Did John Key pick up a pair of cowboy boots on his latest trip? Because he’s come back talking like some kind of macho macho man:
My message to the gangs is clear. This Government is coming after your business and we will use every tool we have to destroy it. We will be ruthless in our pursuit of you and the evil drug you push.
So there is to be a “War on P”. That sounds like the sort of thing a good part of the population will stand up and salute doesn’t it? And at some level it is an understandable instinct. P and the like have done a lot of damage to lives and communities. Most of the population would probably agree that the country would be better off without them. But is a “war” the best way?
History suggests not. Prohibition in America has become a byword for disaster and spawned an era of gang violence and corruption. More recently the American “War on drugs” (started by Regan in the 1980’s) has also been an expensive failure:
It’s a war without a clear enemy. Anything waged against a shapeless, intangible noun can never truly be won â€” President Clinton’s drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey said as much in 1996. And yet, within the past 40 years, the U.S. government has spent over $2.5 trillion dollars fighting the War on Drugs. Despite the ad campaigns, increased incarceration rates and a crackdown on smuggling, the number of illicit drug users in America has risen over the years and now sits at 19.9 million Americans.
It seems that Key has failed to learn from history, and thus is doomed to repeat it. He is talking tough instead of exploring the evidence and the alternatives. He has now very personally identified himself with this “war”, as he did with the reform of Auckland governance. These are issues against which the success or failure of his leadership will be judged.