A History of Inconvenient Allies and Convenient EnemiesRoundup
tags: foreign policy, Latin America, drugs, Drug War, Venezuela
Alexander Aviña is an associate professor of history at Arizona State University and the author of Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside (Oxford University Press, 2014)
On March 26, U.S. attorney general William Barr announced new “narco-terorrism” charges against president Nicolás Maduro and more than a dozen other high-ranking Venezuelan officials. The episode yet again demonstrated that America’s long-running War on Drugs is not actually about targeting illicit drugs. Instead, drugs represent important tools in cementing and perpetuating US systems of imperial control—what the historian Suzanne Reiss refers to as an “alchemy of empire.”
The thinly-evidenced charges form part of a broader, hamfisted, bipartisan U.S. effort to delegitimize the current Venezuelan government and force regime change—an effort that includes devastating economic sanctions that have caused mass suffering and death in the country. Venezuela officially joined the list of convenient enemy states deemed “narco-states” for having directly challenged or impeded U.S. international designs: 1950s China, 1960s Cuba and Vietnam, and 1980s Sandinista Nicaragua.
U.S. drug interdiction campaigns, which have been global in scope since World War II, function as broader counterinsurgencies that have sought to pacify recalcitrant states and prop up pliant allies. As Reiss argues in We Sell Drugs: The Alchemy of US Empire, “Drug control became a mechanism for extending US influence into the domestic and international life of its enemies’’—and, I would add, its friends.
The irony, perhaps expressed as an act of imperial psychological projection, is that the very revanchist forces that the U.S. covertly allied with to destabilize revolutionary regimes were intimately involved in the drug game. The specific experiences and words of Colonel Roger Trinquier—a French military officer on the losing side at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and later a feted counterinsurgency theorist—can serve as a dictum for this broader history: “To have the [Hmong], one must buy their opium.”
Nationalist Chinese forces (KMT), right-wing Cuban exiles, military officers within the south Vietnamese government, and Nicaraguan Contras form part of a longer list of inconvenient—and at times unpredictable—allies that U.S. military and intelligence agencies historically collaborated with in the attempt to assert and expand control and influence in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
comments powered by Disqus
- Josh Hawley Earns F in Early American History
- Does Germany's Holocaust Education Give Cover to Nativism?
- "Car Brain" Has Long Normalized Carnage on the Roads
- Hawley's Use of Fake Patrick Henry Quote a Revealing Error
- Health Researchers Show Segregation 100 Years Ago Harmed Black Health, and Effects Continue Today
- Nelson Lichtenstein on a Half Century of Labor History
- Can America Handle a 250th Anniversary?
- New Research Shows British Industrialization Drew Ironworking Methods from Colonized and Enslaved Jamaicans
- The American Revolution Remains a Hotly Contested Symbolic Field
- Untangling Fact and Fiction in the Story of a Nazi-Era Brothel