Last night’s violence in St. Louis, stemming from a narcotics raid near Page Boulevard and Walton, is going to continue generating attention from all around the nation. Yet, most of the discourse and argument on this issue will miss the point by focusing on apparent racial issues (not to say they aren’t there, but to focus on that area of the issue misses the point).
This is the fundamental, stark reality of the War on Drugs. For 40 years, we’ve enforced drug prohibition with military tactics (especially since President Reagan started signing annual authorizations of the National Defense Authorization Act that allowed military tactics, forces, and equipment to be deployed through the domestic law enforcement apparatus in support of counterdrug operations. And none of it worked; our drug problems are worse than they were a decade ago, particularly with the resurgence of heroin and black market opiates. Also keep in mind St. Louis was the former home of recently disgraced DEA head Michelle Leonhart, who among other things is known for her personal relationship with the perjurer informant Anthony Chambers.
Communities that are policed like occupied territories will inevitably generate violence and civil unrest. Not only do black market drug economies finance the guns and weapons that criminals need to defend their territories, but they can both corrupt public institutions and undermine their legitimacy.
We don’t need to go further than the policy apparatus that has created this proliferation of big, ineffective government to return with useful solutions. But first, decision makers (including and especially Missouri Governor Jay Nixon) need to recognize and understand that these issues stem from a fundamental breakdown of government legitimacy, and there is no political solution that can be effective to return stability and security to the St. Louis region without addressing the direct impact of the War on Drugs in our society.
There is a vision for moving past the War on Drugs. The organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition has this excellent video introducing their perspective: