scheme was barely workable before the drug war, but theninflux of petty dealers and couriers has brought most urban courtnand jail systems to a state of collapse.nIn a city like Chicago or Los Angeles, it is all but impossiblento impose pretrial detention for anything except the mostnegregious act of violence, and often not then. There have beennnotorious cases of burglars arrested up to eleven times withinntwo months, without spending more than a day in custodynfor each offense. Car thieves are rarely even detained, so thatnthis activity has effectively ceased to be a criminal offense innmost large cities. In Atlanta, there are now in excess of 25,000noutstanding fugitive warrants, and next to no chance that anynlarge number of these individuals will ever be taken. And withoutnbail, why should they turn up for trial? Philadelphianhas 35,000 outstanding warrants, and thirty officials trying tonround them up. The effects of this situation on police moralencan only be imagined, to say nothing of the impact on courtroomnpersonnel, probation, parole officers, and, of course, onnthe civilian victims who fondly imagined that the police arrestedncriminals with a view to taking them off the streets. Poornnaive idealists!nNone of which should imply that America’s judges arensofthearted libertarians who turn dangerous criminals loose tonrape and kill. While pretrial detention has collapsed, Americannprisons continue to fill to many times their capacity, andnall accounts agree that dmg offenders are the largest single elementnof the problem. Any state will provide an example. ThenCalifornia system could barely cope with the 25,000 inmatesnit had in 1980; yet it had 81,000 by 1989, and faces 100,000 innthe imminent future. New Jersey went from 10,000 in 1984nto 15,000 in 1989, with narcotics sentences accounting for virtuallynall the increase. Taking federal and state prisons together,nthere were 210,000 inmates in 1974, 454,000 by 1984,nand over 800,000 by 1991. This final jump is staggering, as itncoincided with a general demographic decline in teenagers andnyoung adults who provide so large a proportion of the criminalnpopulation. By any rational standard, both crime rates andnprison populations should have been plunging since middecade.nIncluding jails, America’s incarceration rate now standsnat almost six hundred per hundred thousand, and the rate ofngrowth shows no signs of slowing. To put this in intemationalnperspective, the American rate a decade ago was exceeded onlynby that of a few choice Utopias, including the former SovietnUnion, Albania, and South Africa. Today, by contrast, this isnone enviable area of intemational competitiveness where thenUnited States has no close rivals left, and comparable Europeannnations have rates perhaps a tenth as large. In terms ofnthe cost of incarceration to state and federal budgets, sufficenit to say that it would be cheaper to keep the offender in liberty,nwhile the government pays him a decent middle-classnsalary as an incentive to stay out of trouble, and subsidizes thenoccasional Caribbean vacation or skiing trip. Nor does this equationntake account of factors like lost productivity, or welfare paymentsnto the offenders’ families. There must be cheapernways to purchase anarchy.nSpace forbids a comprehensive catalog of the havoc wroughtnby the drug war, and the Manichaean attitudes it has helpedninculcate. However, we must include the impact on foreignnpolicy, especially in Latin America. Excesses and illegalitiesncan no longer be justified in terms of the communist threat,nand even the specter of “intemational terrorism” is looking rathernpallid. Nevertheless, the dmg war seems set to replace the ColdnWar as the all-purpose excuse for administrations of either politicalnparty. We have already seen the United States undertakenan invasion of a sovereign nation for the ostensible reason ofnwinning a military battle in the dmg war. Different views arenpossible of the brief war in Panama—although no rational plannerncould have believed that this might have had any impactnwhatever in the cocaine supplies reaching these shores. However,nthis was a telling augury of the future course of U.S. policynin this area: the use of the drug war to disable oppositionnto intervention in Latin nations.nWe have seen the Reagan administration smear the Sandinistasnwith charges of dmg dealing in order to raise funds fornthe Contras, and the quite as chilling response from the leftnthat it was those very Contras who were indeed the worst “narco-terrorists.”nThus neither side challenges the essential orthodoxynthat to traffic in dmgs is to be in league with Satan andnto eam the undying enmity of the United States. As revolutionarynforces gain strength in Peru, American personnel arenalready being dispatched to that same country in the guise ofndrug interdiction forces, agents of the Drug EnforcementnAdministration, “advisers” to local soldiers hunting narco-traffickers.nIt is by no means fanciful to imagine that the familiarnhelicopter gunships will soon be swooping once more overnocean-like jungle wildernesses, though this time marked withnthe insignia of the DEA rather than the Army or Marines. ThenAmerican response to this intervention to date has largely beennone of thorough indifference, combined with vociferous suf)portnfrom some Democrats and urban liberals who would havenhad apoplexy at a “new Vietnam” in any other context.nThe war continues because it is invaluablenfor any group or individual with thennous to claim (however implausibly) that theirnparticular cause or obsession is somehownconnected to the drug platform. It continuesnbecause it offers careers and official positions,nvotes and research funding.nThis is not to say that American intervention may not be necessarynin Pern or Bolivia, but at least let it happen after a frankndiscussion of the issues and risks involved and not simplynbecause of some scare story such as “Shining Path supplies xnpercent of the cocaine flooding American cities.” Need it benadded that a war in this region would bear a much closer resemblancento the Vietnam morass than the recent walkovers in Panamanor Iraq?nHow did we get a dmg war? Was it indeed—as it sometimesnseems—the brilliant stratagem of a hostile power, determinednto cripple the American economy, subvert the Constitution,nand spread violence and crime across the cities? Ifnonly the explanation were so rational. No one force or pressurengroup was to blame, and in fact the success of the war cannonly be explained in terms of the very diverse movements atnwork. There certainly was conservative and moralist pressurento enforce the widely flouted drug laws and to purge thenculture of its easy tolerance of drug abuse. The rigors ofnnnMAY 1992/17n