Among Donald Trump’s many lofty and varied promises is a vow to cut down on crime. Particularly, drug-related crime — and to do it by any means necessary.
The violent crime wave supposedly plaguing America is a phantom, as chimerical as Trump’s record-breaking electoral college victory and the hordes of invisible well-wishers crowding his inauguration. None of that matters. Nothing will stop the especially severe punishment in store for drug dealers, the “bad hombres” responsible for the “carnage” haunting the opiate-ravaged areas of Middle America (the same havoc that helped carry Trump to the White House).
“We’re going to stop the drugs from pouring in,” Trump told a group of eager law enforcement leaders on Feb. 8. Under Trump, talking as if he’d just come from a screening of “Patton,” American police will “take that fight to the drug cartels” and “liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence.”
Trump did everything but say “declare” and “war on drugs” one after another in a sentence. There was no need. The message was crystal clear. A new battle — the same old battle — is on, again, but Trump-style: bigger, better, and greater than ever before. “We’re going to be ruthless in that fight,” the president promised. “We have no choice.”
If he is being honest, Trump wants to take us back to war, the same old losing war America has been fighting against itself for almost 50 years. He wants us back in the drug war, fighting the never-ending civil conflict that’s seen America lead the world in incarcerating its own citizens at the cost of $150 billion a year.
This is also yet another promise Donald Trump cannot possibly keep — if he had any intention of trying to keep it at all. As with the amazing shrinking border wall that’s for the moment a partial fence, Trump will be faced with a choice: scale back or keep digging the latrine deeper. Either way, he stands to lose significant face with those who took him at face value. Unfortunately for him, these rubes are his base: the same conservatives he continues to disappoint on a daily basis with the lukewarm realities of his ironclad dreams. The good news, for opponents of the president and opponents of persisting in failed policy that results in the costly criminalization of millions of Americans and a virtual police state, is that bit by bit, Trump commits small-scale seppuku every time he says it.
If Trump “keeps promising draconian reductions in crime and especially drug abuse, and doesn’t act accordingly, it will haunt him,” writes newspaper magnate (and former federal prison inmate) Conrad Black in the conservative National Review.
Here’s more Black:
If President Trump really wants to reduce drug use, as he has often pledged – as far back as New Hampshire, where he was apparently genuinely appalled to learn of the proportions of the problem in that state — nothing short of a massive escalation of the forces applied to that end will achieve anything useful.
The naked truth is that Trump currently does not have the firepower to fulfill his promises. There are only 4,000 DEA agents worldwide. If every one of them were redirected to interdict the domestic drug trade, thousands upon thousands more would be needed to come close to making a dent. Parsing the president’s words, Black foresees some mass deployment of the National Guard to the Mexican border and to minority neighborhoods in places like Chicago.
Where prosperity continues to elude those who America’s feints at providing education and citizen welfare have already failed, troops will patrol the streets as they did in Baghdad and Fallujah. Either that, or the president will go the other way and legalize drugs, Black says. One way or the other, “the president will soon have to put up or shut up on this issue.”
From vantage points in places like California and Colorado, where the legal marijuana trade is part of the local fabric, only one outcome is conceivable: Capitulation and armistice. Admit the drug war worked only to marginalize vulnerable poor people and people of color, just like its architects intended. Declare peace, and direct the resources towards treatment and then to widening economic options so people don’t turn to drugs use out of despair and to the drug trade out of necessity. But dig if you will the wider picture here. We are closer to reopening a war than many of us would like to admit.
In December, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, an alleged Democrat who thus far has been a Donald Trump enabler, was asked for his opinion on what to do. Manchin, whose state has suffered more in the opiate epidemic than most, was ready. “We need to declare a war on drugs,” he said on CNN. A vast majority of Americans are sick of the war on drugs and want legalization, but who cares? More Americans than not wanted someone else than Donald Trump in office. On this, he’s not listening to them.
Forget a fight he can’t win. Trump has promised a fight we can’t realistically fight. But he may try. That’s the risk. He’ll fail, and hurt himself in the process, but not before creating mass collateral damage across the country, in the same places already bombed-out by decades of this.
TELL US, do you think Trump will usher in a new era in the War on Drugs?