If I were maximum dictator, I would force every newspaper editor, every magazine editor, and every television producer in the land to read Ben Wallace-Wells’ 15,000-word article in the new (Dec. 13) issue of Rolling Stone, titled “How America Lost the War on Drugs.”
Wallace-Wells captures the complete costs of the drug war better than any journalist I’ve read in a long time. He documents how the federal government has dropped about $500 billion combating illicit drugs over the past 35 years. Nearly 500,000 people sit in jail or prison for drug crimes, “a twelvefold increase since 1980,” Wallace-Wells writes. For all the money the government has spent and all the people it’s jailed, it’s still failed to make a long-term impact on the availability of drugs. The militarized drug-control techniques favored by the Bush administration, he reports, have increased violence and political corruption abroad, violated human rights, and destabilized several Latin American nations.