drug flows;
  • working with our international partners to reduce drug production and trafficking and strengthen rule of law, democratic institutions, transparency in government, alternative livelihoods, and respect for human rights around the world.

The resolution we will debate specifies US anti-drug policies in Latin America. One may infer from this we need not focus on the myriad of policies aimed toward managing the domestic problems of US drug consumption, including the internal trafficking, crimes, health issues, and economic impacts except where those policies have direct and clear links to Latin America.  So it is a little vague.  For example, let us assume the domestic anti-drug program succeeds and by some incredible circumstance, all US illicit drug demand ceases.  Then perhaps the economic impact on Latin American may be significant and so we can cite the domestic policy has a direct impact upon Latin America.  When the resolution says "will do more harm than good" we must decide, does it mean "more harm than good" in Latin America or the US or should we just look at relative harms regardless of where they impact?  On the other hand, if one makes the claim US anti-drug policy resulted in the economic collapse of a region of South America, if there is no direct impact to the US do we consider it in our evaluation of harms versus good?  My interpretation of the resolution is predicated on my prior experience which tends to think we must look at the impact of our policies on the people and governments of Latin America and how those impacts eventually reflect upon and ultimately affect our standing in the world.  Therefore, much of the policy analysis I will present will be directed along those lines.

A primary goal of the US is to reduce drug trafficking across the US border.  The policies to accomplish this include:
 
  1. Cooperation with international partners for intelligence sharing.  The US anti-drug forces (DEA, DoD, DHLS, etc) will work with their counterparts in other countries to collect and analyze intelligence data related to the drug trafficking effort.
  2. Secure the Border and Ports of Entry.  The US will upgrade and employ state of the art detection technology to identify trafficking suspects and detect contraband in shipments.
  3. US Military interdiction.  The US will continue to use military air power and troops to support its drug interdiction efforts.  This also includes the providing military equipment and training to counterparts in other governments.
  4. Increase international criminal investigations.  The US will directly and indirectly engage in criminal investigations in cooperation with foreign governments to identify, investigate and prosecute drug traffickers.  This also includes targeting corrupt government officials.
  5. Stop the money trail.  The US will increase interdiction efforts to stem the flow of cash which drives the underground economy.  This includes sanctioning those organizations and businesses suspected of cooperating with money laundering and exchanges.
  6. Control the flow of illegal weapons.  The US will increase intelligence and investigation activities to control the flow of weapons used in smuggling and trafficking operations.
  7. High-tech surveillance.  The US will utilize high-technology monitoring and surveillance equipment, including sensors and satellites to detect trafficking movements, crops, and facilities.  This includes state-of-the-art data sharing and communications technologies.

Obviously the US intends to interact directly with key government in the region.  While officially we may assume this involves mutual cooperation to achieve common goals, one would be naive not to think it may also involve various kinds of coercive pressure exerted on these governments.


Click here to see the Pro Position


Sources:

The National Drug Control Budget: FY 2013 Funding Highlights, Office of National Drug Control Policy
(ONDCP) February 2012

Council On Foreign Relations, Mexico's Drug War
Aimee Rawlins, January 11, 2013

The U.S. Drug Policy Landscape,Insights and Opportunities for Improving the View
Published by the Rand Corp, 2012
by Beau Kilmer, Jonathan P. Caulkins, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, Peter H. Reuter

THE WAR ON MEXICAN CARTELS, OPTIONS FOR U.S. AND MEXICAN POLICY-MAKERS
William Dean, et al, September 2012

Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the President
2009 pamphlet

NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL STRATEGY, Performance Reporting System Report
ONDPC, APRIL 2012

National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy
Office of National Drug Control Policy
June 2009

NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL STRATEGY
ONDCP, 2012

Latin America and the Caribbean: Illicit Drug Trafficking and U.S. Counterdrug Programs
Congressional Research Service
Clare Ribando Seelke, et al, 2012

U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mérida Initiative and Beyond
Congressional Research Service
Clare Ribando Seelke, et al, 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

PF April 2013 Drug Policy - Definitions


Resolved: The continuation of current U.S. anti-drug policies in Latin America will do more harm than good

Definitions

This could be an interesting resolution because it explores US policy with a part of the world Public Forum Debate has not spent time exploring in the recent past.  It gives us the chance to learn new things about a part of the world which is very near to the US, yet culturally rich and very diverse from the US.

Let's begin, as usual, by defining the words of the resolution.

Continuation
(Merriam Webster)
the act or fact of continuing in or the prolongation of a state or activity

Continuing
(Merriam Webster)
Continuous, constant
needing no renewal

Continuous
(Merriam Webster)
marked by uninterrupted extension in space, time, or sequence

Current
(Merriam Webster)
1: presently elapsing (2): occurring in or existing at the present time (3): most recent
2: used as a medium of exchange
3: generally accepted, used, practiced, or prevalent at the moment

Latin America
The U.S. State Department Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, divides the region into Canada, Caribbean and Latin America. Canada, of course, is comprised of the provinces of the country which lies on our northern border (unless you happen to live in Alaska or Hawaii) while the Caribbean is comprised of the various island-states and possessions situated in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.  This means Latin America is comprised of the remaining countries making up all of continental Central and South America.  Therefore it would include Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Savadore, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama in Central America and Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam,  French Guyana and Brazil in South America.

anti-drug policies
Obviously, we have a pretty good idea, this topic will focus on policies the US has to prevent the manufacture and import of illegal drugs into the United States.  Whereas, drugs may be produced or refined any where, the resolution narrows our focus to the western hemisphere regions known collectively as Latin America.  I strongly suggest debaters take a copy of the source referenced below, to get a perspective on the range and scope of the issue.

CRS (2012):
In recent decades, Latin America has played a central role in several major global illicit drug markets. Multiple aspects of the drug supply chain take place in the region, including drug crop cultivation, drug production, drug trafficking, and, ultimately, drug consumption. Today, South America is the sole producer of cocaine for the global market; Mexico and Colombia are the primary sources of opiates in the United States; Mexico and the Caribbean are major foreign sources of cannabis (marijuana) consumed in the United States; and Mexico is the primary source of foreign methamphetamine in the United States. Marijuana and methamphetamine are also produced domestically...Latin America’s central role in the illicit drug market stems largely from the Andean region’s unique position as the world’s only source region for coca and cocaine. Another major factor contributing to the region’s prominence in today’s drug trade is its proximity to the United States, a major drug consumption market. Underlying factors that have allowed drug trafficking to flourish include poverty, inequality, and a lack of viable economic opportunities for farmers and youth in many countries aside from emigration. At the same time, underfunded security forces and the failure to complete institutional reform efforts have generally left police, prisons, and judicial systems weak and susceptible to corruption. On average, fewer than 5% of murders committed in Latin America result in criminal convictions, which gives drug traffickers the freedom to act with relative impunity. The presence of insurgent groups involved in drug production and trafficking in some countries has impeded antidrug efforts. Uneven political support for counterdrug efforts may also fuel drug trafficking.

U.S. State Department-funded drug control assistance programs in the Western Hemisphere are currently undergoing a period of transition. Counterdrug assistance to Colombia and the Andean region is in decline, after record assistance levels that began with U.S. support for Plan Colombia in FY2000. Conversely, antidrug funding for Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean is significantly higher now than in the mid-2000s as a result of the Mérida Initiative and two related programs that received initial funding in FY2010, the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). Separately, DOD counternarcotics assistance and support continues in the region (See Table A-1 in the Appendix). The following sections provide broad overviews of the current major U.S. antidrug initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean. Most sections contain appropriations figures through FY2012, as well as the FY2013 budget requests for each program.

will (do)
The Merriam Webster definitions are:

1—used to express desire, choice, willingness, consent, or in negative constructions refusal
2—used to express frequent, customary, or habitual action or natural tendency or disposition
3—used to express futurity <tomorrow morning I will wake up in this first-class hotel suite — Tennessee Williams>
4—used to express capability or sufficiency <the back seat will hold three passengers>
5—used to express probability and often equivalent to the simple verb

When looking at the context of the word, I tend to think of definition number 3, used to express futurity.  One takes the sense that even if the current US anti-drug policy is not producing harms in the status quo, if it continues, harms will arise in the indefinite future.

harm
(Merriam Webster)
1: physical or mental damage : injury
2: mischief, hurt

good
For this term, I intentionally avoided the dictionary definition.  We know what good is.  It is something desirable, pleasant, or something which produces such a quality.  When we speak of harms and good, we understand harms are bad and good is, well, good.  So it seems reasonable to assume we can address a long list of potential good effects of the US anti-drug policy.  Nevertheless I think we must measure good outcomes or bad outcomes with respect to some desired end or objective.  So already I see frameworks which center around the objectives of the US anti-drug policies.

Why the Resolution?

Latin America covers a broad area of the western hemisphere.  Historically the region has been subject to poverty despite enormous natural resources.  More recently, the regions have emerged as some of the largest and most active economies in the world.  Some would argue that a great deal of the previous conditions in the area are the result of US hegemony and some would contend US exploitation of the resources.  It may be fitting to explore the history of the region in more detail in a future article.

The US has a lust for illegal drugs and anytime a large group of people are willing to pay for something, regardless of its legality, there will be people willing to take the risks to supply the desire, at a price worthy of the risks.  Hence, a thriving underground economy has emerged to meet the market of illicit drugs.  Seeing illegal drugs as a kind of blight on society and a source of all sorts of harms to individuals and families, the US government has sought to eliminate this underground economy.  This topic will debate the harms and advantages arising from US government policy.


Click here for background info


Sources:

Latin America and the Caribbean: Illicit Drug
Trafficking and U.S. Counterdrug Programs
Clare Ribando Seelke, Coordinator
Congressional Research Center, March 19, 2012
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R41215.pdf

Analysis: Obama faces Latin America revolt over drugs, trade
Reuters News Agency
By Brian Winter
2012
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/09/us-obama-latinamerica-idUSBRE8A80ZS20121109

The Shifting Terrain of Latin American Drug Trafficking
Steven Hyland, 2011
The Ohio State University, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
http://origins.osu.edu/article/shifting-terrain-latin-american-drug-trafficking

Sunday, March 3, 2013

PF March 2013 Health Insurance - What I Saw, How I Voted

Resolved: The U.S. government should not require its citizens to have health insurance.


For part 1 of this analysis, click here.


Introduction

We just finished our state tournament.  It is a fairly large tournament, I suppose, with some 80 schools, 16 NFL districts and nearly 1000 competitors.  We run Lincoln-Douglas, Policy, Public-Forum and Congress as well as the usual menagerie of speech categories.  As tournaments go, it was well run and remained on schedule, despite being split over three venues which were some 20 minutes apart depending on traffic.  The tab rooms did a fine job with the help of www.speechwire.com tournament software, keeping it running smoothly.  I am sure several of the staff ran  the equivalent of a marathon, keeping judges corralled and available.  If I could complain about anything, it would be the lack of food at one of the venues.  Sorry folks, it is ridiculous to expect grown adults to live two days on donuts, puffy cheese balls and walking tacos.  A hungry judge is an angry judge and an angry judge is a critical judge.  Nevertheless, knowing what it takes to organize and run a tournament, it was clear to me, there was a lot of thought put in to the planning of the events and the logistics of getting things done, and that, they accomplished very well.

My contribution to the tournament was simple, judge Public Forum debate.  However, that turned out to be anything but simple.  It is very difficult to enter a major tournament, indeed, one of the most important of the year, being forced to debate for the first time, new topics in Lincoln-Douglas and Public Forum debate.  Developing and arguing a good case is often an iterative process of running it, evaluating the reaction and rebuttals and adjusting the case.  Eventually one starts to refine a pretty decent case.  This is especially advantageous to LD debaters who have two months to develop their cases.  Several of the cases I saw were at stage one of the development cycle.  I know my own debaters were adjusting and rewriting in the hotel the first night after competition and I wonder how many others were doing the same in hotel rooms across the area.

So, since the tournament is over, and since most teams in our state will now be finished with formal varsity competition, I thought I would share what I saw in Public Forum and give my analysis of the arguments.  Note, I did not judge any LD or Policy at this tournament (Last year I judged only policy debate as far as I remember).

Framework

Most of the cases I heard had some kind of framework and most of the time, that framework tried to make it clear the debate was not about health care, but rather health insurance and the judge should only look to those advantages or disadvantages which arise as a consequence of mandated health insurance.  This got particularly sticky with regard to "Obamacare".  Some teams wanted to allow Obamacare since there is a wealth of evidence about the plan, yet tried to sever out the portions unrelated to the individual mandate. I was also instructed in one case, I should ignore Obamacare since it is a health care system. A few teams, tried to set up an obligatory framework which established that the US had a duty to act in accordance with a given interpretation of social contract theory or a moral imperative.  Only one team said I should evaluate the round on the basis of comparative advantages.  In other words, simply weigh the good versus the bad. Amazingly, I recall one team in particular that did an outstanding job of explaining how each of their contentions applied to their framework.

Framework Fails

In my opinion, a framework is not intended to be some kind of burden to restrict the opponents (even though you may cite burdens which are unfavorable to the opponents).  As I see it, the framework should be a mechanism for me as the judge, to determine the best way to weigh the round.  It is the debater's chance to tell me, "we think this is what you should give more weight to".  In other words, prefer our interpretations or prefer our evaluation because...   Most of the time, the part that was missing is the "because..."  Tell me why I should prefer your framework.  Maybe some other interpretation is not resolutional.  If you want me to look at a theoretical world is it only one without Obamacare, does the current political climate or economic conditions need to be considered?  If you want to cite a philosophical basis for your case, social contract or moral duty as least give me some kind of philosophical construct formulated by a philosopher which supports your position.  Don't expect me to prefer you and partner's theory to the exclusion of your opponent's unless you can back it with something more than your somewhat, biased interpretation.

Specific Arguments


Romneycare
For two days I was assaulted with evidence about the Massachusetts health care law with very little explanation about how it applied, or the model upon which it is based.  I heard one side proclaim the cost of health care premiums went up, the other side claimed they went down.  Overall the cost of health care went up, the cost of health care went down.  The number of emergency room visits increased, the number decreased.  I heard Massachusetts is not a good model for the US because the majority of residents are wealthy, and I heard it is a good model because our studies isolate representative communities which serve as a microcosm for US demographics.  When I am in a round, I know things.  After all, I research these topics pretty thoroughly.  Definitely more than the average PF judge.  Nevertheless, I really try to do my judge's duty and evaluate the round on the basis of the arguments and evidence presented by the debaters.  So for this reason, I can tell you, in most cases, I dismissed all of the Massachusetts evidence from both sides on the basis it was conflicting, poorly warranted and poorly explained why I should prefer one side over the other.  My advice, if you want to use the Massachusetts health care system as a model to support your case, you better tell the judge why it applies, make real sure your numbers are the most recent to March 2013, make very sure your evidence is not politically biased and if your evidence is challenged by equally compelling offsetting claims by the opponent's, you may want to consider a final focus which is not specifically tied to your Massachusetts evidence, because like me, the judge is very likely to just reject Massachusetts completely from her evaluation.

Health Insurance vs Health care
It seems reasonable to me we should consider the resolution asks us to examine the pros and cons of health insurance mandates, not health care in general.  But when a debater tells me I should reject any harms or benefits arising from the current state or projected state of the health care system, things starts to get difficult.  Specifically, if you tell me I should only consider advantages arising from health insurance mandates then proceed to cite reams of well-sourced evidence about the health care system, I am thinking, wait...didn't she just tell me to reject that evidence?  And while you are flying through your eloquent and carefully crafted case through subpoint after subpoint, I am still trying to figure out which parts I should sever and which retain  Quite often at the end, I realize the debater never gave me the link between the insurance mandate and the impact on the health care system.  In fact, unless your case makes absolutely zero mention of the health care system, it is probably too much to ask a judge to forget about the health care system with respect to this topic.  I personally, have no clue why anyone would expect that universal health insurance would not have a significant impact on the health care system in general.   However, that does lead to the next discussion point.

Mandated Solvency
In my opinion, the Con must overcome a very significant problem in the status quo.  Generally speaking we have a dysfunctional health care system (unless you can afford it) that is getting more and more costly everyday, is often unavailable to certain demographics and leads to productivity losses and premature death for many.  So the question is, how will universal coverage fix the harms in the status quo?  For me, this is the crux of the Con case and unless Con can demonstrate solvency for the harms then Con must find a completely different way to win.  The question is, what does does universal health insurance achieve that I should desire it?

Utopian Worlds
Finally, this is Public Forum debate. This means at some point the debate must intrude upon the world in which people like judges live.  In some cases, it is convenient for debaters to avoid certain impractical realities by constructing a kind of Utopian framework.  Such a framework may attempt to focus on, say, the benefits of universal coverage, and since the resolution does not suggest any particular plan, we need not be concerned with things like, how much will it cost, how will it be made into law, and even in some cases, we should not think about the fact that some people, perhaps millions, will decide not to accept the coverage.  We can basically achieve solvency by fiat but this is a form of case abuse I have discussed in the past (see: Affirmative Fiat).  This kind of framework is unlikely to succeed so I advise you to avoid it unless you are very skilled.

How I Voted

At the end of the first day of the tournament, I found I had favored Pro cases mainly based on the lack of solvency in the Con cases.  In some cases, the lack of solvency was due to framework problems in which debaters essentially asked me to ignore the very health care impacts which supported their advocacy.  In a few cases, the lack of solvency resulted from unclear links demonstrating how mandatory coverage produced the claimed benefits as opposed to alternative causes like market forces.  By the second day, I realized the Con cases were better and some were winning.  I am not sure if debaters were making adjustments, or random factors were involved.  I did judge a few break rounds and at this level, the debaters were much more focused upon logical analysis and empirical evidence rather than structural problems such as a faulty framework killing solvency.  The key issues were economics, quality of care and the impact of less than 100% compliance.  It would be interesting to check back in a few weeks to see how the cases have evolved but I will not get that opportunity.  Anyway, its time to start thinking about the April case.  Public Forum...so much to discuss, so little time.