There Is No War On Drugs
Drug War? HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act). This resulted in a “record” financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which is about five weeks of income for the bank.
Push It to the Limit
For clarity’s sake, drug dealers would deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the HSBC teller windows Scarface style. Specially designed boxes filled with cash to be deposited is not shady.
However, you can’t put HSBC leaders in jail. Those guys are role models, beacons of society, important cogs in the global financial system. Drugs aren’t that bad.
War on Drugs?
War can be defined as an organized and often prolonged conflict that is carried out by states or non-state actors. The set of techniques used by a group to carry out war is known as warfare.
Modern military science recognizes seven different types of warfare. I don’t see how the “drug war” fits into any of them.
Chemical warfare involves the intentional use of chemicals in combat. It does not apply here.
Nuclear warfare is when nuclear weapons are the primary, or a major, method of coercing the capitulation of the other side, as opposed to a supporting tactical or strategic role in a conventional conflict. It does not apply here.
Asymmetric warfare is between two populations of drastically different levels of military capability or size. Asymmetric conflicts often result in guerrilla tactics being used to overcome the sometimes vast gaps in technology and force size. No one is bigger than the federal government, but HSBC didn’t have to use guerilla tactics. They just whipped out their checkbook.
Civil war is where the forces in conflict belong to the same nation or political entity and are vying for control of or independence from that nation or political entity. Here it seems control is being shared by the government and the drug banks and rather than independence, the banks seek symbiosis.
Globalizing war extends beyond the national or regional boundaries of the immediate combatants to have implications for the whole planet. The message has been sent to the international community that drug banking will be met with a fine of roughly a month’s revenue.
Conventional warfare is an attempt to reduce the enemy’s capability through open battle. The message has been sent that drug banks will not be battled very hard.
Unconventional warfare, the opposite of conventional warfare, is an attempt to achieve military victory through acquiescence, capitulation, or clandestine support for one side of an existing conflict. I would be ready to say this is where the War on Drugs fits, but if we are acquiescing, capitulating, and clandestinely supporting drug financiers and bankers, how exactly are we fighting against drugs?
Skirmish on Drugs
For non-titans of banking, interacting with a law enforcement officer, if you happen to be connected in any way with drugs, is a preposterous, outsized criminal penalty. Here in New York, one out of every seven cases that ends up in court is a marijuana case. If billion dollar drug bankers and financiers are essentially emancipated for their actions, but minor possession offenses are meted out with major penalties, that doesn’t sound like a war on drugs. That’s more like a skirmish on drugs.