The War on Drugs is over!
Pres. Obama’s new Drug Czar, former Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske, wants to shift the focus of our drug control policies to emphasize treatment over incarceration. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said,
“Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them,” he said. “We’re not at war with people in this country.”
Wow. I’m amazed. It takes a lot of political courage to say that. It will take even more to follow through in concrete policy changes. Hopefully this isn’t part of the Obama administration’s alarming tendency to talk the good talk but walk the same old walk. But I’m impressed nonetheless.
Minor critique: He takes a mainstream liberal point of view, which is that people’s perceptions of the government are negative, and we have to do something to change people’s perceptions, but the perception is not a substantive critique — I may feel like the government is perpetrating a racist, classist war, but I just need to be educated. People “see” the war as a war on them, and we should show them how really we’re not at war with them. We are, of course, actually at war with the American people, and Kerlikowske doesn’t admit that. He can’t, so I don’t really blame him. And it’s a step forward to at least say that we don’t want to be at war with ourselves.
And insofar as this shows that Kerlikowske won’t be propagating the myths, lies, and propaganda that we’ve been fed for decades now, we can count this as a major development. A victory, even. The Long War, declared by Nixon and escalated ever since, is finally over, at least in narrative. All that’s left now is to make the specific policy changes to end it in practice. We need to disarm.
In other words, this is huge. Very huge.