In the past few weeks, we have been bombarded with some remarkable assertions regarding the Latin American drug cartels. Testimony before the Senate has revealed that the narco barons have considered using submarines to smuggle cocaine into the United States. Jack Anderson has reported that narco terrorists are plotting attacks against U.S. nuclear power plants in retaliation for Washington's anti-drug campaign. The president's children have been placed under Secret Service protection. The governor of Florida is rumored to be on the Medellin Cartel's hit list.
Many of these allegations have a chilling ring of plausibility, however lunatic. Others are no doubt evidence of nothing more than panic and fear of the unknown. Yet all are manifestations of a sudden recognition that the Latin narco powers pose a real and dreadful threat to our collective well-being.
There is a pathetic irony in all this. After 40 years and countless billions spent fighting the Soviet threat, we find our national security under frontal attack from an entirely different quarter. On the eve of our victory in the Cold War, we have suddenly realized that we are at risk of losing the Drug War.
To be sure, our newfound enemy does not possess the capacity for nuclear attack. It does not have troops massed along our frontier. Yet it is nonetheless threatening. Indeed, it already has accomplished what the Soviets and the Nazis before them never accomplished. It has invaded our territory, placed armed agents on our soil, taken hundreds of thousands of Americans prisoner and set in motion a frightful challenge to the American way of life.
The president and Congress are close to agreement on a program to combat the narco threat. Much is being made of its domestic components. Little has been focused on its foreign policy content. We cannot expect to overcome this threat by depending alone on `kinder and gentler' approaches to education and treatment and a `tough love' approach to law enforcement and interdiction. Severe measures must be taken on the supply side. We must isolate the enemy, attack with every means at our disposal its production, distribution and financial supply lines, and destroy it outright.
We might start by tightening up some diplomatic initiatives. The United Nations adopted the Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in December of last year. The convention calls for `criminalization of the production, cultivation, transport and trafficking of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other dangerous drugs.' It also lays the groundwork for criminalization of money laundering and trafficking in chemicals used to refine drugs, and provides for seizure of assets, extradition of traffickers and transnational transfer of criminal proceedings.
The Senate has yet to ratify the convention. Nor has it ratified the mutual legal assistance treaties that would enable U.S. law enforcement authorities to obtain evidence abroad for admission in U.S. courts and facilitate extradition agreements and strong asset seizure measures. Both should be ratified immediately, as is being urged by the president.
On the trade front, an export control mechanism must be developed by Washington along the lines of that which we have used to control potential strategically harmful exports to the Warsaw Pact. The Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act of 1988 establishes a system for controlling chemical shipments which might be diverted to the illegal drug trade. But it needs to be strenghthened and expanded. Most of the cocaine smuggled into the U.S. continues to be processed with chemicals exported by U.S. companies. Most of the automatic weapons used by the narco thugs to wage war against their governments are of U.S. manufacture. Their export must be stopped. An international agreement must then be forged to prevent others from filing the gap.
The U.S. intelligence agencies must become fully engaged in this war. At home, drug traffickers must be sought out with the same intensity as foreign spies. And, as with foreign agents caught in acts of espionage, drug traffickers, once caught, must be tried with dispatch and subjected to swift and certain punishment. Abroad, the intelligence mechanisms of the U.S. government and international agencies such as Interpol must be enhanced.
Bilateral diplomatic initiatives to enhance military cooperation in Latin America also must be pursued, in order to contain the geographic reach of the narco producers. Already, a narcopact exists between the illegitimate forces of four countries. The Colombia drug lords, who control 80 percent of the refined cocaine business, draw their raw materials from their Peruvian and Bolivian colleagues. Gen. Manuel Noriega, in turn, provides transhipment facilities in Panama for exports of refined dope and imports of chemicals for Colombian refineries, and also provides money and arms laundering facilities for his Peruvian, Bolivian and Colombian partners.
Inevitably, the narcopact will seek to expand its territorial reach into Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Paraguay and other neighboring countries where, for various reasons, the United States does not currently enjoy extensive military and diplomatic solidarity. These relationships must be repaired. In Brazil, for example, the U.S. military has been restricted in information sharing and joint training by strictures imposed by the U.S. Senate due to Brazil's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. In Argentina, our military liaison efforts were cut back by President Reagan in an effort to appease Mrs. Thatcher after the Falklands War.
It is time to rebuild military cooperation in Latin American nations within the context of the narco threat. We must move quickly, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to form a united containment force employing the miltiary and national police forces of the neighboring
Latin nations. Doing so will likely require a change in U.S. foreign aid conventions which generally prohibit foreign governments from spending U.S. aid on police and internal security forces.
Like any Latain Americanist, I would prefer that legitimate governments corral the traffickers on their own. The delicate sensitivity about American intervention which pervades interhemispheric relations must always be borne in mind by U.S. policy-makers. But we must acknowledge reality. One-half of Bolivia's gross national product is under the influence of the coca producers. The power of the drug lords in Peru threatens to suspersede that of the government. The Medellin and Cali cartels exert de facto civil control of Columbia. We must spare no effort in assisting the legitimate governments of these countries to destory the drug producers. For should they fail, we may have no choice but to take matters into our own powerful hands.
The United States does not want to use its armed forces overseas, except by invitation. But there may be circumstances which warrant unilateral action. Such a grave step should be taken only in very restricted circumstances, such as when governments lose control of areas where major drug processing takes place, or refuse, as in Gen. Noriega's Panama, to take action.
For example, according to Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger's testimony before the Organization of American States, the Colombian cartels have begun to erect alternative refinery facilities in the Darien province of Panama. We should request that the Panamanian government destroy those facilities. It it does not, we should consider doing it ourselves.
Adopting new foreign policy measures to complement demand management in fighting an effective war against the gangster powers of the narcopact will seriously complicate the U.S. relationship with the region's legitimate governments. It will require a dramatic change in our diplomatic effort in all of Latin America.
The region always has been the neglected stepchild of the U.S. foreign policy community, which focuses almost myopically on Europe as the front line of our defense against external threat. If the president and the State Department has spent one one-hundredth of the time, effort and money developing with Latin governments the kind of relationship we enjoy with our North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners, we might not today be fighting the Drug War. If Washington does not reorient itself now, we will seriously jeopardize our ability to defeat the narcopowers. We will be condemned to fighting a war without allies, a war we cannot win.