Case by case: Drugs, rebellion and terrorism – Peru.
Some governments in the world have problems with a combination of illicit trafficking, international/regional terror movements, and local insurgencies. On their own these problems are considerable, but when combined together they give governments serious headaches without easy solutions.
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is morphing into an attempt to address these issues together. (*With the results of this countering strategy being debatable). What many do not realize is that OEF concerns more than just Afghanistan, but The Philippines and Horn of Africa as well. And in each of these areas, there is a blurry separation between what constitutes a trafficker, rebel and terrorist. This blurry line is what makes them difficult to counter.
- Afghanistan has its poppy growers, Taliban-like insurgents, and al Qaida affiliated groups.
- The Philippines has the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Abu Sayyaf, human-trafficking and banditry economy.
- The Horn of Africa has its warlords, pirating, and similar al Qaida-like groups.
But with each of these countries, an attempt to eliminate one problem can detriment attempts to counter another. As is the case with the debatable counter-drug policy in Afghanistan which could lead farmers into the hands of the Taliban. Or the counter-terrorism policy against Abu Sayyaf which can conflict with a reconciliation approach towards the MILF. Not to mention, that trying to do too much with too few resources can be counter-productive in its own right.
Peru is a special case, just like all the others.
There are two main rebel groups and a significant cocaine trade in Peru. Sendero Luminoso (or “Shining Path”) is the most internationally renown and violent of the two rebel groups. The second is Túpac Amaru, which gained worldwide notoriety after it took hostage Japanese embassy personnel in an attack that lasted over 4 months. Both of these organizations have been seriously weakened by decapitation that resulted in the arrests of top-level leadership.
In the Shining Path case, the arrest of Abimael Guzmán fractured the organization. While the Japanese hostage situation resulted in the deaths of 14 members of Túpac Amaru’s high-level command. These two episodes, occurring in 1992 and 1997, reduced the threat to the Peruvian state.
Yet, the danger for Peru is that both rebel groups will come back in force. However, it appears that both groups have shifted their focus from leftist rebellion to drug trafficking. Now Peru’s main countering strategy should be against the illicit drug economy, and not counter-terrorism or counter-insurgency.
But what is the best way to stop trafficking without stirring up rebellion?
Peru will have to diminish cash incentives for farmers that produce illicit crops, while simultaneously giving them economic alternatives. Intimidation spread by traffickers must be policed without corruption. And consumption must be reduced in a way that doesn’t necessitate interdiction or crop eradication, mainly this is because interdiction rises the profit-motive while eradication strengthens the link between farmers and rebels.
All of this is much easier said than done. But, in my opinion, the US can reduce the illicit drug economy if it truly takes on the problem with “smart power,” as is claimed to be the renewed focus of US foreign affairs.
Smart power would encompass an approach that was both domestic and international. It would include treatment at home with support for economic development abroad. It would include strategies that seek to address the drug problem at the two key nodes where it starts and ends: The farmers who produce and the users who consume. It would do this in a way that reduces criminality at both of these non-violent nodes of the production cycle.
Other gringo lost posts with a similar bend: