Keith Humphreys at The Reality-Based Community poses a provocative suggestion.
Sending this language to the dustbin of history would be a worthy goal for policy reformers.
Some people would respond â€œI will not stop calling it a war on drugs until war-like policy X is stopped!â€ (Where X is overcrowded prisons, no knock raids by police in riot gear etc.).
This may be a logical fallacy however, in that it assumes that the language itself doesnâ€™t justify the objected-to policy. As any careful student of politics knows â€” and as cognitive psychology research teaches â€” words can cue us consciously and unconsciously to think that certain actions are more or less justifiable. […]
If everyone simply stopped using â€œdrug warâ€ language, doors that are closed to us might swing open, including in places we that were literally unthinkable â€œin a time of warâ€.
Obviously, it’s an idea that has some personal impact as my blog even has the “drug war” words in its name and url, but I don’t want to dismiss it out of hand. And yes, there’s a certain attractive logic to this line of reasoning. If we stopped calling it a war, maybe people would stop treating it like one.
The first thought that came to mind was a little police action in a country called Vietnam that we were involved with back in the 60’s and 70’s. I tried to think whether not calling it a war helped end it.
I don’t think so. In fact, it was the fact that young people considered it a war that finally led to a drop of overall public support.
The second thought that came to mind was the eagerness with which Drug Czar Kerlikowske acted to banish the “war” language. “I ended the war on drugs, if you didn’t know this war was over. That was last May,” he said.
And yet, it seems to me that the whole reason for his semantic approach has been to avoid talking about how much the U.S. government continues its enforcement and supply side emphasis in budgeting, while going around pretending that treatment and prevention is the “new” approach.
The drug war machine requires, demands, and will get its loot, and even though everyone knows that supply side interdiction and enforcement is a complete waste of money, the Drug Czar doesn’t have the power to cut off the gravy train. All he can do is banish the words in the hopes that people will ignore the truckloads of cash going down the sink hole of a militarized drug war industry.
And the third thought that came to mind… It seems unlikely that changing the terminology will do anything about More than 30,000 drug war deaths in Mexico since 2006
The 12,456 gangland killings reported in Mexico between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30 brought to 30,196 the number of drug-related murders since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and militarized the struggle against the cartels, the Attorney General’s Office said Thursday.
I think we’ve got a war.