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The Military Versus The War On Drugs: How Much To Do

The Military Versus The War On Drugs: How Much To Do?


CSC 1993


SUBJECT AREA - Topical Issues






TITLE :The Military versus the War on Drugs: How much to do?



AUTHOR:Commander Boris LEYTON. Student,Chilean Marine Corps



THESIS:The Department of Defense is affected in several ways

by the National Drugs Control Strategy; therefore,the

Military should play a major role in the war on drugs.




BACKGROUND: In September 1989, President George Bush

declared war on drugs,and announced his first National Drugs

Control Strategy. It seems logical that if a "war" on drugs

is being waged,therefore,the military should play a major

role in that war. To ensure proper execution of the military

role in drug control,it is necessary to develop a coherent

strategy according to the current times. There are many

alternatives to solve the problem of military involvement,and

each one with more or less probabilities of success. But,the

key point is the right understanding of the nature of war on

drugs,and the proper development of a Military Drug Control

Strategy based upon a joint effort according to the current




RECOMMENDATION:Using the successful experience of the Gulf

War,to develop a joint effort at the highest level of the

Department of Defense to build a Military Drug Control

Strategy,keeping in balance the ENDS,WAYS,and MEANS,during

times of dwindling budgets and force structure.





THESIS : The DOD is affected in several ways by the National Drugs

Control Strategy; therefore, the military should play a major

role in the war on drugs.



I.- Military Advisors


A.-Historical role

B.-Present-day role


II.- Central and South America today


A.-Central America production and trafficking

B.-South America production and trafficking


III.- Narcotics Trafficking in Central Asia


A.-A new Colombia?

B.-Consequences of Soviet disintegration


IV.- The Advisors'dilemma


A.-Mission without authority

B.-Questionable results


V.- Solutions


A.-Develop a Military Drug Control Strategy

























President George Bush


National Security Strategy of the United States






In September 1989, President George Bush has declared war on drugs, and announced his


first National Drugs Control Strategy (NDCS). The same month, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney


designated the detection and countering of the production, trafficking, and use of illegal drugs as


a "high priority national security mission of the Department of Defense."


The President's 1989 NDCS affected the Department of Defense (DOD) in several ways. It


seem logical that if a "war" on drugs is being waged, therefore, the military should play a major


role in that war. However, before jumping to that conclusion, several key questions should be


answered. First, should the military be involved ? Second, if involved, what is the proper


military role ? And last, but not least, what are the constraints on military involvement ? To


answer this questions, it is necessary to examine the military contribution to achieving a NDCS.


Once convinced that the military should be involved, the next step is to develop a logical


Military Drug Control Strategy (MDCS) that supports the national strategy.


Since NDCS publication in September 1989, two subseqent companion volumes have been


published, with the latest dated February 1991. Furthermore, both the supply and demand sides of the


drug equation receive increased attention internationally, as well as domestically. In this


context, a well balanced drug control strategy must attack both supply and demand. However, the


military can most affect the supply side of the equation.


Military involvement is justified, when looking at drug control in the national context,


for several reasons. Drug trafficking poses a national security threat, and in its role as


protector of the national interests against such threat, the military should definitely be engaged.


Since a national strategy has been developed to address this threat, the military, as one of the


elements of national power, should likewise develop a support strategy.


To ensure proper execution of the military role in drug control, our military must


dovetail with, and support, the national strategy. The military strategy must have identifiable


objectives (ends) that protect national interests; strategic concepts (ways) that describes how the


job will get done; and resources (means) that describe what it will take to support the concept.


These three elements of military strategy must be kept in balance. The further out of balance any


one elements becomes, the greater the risk that the strategy will fail. Another facet of military


strategy is its two-dimensional existence in time : the current strategy is here and now, while the


mid-range looks ten years ahead.


A fully supportive MDCS would enhance the likelihood of the president's achieving his


desired end state for the year 2000 (2). The MDCS would further detail the ends, ways, and means to


obtain the goals. Along with this mid-range strategy, a current strategy should be developed that


focuses on the present and one to two years in the future.


In examining the current military strategy, both the ends and the means are fairly


straight-forward to develop, while the ways are much more difficult. In progessing to the


mid-range military strategy, more time and effort will obviously be required, since the ends, ways,


and means projected to the turn of the century will be much harder to define.


There are many areas in which the military can help support the drug control effort. Some


of these involve the demand side of the drug equation such as providing correctional facilities,


rehabilitation, and training programs in the military and DOD schools. However, the military's


contribution to supply-side reduction can produce the greatest results.


The military have definitely many more things to do in the drug war. Though still evolving,


proper military role in the war can, and will, be established over time. A logical method for


determining this military role is to first develop a MDCS with the traditional elements ends, ways,


and means, and the two time components (current and mid-range). Only by optimizing both efficiency


and effectiveness can we ultimately win the drug war.


The historical role of Military Advisors has been, as part of the support of foreign


allies (3), to train host-government personnel and provide operational support activities where is


required. But, the policy of the government, has been that DOD personnel will not accompany


host-government forces on actual field operations. The Department of State coordinates the counter


narcotics initiatives with the Host Nation via the respective ambassadors. Each ambassador is


assigned a representative from participant agencies. These representatives form part of the


ambassador's country team. As military advisor team, the United States military personnel have been


training host-nation police and counter-drug military units for individual and small unit


leadership an air mobile and riverine operations.


The present role of Military Advisors has not many changes. DOD operational assistance


increased in the form of mobile training teams, deployments for training and short duration


exercises, and medical engineering and civic action support were provided along with air mobility




The DOD also augmented the country teams in some countries such as Colombia, Bolivia and


Peru by deploying intelligence personnel. The Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act reshaped


the military organization and gave broad new powers to the regional Commanders-in-Chief (CINC). For


the first time in United States history the regional CINCs had both authority and responsibility for


all military forces within their region, which includes the military advisor teams in each country,


but, this has not changed the basic role of these.


Central America has a long history of illicit drugs production, trafficking and associated


money laundering. It is an increasingly important area in the cocaine trade. The countries of


Central America had to face an increasing flow of cocaine during the last years, as trafficking


oranizations expanded and diversified their smuggling routes through the region. While the United


States government provided some assistance, several countries independently have taken initiatives


in recognition of the threat which drug poses to their own national security. All seven Central


American nations are now victims, to varying degrees, of the drug trade (4). The Central American


nations are attempting to respond, and with United States assistances such as detection and


monitoring operations, communications support, planning assistance, and intelligence gathering have


had some significant successes. Also, Mexico is a critical target in the counter cocaine campaign.


A substantial portion of all narcotics entering the United States comes through Mexico (5).


The South America production and trafficking is focused mainly in Colombia, Bolivia, and


Peru. Considerable success has been achieved in Colombia in the interdiction of cocaine products by


colombian counter drugs forces. The DOD trained a great amount of military personnel in Colombia


during the last years, mostly in tactics, equipment maintenance and the use of small arms. Several


significant colombian operations have took place during the last two years. The United States


government has continued working closely with the Colombian Ministry of Defense and Department of


Administrative Security to enhance the capabilities to interdict drugs and disrupt the trafficking




Bolivia is the world's second-largest producer of coca leaf and may also be the second


largest producer of refined cocaine. During the last years, the United States government continued


to cooperate to implement the long-term U.S. objective of reducing, and ultimately eliminating, the


production of refined cocaine products (6).


Law enforcement efforts resulting in successful operations against some organizations that


supply Colombian cartels. Law enforcement units increased their presence and control in the


Chapare, a region in central Bolivia that is the second largest coca cultivation area in the world.

Peru remains the world's leading producer of coca with an estimated 121,300 hectares of


licit and illicit cultivation (7). Because Peru elected in August 1990 not to sign the grant-aid


agreement, the United States provided no equipment or training support to that country during


1991-92. DOD did provide training to 180 peruvian police, under the auspices and in support of the


State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics Matters. Peruvian narcotics-control law


appears to be adequate, although the judicial system functions poorly and the law is rarely enforced


in a consistent manner. A third U.S. Special Force Mobile Training Team (MTT) began training


peruvian police in jungle operations in January 1991(8).


The drug war has expanded its battlefield since the collapse of the former Soviet Empire.


Countries that were formerly isolated to a degree from the West have now gained access to the drug


markets. The states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ttajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan-which less


than a year ago constituted those Union Soviet Socialist Republics collectively termed Soviet


Central Asia-incorporate rugged and remote areas that have long been associated with narcotics use


and smuggling activities of various types. During most of the Soviet period, these traditional


activities were seldom visible to western and, in any event, were confined largely to the republics


themselves and more or less limited interactions with Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. For many


specialists in the former Soviet republics and neighboring states who had studied Central Asia's


growth and potential as a narcotics trafficking center, a striking metaphor increasingly suggested


itself-Central Asia as another Colombia.


The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in February 1989, the East European "revolutions"


and virtual collapse of the socialist bloc that same year, followed by the eventual disintegration


of the Soviet Union and its centrally controlled security structures amidst acute and continuing


interethnic conflict, profoundly changed the status and future of the region at the start of the new




New and reorganizing security organizations in the now independents republics are faced


with a host of problems, and the priority given to counternarcotics activities is a complex issue


(9). Finally, potential involvement of foreign drug trafficking groups appears greater now. This


may particularly be the case in regard to Southwest Asian traffickers, who could use ethnic and


religious affiliations to develop new staging, processing or cultivation areas for drugs ultimately


intented for rich european and north american markets.


In the drugs world described, the Advisor's dilemma seems to be the same : Mission without


authority, and the questionable results. In fact, since the Advisor's task began, their


responsibilities have been limited to security assistance, counter drugs training, intelligence,


communications, nations assistance and operational support. The Federal Government has embarked,


over the years, on a wide variety of drug interdiction programs to counter this problem, with a lot


of agencies participating without coordination or, at least, consideration for other ongoing


programs. The regional Commanders-in-Chief (CINC) have authority over the military forces, however,


neither the CINCs nor the ambassadors have directive authority or budgetary responsibility for the


other government agencies required to implement a given counternarcotics strategy (10).


Without an effective command and control structure in place, and without an effective


authority in the host countries, the advisor's results has been questionable, and the main concern


is related to the lack of cultural sensivity and understanding of the host countries. This includes


the relative priority given to the country history, art, religion, myth, technology and language.


To ensure proper execution of the military role in drug control, our military must develop


a coherent strategy according to the current times. The development of this strategy has progressed


somewhat slowly. Possibly, this is attributable to a reluctance among the Services to take another


mission during times of dwindling bugets and force structure.


There are many areas in which the military can help support the drug control effort. Some


of these involve the demand side of the drug equation; however, the military contribution to supply


side reduction can produce the greatest results.


The military has definitely many more things to do in the drug war, and the solution


should be incorporated into a Joint Doctrine in order to have standard application for all, and to


provide a proper understanding of the doctrine during joint/combined operations. Three alternative


solutions would solve this problem



1.- To continue with the current policy


2.- To develop a strategy based upon one Service


3.- To develop a joint strategy based upon the capabilities of each Service



The first alternative is to continue implementing solutions throughout the NDCS, prepared


within the Executive Office of the White House by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and


leaving to DOD the support throughout the different Services in single operations according to the


current requirements in each specific place. This current alternative has had some good results,


employing the single capabilities of each Service according with the goals of each operation. Many


of these operations are large scale efforts involving interagency planning and civil-military


cooperation in the execution of complex concepts of operation. Operations such as GREEN SWEEP,


GREEN MERCHANT, GHOST DANCER, GHOST ZONE, etc., have become highly visible to citizens of the United


States and South America, creating some curiosity as well as outright anger at military involvement.


Even though all these operations have had a certain degree of success, they remain within


the area of immediate response strategy, and do not have the necessary two-time components : current


and mid-range. This fact, makes it necessary to answer the following questions:




1.- Have they had any real impact in the drug threat?


2.- Do they fit our objectives?


3.- Are they backed with the requisite resources and long-term commitments needed to make


their concepts work?




The second option, using the current capabilities of the Services, is to develop a


counter-drugs strategy based upon one of them, such as the Marine Corps which is uniquely suited for


some aspects of the United States national counterncotics effort. This solution implies the fact


that the DOD have to choose the Service that will be responsible for the military side in the war on


drugs, working jointly with other Agencies to develop and execute the proper strategy that fulfills


the goals of the NDCS.


This alternative could be a good solution to centralize the efforts and to economy forces,


in order to develop a proper Military Drugs Control Strategy based upon the most adequate Service


capabilities, but it is also a potential source of conflicts among the Services because of the


selection represents resources and means to be the axis of the MDCS.


The third option, using the successful experience of the Gulf War, is to develop a joint


effort at the highest level of the DOD to build an MDCS that has identifiable objectives (ENDS) that


protects national interests; strategic concepts (WAYS) that describe how the job will get done in


its two-dimensional existence in time (current and mid-range); and resources (MEANS) that describe


what it will take to support the concept. These three elements of military strategy must be kept in


balance . The DOD must employ the proper capabilities of each Service to maximize both efficiency


and effectiveness to win the drug war. Throughout this joint effort, and using the best of each


Service in this arena, attacking the drug at its source, in transit, and at the distribution stage


in the continental United States, the results could be definitive.


Although each of the three alternatives would solve this problem with more or less


probabilities of success, the third solution is clearly superior. Using an adequate MDCS based upon


a joint effort according to the current doctrine, and using the best capabilities of each Service


according to the particular situation, it is clearly superior because it represents the best use of


the lessons learned, economy of effort, and joint thought during times of dwindling budgets and


force structure.


Finally, it is necessary to keep always in mind, that the war on drugs it is not a problem


between nations, or religions, or ideologies. It is a social problem with no easy solution. The end


of the Cold War and the consequently reduced national-security threat provides the U.S. military


with unprecedented opportunities to play non traditional roles. But, military action is not the


only answer, the right MDCS must dovetail with the economical policies to support the Host-Nation if


we are seriously determined to "win" the drug war.







STATES, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office,1991),



(2) Ibid. p.15.


(3) The White House, National Drug Control Strategy,(Washington,

DC: Government Printing Office,1991),p.90.


(4) U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics

Matters, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

March 1991,(Washington DC : Department of State Publication

9853-A) ,p.3.


(5) Ibid.p.155.


(6) Ibid.p.2.


(7) Ibid.p.114.


(8) Ibid.p.118.


(9) Military Review December 1992, Narcotics Trafficking in

Central Asia : A New Colombia ?,(Headquarters,Department of

the Army),p.62.


(10) Kellner William Major USMC, The War on Drugs GET CONTROL OR

GET OUT!, Military Issue Paper Command and Staff College

1992/93,p. 10.





1.- Dale Scott,Peter and Jonathan Marshall. Cocaine Politics.

University of California Press,1984.


2.- Kellner,Major USMC.The war on Drugs:Get in or Get Out!.

Military Issue Paper,non published,Command and Staff



3.- Mabry,Donald J. .The latin American Narcotics Trade and U.S.

National Security.Greenwood Press,1989.


4.- US Army Command and General Staff College.Military Review,

June-92,December-92,March-93.Headquarters,Department of the



5.- Morales,Edmundo. Cocaine,White Gold Rush in Peru. The

University of Arizona Press,1989.


6.- Scott Palmer,David. Shining Path of Peru.Boston University,



7.- Sollis,LCol. John,USMC. The March of Folly:A Brief

Assessment of the Military Proper Place in the Andean Drug

War. Marine Corps War College,non published,1992.


8.- The White House. National Drug Control Strategy.Government

Printing Office,1991.


9.- United States General Accounting Office. The Drug War,Extent

of Problems in Brazil,Ecuador and Venezuela. June 1992.


10.- U.S. Department of Justice. Worldwide Cocaine Situation

1992. Drug Enforcement Administration.


11.- U.S. Department of State. 1990 International Narcotics

Control. Bureau of Public Affairs.


12.- U.S. Department of State. International Narcotics Control

Strategy Report,March 1991. Bureau of International

Narcotics Matters.

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