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The War On Drugs: Unending LIC Or Attainable Security?
CSC 1993
                         EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Title:   The War On Drugs:  Unending LIC or Attainable Security?
Author:  Major Phillip B. Gleason, United States Marine Corps
Thesis:  Legislation is needed to provide an expanded role for
the military in the nation's war on drugs.
Background:   The war on drugs has seen the introduction of the
military as a supplemental measure to assist law enforcement
agencies at all levels of our government.  As a component of the
national strategy to reduce the supply side of the drug problem,
the military has played an increased role in interdiction
operations at source, transit and border locations of the ongoing
conflict.  The legal restrictions of the "Posse Comitatus" Act of
1878 limit the degree of military assistance allowable in civil
law participation.  But the overwhelming concerns that the
extensive drug problem causes this nation have extended far
beyond the issue of identifying it as merely a civil law concern.
The proliferation of illicit drugs has been identified as a
National Security issue with a call for reform of domestic laws
to combat the problem.  The limitations that restrict operational
deployment of the military greatly reduce the potential for
interdiction that is readily available.  There are many sound
reasons that support the need to increase the authority of the
military in this matter which far exceed any misgivings regarding
such action.  The war on drugs has the potential to remain an
unending LIC if amending legislation is not adopted which would
enable full employment of sound strategic principles.
Recommendation:  For those military units which are assigned
specific missions of drug interdiction, controlled authority to
apprehend, search, seize and arrest suspected drug smugglers
should be granted in order to supplement civilian law enforcement
agencies and thereby enhance overall effectiveness of the
nation's war on drugs.
Thesis:  Legislation should be enacted which will provide for a
greater role for the military in the nation's war on drugs.  The
effects of such an expanded role would be an increase in
interdiction through seizures and arrests, thereby reducing the
availability of drugs in our society.
  I. Threats posed by Drug Problem
     A.   National Security
     B.   Economic
     C.   Medical
 II. Current Strategy Focus
     A.   National Drug Control Strategy Report
     B.   Supply Reduction
          1.  Limited Military Role
          2.  Law Enforcement Overextension
     C.   Complementary Demand Reduction
III. Ongoing Issues
     A.   Legalities of Posse Comitatus Act
     B.   Defense Authorization Act of 1989
     C.   Public Support
 IV. Objections to Proposal
     A.   Military Resistance
     B.   Individual Freedom
     C.   National Sovereignty
     D.   Required Specialized Training
  V. Principles that Support Adoption
     A.   Goldwater Nichols Defense Reorganization Act
     B.   Weinberger Doctrine
     C.   End of Cold War
 VI. Results of Adopting Proposal
     A.   Contribute to National Security
     B.   Enhance National Drug Control Strategy
     C.   Support of Law Enforcement Agencies
VII. Results of Not Adopting Proposal
     A.   National Security Decline
     B.   Drug Problem Continuation
     C.   Flawed Strategy for LIC
     The War on Drugs:  Unending LIC or Attainable Security?
          As first proclaimed by President Reagan in 1981, the
declared "War on Drugs" has been an ongoing conflict which has
consumed enormous amounts of resources.  But it has produced
little in return for such an immense expenditure.  Although usage
levels have somewhat stabilized in the last two years, the
overall supply and availability of illegal drugs has continued to
remain relatively constant. (7:23), (10:198)  The debate over the
optimum strategy to be employed in order to rid our country of
this plague has ranged from proposals to completely seal off our
borders to calls for outright legalization.  Obviously, something
between these two extremes must be done if we are to reverse the
trend of growing, widespread drug abuse in our nation.
     The overall cost to our country due to the use of illicit
drugs is well-documented by many sources.  One estimate is that
there is a 150 billion dollar annual drain on the US economy due
to drugs, with an additional 60 to 80 billion dollar cost
associated with absenteeism, medical expenses, inefficiency, etc.
(1:70)  And so, it is due to the ever-expanding direct and
indirect national costs associated with our drug abuse problem
that billions of dollars are spent to combat this plague.  And
despite some isolated, but vocal calls that point out the
benefits of legalization, there is overwhelming evidence to
refute this collection of baseless assumptions. (8:55), (5:57)
     The annual "National Drug Control Strategy" (NDCS) report,
first published in 1989, identifies numerous measures which
support the two cornerstones of our nation's counternarcotics
strategy: "Supply Reduction" and "Demand Reduction".  This
document is the unifying reference which establishes policies to
direct, coordinate and unite all efforts at controlling drug
abuse in our nation.  It is the result of extensive evaluations
of previous studies and its focus is to produce strategic
guidance based on successful and promising methods by which our
nation can reverse its threatening level of widespread illicit
drug use.
     The concept of "Demand Reduction" entails prevention through
widespread education and treatment of current drug abusers.  This
area is recognized as having the greatest potential for ultimate
success in alleviating our nation's drug ills.  And although
encouraging, it is emphasized that studies of the initial results
concerning the effectiveness of new programs in the area of
"demand reduction", are widely-held to be long-term investments
that will require years to evaluate. (8:41)  Although the
military has an enviable record of reducing illegal drug use in
its ranks by over 88 percent since 1980, it is better suited to
support the NDCS by increasing its focus on the supply side of
the national drug problem.  (1:68), (3:111)
     Authority for overall administration of "Supply Reduction"
efforts has traditionally been under the purview of a vast number
of loosely-coordinated Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA's) that
include virtually every Federal agency, as well as thousands of
state and local LEA's.  Enforcement efforts focus on interdiction
operations aimed at reducing the supply of drugs at the source,
while it is in transit and at our borders.  It is designed as a
multi-layered "defense in depth."  (3:110)  The desired result is
to provide sufficient time in order to allow the promising social
programs of "demand reduction" to become fully implemented.  The
strategy recognizes that the goal of "elimination of illegal
drugs", as proposed by previous NDCS reports is unattainable.
Hence, a more realistic focus of seeking an annual, measured
amount of overall national "reduced usage" has become the current
goal. (16:9)  This will be accomplished by stepping up social
efforts aimed at attempting to reduce demand, while at the same
time continuing efforts to reduce supply.  But, in spite of the
collective efforts of many thousands of dedicated LEA employees,
the flow of drugs across our borders seems to continue unabated.
     In attempting to combat this threat, the resources of the
Department of Defense (DOD) have been mobilized to assist in
reducing the supply side of the drug problem, albeit in a limited
role, since 1981.  These limitations on the degree of allowable
military involvement have placed a needless restriction on the
amount of support that can be rendered.  Specifically, members of
the armed services are prohibited from direct participation in
any activity involving apprehension of civilians, including
search, seizure and arrest outside of DOD property.  This
limitation, as codified by the "Posse Comitatus" Act of 1878,
(Title 18, USC), reflects outdated post Civil War feelings of the
fear of military involvement in civil affairs.  Its purpose, that
of prohibiting the use of the military in civil matters, was a
continuation of the founding fathers desire to limit the power of
a central, nationalized army and a reaffirmation of states rights
to rely on and utilize their own national guard to maintain
     But times have changed.  Today, we find ourselves
overwhelmed by the ravages of widespread drug abuse supported by
international smuggling.  We must evolve in our thinking, realign
our priorities and directly confront the reality that merely
hoping the drug problem will go away is not going to cut it.  If
this is indeed a war that is being fought, now is the time to
employ the third element of national power in an enhanced role.
Legislation should be enacted which will provide a for a greater
role for the military in the nation's war on drugs.  The effects
of such an expanded role would be an increase in interdiction
through seizures and arrests, thereby reducing the availability
of drugs in our society.
     The enormous amounts of resources that have been expended to
produce a civilian LEA solution to the growing drug problem in
our nation have yet to produce any tangible results of continued
success.  Amidst the ongoing debate of determining the level of
DOD participation in this war, some of the restrictions of "Posse
Comitatus" were amended in 1981, whereby military personnel and
equipment could be loaned to civilian agencies to assist in an
indirect, supporting role to LEA's.  But even with unprecedented
levels of annual Federal funding increases, the enormity of the
drug problem continued to grow throughout the rest of the decade.
(8:28)  Against DOD's reluctance to willingly participate in this
role, congressional legislation embodied in the "National Defense
Authorization Act" (NDAA) of 1989 mandated three requirements for
DOD in order to force its participation in the nation's war on
drugs.  This 1989 version of the NDAA required that DOD:  (1) be
the lead Federal agency in detecting and monitoring the illegal
transit of drugs into the US; (2) be responsible for coordinating
the total integration of all necessary C-3/I assets into an
effective national network; (3) coordinate the expanded use of
the National Guard to respond to any state governor's request for
assistance in combatting drugs.
     In the three years that DOD's newly-assigned mission has
been in effect, much has been learned at all levels in attempting
to define and refine the manner in which DOD can best execute its
assigned limited duties.  Although its entry into the war on
drugs brings with it tremendous potential, the current
legislative limitations of DOD's involvement render its
assistance far below what it could be.  In our democratic form of
government, the military exists to defend the country from all
enemies, both foreign and domestic.  And the problems facing
the nation today posed by drug abuse are certainly national and
international in scope.  Our military leadership is well-aware
that we must remain above all else, subservient to our civilian
policymakers who represent the elected will of the people.  But,
the negligible effects of over three years of limited military
intervention have produced only isolated areas of success in our
attempts to assist in the declared war on drugs.
     The results of DOD's initial participation in the war on
drugs have served to demonstrate that the military is indeed
quite capable of integrating itself into a non-traditional role
of service to the nation.  Previous fears and protests by
civilian libertarians and most vocally, by our own military
leaders (due to concerns of resultant lowered military
preparedness issues), have proven to be totally unjustified.  The
degree to which the military has professionally adapted to its
new mission, with a high level of universal praise from civilian
LEA "coworkers" has been unanticipated and encouraging.  (3:114)
From the  DOD-structured, strategy-driven planning cycle
initiated and supervised by the Joint Chiefs, to the conduct of
regional operations by all of the CINCS, to the dedication of
participating service members, these initial results have
demonstrated that America has nothing to fear from the military
services in this new endeavor.(2)
     If we are to win this war, we must evaluate new and
innovative means with which to conduct it. (17:18)  The
principles of civilian superior authority however, must prevail
in any area in which we seek to improve our efforts to combat and
reduce the supply of drugs.  The area of apprehension, search,
seizure and arrest by trained and constitutionally-empowered
military authorities is one such area which should be amended in
order to fully integrate the available resources of participating
military units.  One only needs to examine the adaptability and
sophistication of drug smugglers in being able to successfully
evade civilian LEAs to understand why it is imperative to do so.
In FY 90, dedicated DOD assets detected a total of 6,729
potential drug trafficking aircraft.  But of the 661 aircraft
that LEAs attempted to interdict, only 49 of these attempts were
successful.  (19:24)  The burden of relying only on civilian LEAs
to accomplish direct interdiction duties is a scenario that all
too often results in "essentially verified" drug traffickers
maintaining their profit margins at only a mere modest increase
in the cost of business due to US Military presence.
     Whenever an increased level of interdiction operations
signals a heightened presence in one geographical area, smugglers
easily change their mode or methods of transportation.  (4:71)
In addition to an infinite number of infiltration routes,
containerized cargo presents just such an example of any number
of low-risk, lucrative forms of alternative commercial and
private transport.  The fact that only three-percent of
containerized cargo can be inspected by customs (due to manning
and fiscal restraints), renders the much-publicized capture in
1991 of 1100 lbs of heroin worth over two billion dollars in
Oakland, CA as no surprise to anyone on either side of the law.
(7:200)  For LEA's, it was a brief, elusive victory in one
isolated case and for the traffickers, a minor setback that was
quickly recouped, due to volume and the law of averages.  It is
estimated that less than ten percent of the illegal drugs
entering this country are intercepted.  And with a continuation
of self-imposed limitations, this level of interdiction will
remain low.  As long as we accept such long-shot odds as the way
it must be, we accept flawed, inappropriate strategy which robs
us of our ability to fight this war on terms which could enhance
our success in interdiction and lead to ultimate victory.
    The military has proven that it has the trust of the
American people to perform any assigned mission in a dedicated
and professional manner.   The quality and commitment is there.
This has been borne out by ongoing evaluations at all levels of
government and in all the services.  It was demonstrated recently
in time of war and continues to this day.  Our nation has an
opportunity to demonstrate to the world that we are indeed
serious about our dedication and resolve to vigorously pursue our
war on drugs with an improved and more effective strategy.  For
years, many Latin American countries have viewed our attempts to
mobilize their limited military resources in a war conducted
outside US borders as "hypocritical" at best. (11:74)  It is time
to allow the military to participate in an expanded, yet specific
and closely-monitored role in order to take the initiative away
from the international traffickers.
     The experience and wisdom of the framers of our constitution
were most evident, as demonstrated by the formation and adoption
of a document for self-government which employed a system of
checks and balances to maintain an equilibrium in the division of
power.  The passage of legislation for specific purposes with
specific limitations is how this nation progressively governs
itself in response to internal pressures calling for changes for
the good of all.  Our nation has assigned the military to take on
a mission which it was initially somewhat skeptical about.  In
essence, the military has been assigned on a "trial basis" to
allow observers at all levels to evaluate our coordination,
approach, methodology and almost as important as success, our
interaction with and reaction from the civilian population.  As
previously stated, the results have been encouraging from the
standpoint of overall public support of our efforts thus far, but
discouraging in terms of estimates of changes in the supply
levels of drugs in our nation as a result of our limited role.
     A proposal as bold and one with such potential for
controversy is bound to be met with widespread skepticism as well
as with criticism by advocates of individual rights.  But this
proposal will merely enhance support of LEAs; it is not to be
construed as a replacement or substitute of civilian law
enforcement practices.  It is readily apparent that the need
exists for specific controls and limitations as to how and when
the power of search, arrest and seizure should be granted to
military support teams.  Recent widespread debate in Congress on
this topic is a matter of public record, but defeat of such
proposals has generally centered on three objections:  (1)
perceptions of public concern for individual rights; (2) fear of
foreign outcry of "Yankee Imperialism" at the prospect of
increased interference with legitimate transport and sovereignty
and (3) the necessity of proper, requisite legal training.  The
first objection has already been addressed.  By and large, the
American people have demonstrated that they have faith in the
military to judiciously increase the pressure on international
narcotics dealers.  Fears of (mainly) Latin American charges of
imperialism would become nonexistent with recognition that we
have acted upon the need to more vigorously interdict our own
borders as well.  And most Latin and South American governments
have finally realized that enhancements of neither their national
infrastructures nor internal stability occur as a result of
allowing the drug trade to flourish.  (10:197)  And, as for the
final objection, it is widely acknowledged at all levels of LEAs
and DOD that training could be provided for the military to the
extent necessary to ensure that the rights of those apprehended
while engaged in suspected illegal drug activity could be
maintained intact until transferred to civilian LEAs. (18:32)
     Additional justification to provide impetus to enact such
new legislation is provided by no less than three recent
important occurrences which have dramatically impacted the
military and our society.  They are:  (1) The implications of the
"Goldwater-Nichols (GN) Defense Reorganization Act" of 1986; (2)
The "Weinberger Doctrine" criteria for evaluating the
contemplated use of force and (3) the end of the "Cold War".  An
analysis of each of these evolutions and how they apply to the
proposal to expand the military's role in the war on drugs will
show just how realistic and credible such a concept is.
     The impact of GN has been unprecedented and it affects all
levels of our military.  All exercises, operations and planning
are now done with the concept of "Joint" service participation in
mind, reflecting the new interdependence that all services must
employ.  Passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of
1989 with its emphasis on support of interdiction, further
solidified the necessity to develop "joint" doctrine with its
requirement to integrate all service C-3/I functions.  The result
of this portion of the legislation has been the requirement to
optimize coordination between not only the military services, but
also with most participating civilian LEAs as well.  GN also
empowered the CINCs with increased responsibility to plan for and
conduct directed operations in their own AOR.  As such, these
CINCs are in a position to specify how their forces are to be
employed and to identify what resources are needed to accomplish
their missions.  Clearly, a CINC with representation of all four
services must strive to effectively integrate all his assets to
conduct any operation, including the continuing war on drugs.
Three of the five CINCs have opted to form autonomous Joint Task
Forces (JTFs) with which to conduct this mission in their
respective AORs, thereby further enhancing interservice and LEA
efficiency and cooperation.  It is thus easy to see that the
passage of the GN Act, although unintended at the time, quite
readily adapts itself to integrating the war on drugs between all
the services and LEAs over a widespread geographic area with an
overall unifying strategy.
     The "Weinberger Doctrine", named for the former Secretary of
Defense, is a concept which was borne out of the tragic result of
some of this nation's ill-fated military missions in the early
eighties.  Although not formally adopted as official policy, it
is widely referred to as a set of six extraordinary and realistic
principles by which the contemplated use of military force should
be judged.  The six criteria and a brief discussion for each as
applicable is as follows:
     1.  Clear Objective.  This is the basis of any sound
strategy.  There must be a unifying, clearly-stated objective
which is realistically obtainable.  The desired objective of
reducing the supply of illegal drugs is an obtainable goal with
enhanced interdiction as a focal point of this approach. (16:9)
     2.  Popular Support.  As previously stated, Americans are
fed up with drug abuse and all its associated malaise.  Under
controlled and specific circumstances, the vast majority would
support this measure. (8:1)
     3.  Sufficient Combat Power.  Although an increasing number
of service members are participating now, this proposal would
lift the restrictions of requiring continuous LEA personnel to
accompany military interdiction operations.  Civilian LEAs are
currently undermanned and over extended, considering their wide
range of duties and assigned AORs.  Enhanced use of the military
would greatly assist in reducing this disparity in extending
coverage of areas currently left open to smugglers.
     4.  Vital National Interests.  The prospective employment of
military force should be contemplated only when the vital
interests of the nation are threatened.  The "National Security
Strategy" of the US has, for a number of years now, continued to
specify the threat posed by drug abuse to our national security.
This document, from which all policy governing our strategy
evolves, summarizes the goal of all US interdiction efforts:
"To choke off supply, our principal strategic goal is to
identify, disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately destroy the
trafficking organizations that produce or smuggle illicit drugs
for the US market." (17:18)  In addition, the strategy calls for,
"domestic and international legal reforms."  Taking its lead from
this guidance, the "US National Military Strategy" states, "The
detection and significant reduction of the production and
trafficking of illegal drugs is a high priority national security
mission of our armed forces." (14:15)
     5.  Reassessment.  Once committed, continuation of the
employment of military forces must be subjected to scrutiny to
ensure that any changes in either the objective or in the nature
of the threat are considered.  Growth in the level of the threat
posed by international drug traffickers reinforces the validity
of increasing the military's role.  An assessment of the
effectiveness of this new and supplemental employment of military
forces could be conducted at an appropriate time after
     6.  Last Resort.  The fact that the military has been
mobilized to confront such a widespread threat to our national
well-being reinforces this prerequisite.  Now employed, the
potential for more effective interdiction of the incoming drug
supply should be taken advantage of.  Clearly, each of these
principles is applicable to supporting the proposal to allow
currently-deployed military forces the use of seizure and arrest,
when required, in our fight against drugs.
     The end of the Cold War has brought many new challenges, but
it has done little to alter the magnitude of the threat posed by
drugs.  In contrast, however is the unique opportunity presented
here to utilize our redeploying military in efforts to
drastically curb our drug supply problem.  We can now look to
more closely focus attention on one of those threats that were
formerly displaced by preparation for the showdown in Europe.
This is certainly an area in which the "peace dividend" could and
should be invested in.  This applies from a financial as well as
manpower perspective, in view of the ongoing force drawdowns.  A
new mission (from bases mainly in CONUS) for formerly forward-
deployed troops could be readily undertaken.  An additional
opportunity to be taken advantage of is the carryover of
realistic training that enhanced border/periphery
counternarcotics operations present.  Many current military units
can utilize real world interdiction missions to benefit from and
enhance their readiness for a more traditional-type of military
mission.  (15:72)
     The proposal to authorize military units that are engaged in
the war on drugs to make arrests and seizures is a logical step,
given initial success levels and the realistic prospect that such
action will significantly contribute to successful prosecution of
NDCS objectives.  Lifting of this current ban will, under
specific, controlled and carefully-monitored circumstances,
supplement and enhance LEA's efforts in this area.  The value of
utilizing military assets to assist in the execution of
interdiction missions is widely acknowledged and is an integral
part of the supply reduction portion of the nation's overall
strategy to reduce drug abuse.  (15:130)  Combined with what is
recognized as the need for full implementation of complementary
strategies required to reduce demand, attainment of enhanced
national security due to a diminished drug threat is feasible.
     LIC, the essence of the drug war, is unconventional warfare
which the US has not proven to be particularly successful at.
But attaining victory in a LIC environment is the result of
carefully applying a tailored, effective strategy to address the
underlying problem (demand) and the actions of insurgents who
profit (supply).  If we remain on our present course of
responding to our national drug crisis by not utilizing all the
resources available in waging this conflict, then the result will
be a diminished national security posture for all to bear.  The
time has come to utilize readily-available assets to make a
difference in this war.
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