The frigate USS ‘Rentz’ versus drug smugglers. U.S. Navy photo

America Shouldn’t Go to War Over Drugs

Podcast — in black markets, violence is the only arbiter


The “War on Drugs” is a shooting war and every year brings new atrocities. Cartels hack the hands and heads off of bloggers and display them in public. More than 40 students disappeared under bizarre circumstances. Gang lords hold entire towns hostage in Mexico.

And that’s just Latin America. Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has taken the War on Drugs more seriously than any other world leader and now thousands are dead.

There’s escalation on both sides. Drug cartel weaponry has gotten deadlier. In 2015, a local cartel used a rocket-propelled grenade to down a Mexican army helicopter in the state of Jalisco.

The drug gangs are working on their navies and air forces too. They use cigarette boats and homemade submarines to ship goods and fight pitched air battles against the Mexican army. But these drugs gangs might not have much to fight over in the near future.

Marijuana is legal in a few U.S. states, stripping the gangs of a form of currency, or at least devaluing it. The Colombian rebel group/drug smuggling operation the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) says it’s going straight. The leader of one of Mexico’s most notorious cartels, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is in prison again.

But despite efforts to declare victory that span more than four decades, violence remains a hallmark of this very big business.

This week War College speaks with Gabriel Stargardter, a Reuters reporter based in Mexico City about a war where the battle lines are in constant flux and it’s unclear what victory even looks like.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated War Is Boring’s story.