Saturday, October 14, 2006

Defeated by Marijuana?

An interesting thread “chez Abu Kais” got me thinking about the evolution and economics of the current “war on terror”. One post by Fubar discussed a story about “Canadian troops” facing “an unexpected and potent enemy; almost impenetrable forests of 10-feet-high marijuana plants”.This is not as “off-topic” as at it first seems. Drugs are key in those conflicts; the West is ignoring both Darwin and Adam Smith at its own peril. In Lebanon, such misguided policies only reinforce Hezb.


On one level, it is an excellent example of Darwin's evolution at work. With human help, hallucinogenic and toxic plants evolved to increasingly adapt to our needs, and grew ever more effective.

Marijuana has evolved into the mutant plant that we know today (some of us more than others). Initially, its hallucinogenic properties were an adaptation to ward of "predators". Any herbivores that ate it were confused and either became easy prey, or forgot where they found the plant. When apex predators (that would be us) came along, the plant's unique adaptation were put to different uses. It was then selectively selected for higher yield, much like wheat and barley were.

The “war on drugs” created another evolutionary pressure. With the extensive use of defoliants and other crop removal techniques, there was an increasing need for uniquely resistant plants that grew higher and ever faster. This created a wide variety of “strains”, some which are a far cry from their humble ancestor. As a result, the crop continues growing...

Tobacco is another interesting example; its active ingredients are poisonous to most insects. A few species of insects have evolved to feed on the plant; they can be immune to the toxic substances, or can avoid them while feeding, or can store them to become poisonous themselves. Much like humans, who inconvenience and kill many of their brethren with toxic fumes of second hand smoke.

Adam Smith

On another note, it highlights the failures of Western policies. The best example is the "war against the Taliban" in Afghanistan.

The real funding for war in Afghanistan has always been drugs; in the absence of adequate infrastructure to bring farming goods to markets, farmers have little choice but to grow crops with high cash value. This can better compensate for Afghanistan's higher costs in packaging, transportation, and marketing.

As long as the West does not address those issues, Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan will not be stabilized. And NATO forces will ultimately be defeated by drugs and economics; not only are Western drug users are funding the same forces killing Western Soldiers, Western policies are effectively subsidizing the growers.

As politicians focus on short term policies, and ill-equip their forces, much valour goes wasted.

In Lebanon: Reinforcing Hezb

A similar effect is at play in Lebanon. In Lebanon, Hezb’s popularity is not due to its “Divine Marketing”, but is only reinforced by it. The party is benefiting from both direct and indirect support.

As far as direct support, Iranian Oil is the first element that comes to mind, contributing more than 500 Million US$/year

The Indirect support is less obvious. Drugs were always important in the context of the Lebanese Civil War. In 1980-1981, Syrians and their allies fought unites of the "Lebanese Forces" in the battle of Zahleh; at stake was a road that would connect directly to the town, and bypass Syrian-controlled drug export routes.

Towards the end of the Lebanese Civil War, the West has aggressively sponsored drug eradication in Lebanon, with some success. The Beqaa valley does not produce as much drugs as before, and farmers tried to revert to substitutes. With little success.

However, with the country’s woeful infrastructure, and with a farming policy that largely favours Syria, Lebanese farmers face high costs in bringing their goods to market.

They cannot compete with the merchant classes of the cities who find it more profitable to import Syrian produce. They also had to compete with farming goods coming from as far as Jordan and or Turkey. Even Israel had better access to the Lebanese market.

For many, drugs were the only cash crop. With that option gone, they have little choice but poverty. And they fall into the clutches of whoever has the cash, or whoever can protect them and keep government forces at bay. During their occupation, Syria played a pivotal role in this and became “Hooked on Lebanon”, especially in the Beqaa and many regions of the South

In the increasingly fragmented Lebanon of today, Hezb is more than able and willing to fill that gap. To some, bombs may be more "glamorous" than beans, but you need a combination of both to "win".

Hezb understands this. Give and take, and a few hypocritical tears do not hurt...


Anonymous said...

excellent keep going

R said...

Very good post Jeha... To quote some random guy who uses statements like these, "It is imperative that we address the root causes"... I certainly hope we do.

Moron said...

“Et tu, Brute?”

Drima @ The Sudanese Thinker said...

Salam ya Jeha, been a read for 2 months but first time commenter. I must say I'm increasingly liking your blog and the "scholarly" way you present your views.

I have something you might find very interesting here.