Beyond the Polls

Hawks often tout the Afghan election — and rightfully so, in my opinion. But, of course, one political contest does not a democracy make. Elected leaders must eventually govern, tackle major public priorities, and help create an atmosphere of accountability. If we want to be serious about democracy promotion, then we’ll need to be supportive in this governance phase as much as we’re supportive in the election phase.

I raise the issue because of the following article from BBC News. We all know about Afghanistan’s notorious opium and heroin problem, but it’s still staggering to see the numbers:

Afghan Call for Anti-drug Funds

Afghanistan accounts for almost 90% of the world’s consumption of heroin and opium.

It is a natural location for growing poppy, which needs little water and can survive in rough terrain.

And, with some poppy growers earning around $1,500 a month, compared to the $100 or so they would get cultivating conventional crops, it is easy to see why they turn to it.

To build on the success of the election and put democracy on a more stable footing, Hamid Karzai will need to overcome that financial gap and win his “holy war against drugs.” The coalition, in turn, will need to provide the assistance to ensure such victory. I don’t know enough about Afghan policy to propose a detailed recommendation — e.g., would development aid be effective? But I can urge fellow hawks to pay as much attention to these sorts of issues as to the election. The work is far from done.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Democracy, Middle East, Uncategorized, , ,
Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


  1. RE Gardner says:

    Do the words consumption and production mean the same things in UK Engish as American English? If so, I’m amazed we can find anyone able to stand up and vote in Afghanistan since they are the world’s junkies, according to the article. This is too obvious an error in the BEEB editing not to make fun of it.

  2. McGehee says:

    I’m with Gardner — I’d say the numbers ain’t all that’s staggering.

  3. Eric says:

    I’d also doubt the numbers – I think %90 is way too high. I’m pretty sure that a lot of heroin production moved to Columbia during the ’90s.