What are the major elements of recent federal approaches to the enforcement if our drug laws, and indicate some of the enormous difficulties and apparently positive consequences associated with those approaches
One extraordinary failure of U.S. policy in recent years is the Fast and Furious operation, where the U.S. government expedited gun sales to smugglers and drug cartels in an effort to track criminal movement in the region and build a stronger case for action. However, failure to properly track the guns and failure to act on intel led to hundreds of guns that went missing and were used in crimes; the result is that the U.S. government simply sold guns to drug cartels, no questions asked. Investigations are ongoing.
I must admit that in spite of my normal optimistic stance on life in general I have to agree with other editors in being rather pessimistic about supposed "wins" that have occurred in the war on drugs. The massive border of the United States and the way that a number of different countries in S. America are now huge producers of a variety of drugs means that any attempt to control the flow of illegal drugs into the US is doomed to failure. I think one thing that we can hope for is that the different drug cartels will hopefully wipe each other out.
I have to say that I so much agree with pohnpei397 as well. How can we really control the importation and distribution of drugs, regardless of technology, fences, more patrolling, dogs, etc., when we cannot close our borders from Mexico? The problem is reaching dramatic proportions when we see drug wars that used to be so prevalent with drug cartels in Colombia, etc., that have moved into the southwestern portion of this country, such as Arizona and New Mexico. It's hard to keep water from rushing onto dry land when the dam has a hole in it. And while the drug war continues, are we as able to keep up with it in that we are now forced also to search out terrorist threats coming into the country?
It is an enormous problem. There don't seem to be any easy answers or foolproof methods for stemming the flow. And having seen firsthand how drugs can destroy young lives, it's tragic that we cannot do more.
There has also been a concentrated, though less heralded, effort to attack drug cartels where it hurts: their bank accounts. A significant amount of FBI and DEA resources now concentrate on tracking money laundering operations and using international efforts to seize assets. On at least two occasions (Operation Green Ice I and II) they actually posed as money launderers and just seized the cash after a few weeks and used it to fund more enforcement.
There also seems to be a trend away from enforcing marijuana laws and trafficking and towards the harder more dangerous drugs.
The porous border is a problem as suggested, but another problem is the lack of resources and police patrol. In this economic downturn, we will have to lay off more police officers and government officials. We simply cannot afford them. For this reason, drug enforcement will suffer and more drugs will get across the border. Finally, it should be stated that there is currently no end in sight for an economic fix.
One thing that will not be constructive in the long run (IMHO) is building a fence along the US/Mexico border. Yes, the barrier may temporarily slow the flow of drugs and it will complicate the process for those who plan to hide drugs in their clothing or vehicles and cross the line. But the cartels intent on making serious money through drug sales are not going to allow this barricade to make any dent in their business. There will be other ways found to keep the traffic moving...
I agree with pohnpei397 that the vast size of our borders makes it difficult to keep drugs out of our country. Apparently the U. S. has had some real success in helping to suppress the flow of drugs coming from Colombia, which was once a major source of narcotics. We seem to be having much less success in suppressing the influx of drugs from Mexico, and if anything the problems there seem to be getting worse because of the growth in the power of very violent gangs. It might be worthwhile to examine what was done in Colombia to see if it might work elsewhere.
The major difficulty with trying to interdict drugs coming into the country is that we have a huge and porous border. We have people coming across the border from Mexico all the time. We have all that coastline where boats can come ashore very easily from ships. It's simply not possible to prevent drugs from entering the country.