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A roadblock to peace: How drugs impact international relations

A roadblock to peace: How drugs impact international relations

With more than $500 billion changing hands every year, illicit drugs rival oil as one of the world’s most valuable commodities (Global Politics Network). This vast amount of money funneling into criminal enterprises puts nations at risk and wreaks havoc on political relationships. While illegal drugs may seem like a private issue among addicts and their health, in reality the drug trade threatens global peace itself.

Drugs damage the global economy

Illegal drug trade is organized crime, and few things damage a nation’s economy as badly as crime. It introduces added risk to any financial investment and decreases faith in the government to promote development. Both foreign and domestic investors look closely at a nation’s crime rate when deciding whether to put their money into it. Tourism is also strongly affected by crime. No one wants to spend time and money in a foreign country that might be dangerous. As crime goes up, a nation’s financial security goes down.

Drug trafficking also fosters and feeds on government corruption. Traffickers profit greatly when the government becomes too corrupt to enforce its laws effectively. But corruption also has serious ramifications for a nation’s economy as a whole. According to the General Assembly of the United Nations, about $40 billion a year is lost in developing countries due to government corruption. When countries fail, they become even worse havens for crime on a level that threatens peace between nations.

Drugs threaten global peace

Drug trafficking has a direct effect on diplomatic relations and provides fuel for violence around the world. Many drug empires spread from one nation to another, increasing the crime of a nation’s neighbors. For example, Mexican drug cartels have caused increased criminality and violence along both sides of the border with the United States, including right here in Texas. Some drug operations even support terrorism. From FARC in Colombia to ISIS in Afghanistan, many terrorist groups finance their attacks on governments through the drug trade. This relationship almost always results in a direct and often violent response from the government under attack.

Attempts made by nations to curtail drug-backed terrorism often serve only to make matters worse. The American response toward drug trafficking from Mexico and Afghanistan, for example, has largely served to strengthen and intensify the local insurgencies (Brookings, “Organized criminals won’t fade away”). Experts criticize American policies, which discard due process and foment unrest, as heavy-handed and self-defeating. As a result, American policies have only caused a “balloon effect” that spreads drug trafficking into neighboring countries (Foreign Affairs, “Drugs and democracy in Latin America: The impact of U.S. policy; War and drugs in Colombia”).

Addicts might not realize the amount of violence that was necessary to manufacture and deliver a vial of heroin into their hand, but the consequences of that violence are real. Only by reducing the demand for illicit drugs can the world truly take a step toward peace. If you know someone with a substance abuse problem, the time to act is now. Call the Texas Substance Abuse Helpline for information on treatment centers in your area.