What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Weaving narratives

The Ministry is working. Extra hours even. The reason for not making it very visible at this point (the reason for the light to nonexistent blogging in recent days) is that it is work in progress that we are talking about: the shadow minister at the head of this Ministry, P.M., is writing his doctoral thesis!
But here is something we have bumped into, in the course of arranging files to help with this work. Some old UNODC reports about the wind of the cocaine trade picking up in West Africa. This is how they explained it in 2007 (see page 17):

"After years of effort, the governments of the Western Hemisphere have scored significant gains in stopping cocaine supply to the United States. The crackdown on cartel leaders by President Calderon’s administration in Mexico appears to have significantly affected trafficking."
Ouch. It hurts reading it, doesn't it?
UNODC is just not in a position to reach a conclusion that counter-narcotics measures do not bring success sooner or later. (You probably do not need this overworked Ministry to look up a link regarding the current situation in Mexico.)
Of course, another issue, to save some face for UNODC, is that the drugs trade is just not such a centralised affair as running a Ministry. It is all over the place. We just found a very useful, relatively famous quote from the 1980s, regarding terrorism, from Duane Clarridge, the first director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center (set up in 1986) - it is relevant in the context of the drugs trade as well, to a degree:
"It never fits one particular piece of real estate. It is effective precisely because it spreads all over the map" (quoted by Coll, 2004: 140)
This is relevant with regards to the drugs trade in that a lot of people are involved in the latter, and some of them are quite pro-active in earning their living. They have a habit of defying narratives.
Lesson learned: make counternarcotics a focus in Afghanistan with this in mind. See also Joshua Foust's related piece at Registan.

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