End the War

The enemy has changed tactics yet again and as a result we are left scrambling to catch up. Despite a large U.S. military presence, he still manages to elude detection and moves with impunity in order to accomplish his objectives. After an investment of billions of dollars and several years of operations, it’s time to cut our losses and pull out.

MIAMI – U.S.-directed seizures and disruptions of cocaine shipments from Latin America dropped sharply in 2007 from the year before, reflecting in part a successful shift in tactics by drug traffickers to avoid detection at sea, senior American officials disclosed Monday in releasing new figures.

Navy Adm. Jim Stavridis, commander of U.S. Southern Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations in the region, said seizures fell from 262 metric tons in 2006 to about 210 tons last year.

“It’s difficult to say why that is,” he said in an interview with three reporters who visited his headquarters with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who expressed concern at the shift.

The 2007 figure was the lowest since 2003, other officials said. Last year’s drop broke a string of yearly increases in cocaine seizures and disruptions dating to the late 1990s. The numbers include estimates of cocaine thrown overboard or scuttled with vessels — a common response by smugglers who are detected at sea.

The biggest dropoff last year was in seizures at sea, which fell from nearly 160 metric tons in 2006 to about 100 metric tons last year, according to the figures, which are preliminary but were described by officials as reliable estimates.

“In any given contest of offense and defense you’ve got to adjust your tactics,” Stavridis said, alluding to a conclusion reached by Mullen and others that the drug cartels are nimbler than the U.S. government. They are finding new ways of eluding detection at sea, such as shipping drugs in semi-submersible vessels, and are flying drug routes from sites in western Venezuela that are harder to stop, officials said.

Mullen put it more directly during an exchange earlier Monday with several dozen officials at the headquarters of Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Fla., where military and civilian agencies — including the Pentagon and the CIA — coordinate the tracking of drug shipments and drug leaders.

“The bad guy is moving faster than we’re moving,” Mullen said.

The Joint Chiefs chairman also said he is concerned at how long it might take to regain the upper hand.

“I worry a little bit about how we as a government are able to focus on this mission,” he said, noting that the counterdrug mission is a lower national security priority now than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What war did you think I was talking about?

Not that increased seizures are any evidence that the Drug War is going well, but unlike increased seizures there’s no way this can be spun into a good thing for the U.S. government. I find it a little scary that Adm. Mullen would even mention the counterdrug mission with the actual wars we’re fighting.

For that matter, does anyone else find it disturbing to see the Chairman of the JCS discussing how he’s going to prevent Americans from getting high? Not that it’s anything new, but still, it just struck me as particularly incongruous.