The Normative Order of the Global War on Drugs
If the battle against illegal drugs is construed as a war, how is victory in such a war defined and constructed? Which competing normative orders constitute distinctive policy approaches towards illegal drugs? How are drug wars justified by their perpetrators within and beyond the state apparatus?
In 2017, at least 585,348 individuals worldwide died prematurely due to illicit drug use (Ritchie and Roser 2019). Based on the International Drug Policy Consortium (2018, 7), the illicit demand for narcotic drugs at the global level is astounding: nearly 275 million people aged 15–64 have used illegal drugs at least once in 2016, a statistic that marks a 31 percent increase since 2009. While national drug policies vary, several states have framed illegal drug use as a criminal problem rather than as a public health issue. In the last decade, nearly half a million civilians die each year as a result of illegal drugs (International Drug Policy Consortium 2018, 8). Since US President Richard Nixon’s war on drugs in 1971, particularly when criminal law enforcement took control of illegal drug regulation, illegal drug use has proliferated, global drug syndicates have expanded, and the number of civilian deaths has increased. In Nixon’s war on drugs, the criminalization and public shaming of people who use illegal drugs facilitated mass imprisonment, with global statistics suggesting that one in five detainees were caught, many of whom simply possessed such drugs for personal use.
The core puzzle of the project includes the following questions: If the battle against illegal drugs is construed as a war, how is victory in such a war defined and constructed? If the oppositional concept of violence is peace, then how is peace attained in a society besieged by illegal drugs? Which competing normative orders constitute distinctive policy approaches towards illegal drugs? How are drug wars justified by their perpetrators within and beyond the state apparatus?
Rather than focusing solely on the material features of the drug wars, I focus on the discursive and ideational articulations of a state’s visions of peace through a comparative case study of the Philippines (under the Duterte administration, 2016-2021) and Colombia (Uribe administration, 2002-2010), while uncovering the normative order that underpins the local and global drugs wars. The core argument states that the Uribe and Duterte administrations primarily deployed the notion of peace as a justificatory discourse for increased state repression, intensified criminalization of the drug problem, and the reluctance of the state in embracing a public health approach to the proliferation of illegal drugs.
1. Regilme, Salvador Santino F. Jr. (2021) Aid Imperium: United States Foreign Policy and Human Rights in Post-Cold War Southeast Asia. Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies Book Series. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
2. Regilme, Salvador Santino F. Jr. & Irene Hadiprayitno. (Eds.) (2022). Human Rights at Risk: Global Governance, American Power, and the Future of Dignity. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
3. Regilme, Salvador Santino F. Jr. (2020). Visions of Peace Amidst a Human Rights Crisis: War on Drugs in Colombia and the Philippines. Journal of Global Security Studies. https://doi.org/10.1093/jogss/ogaa022
4. Regilme, Salvador Santino F. Jr. (2020). Competing Visions of Peace in the Age of Declining Democratization. Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice. 32(4):512-520.
5. Regilme, Salvador Santino F. Jr. (2018). A Human Rights Tragedy: Strategic Localization of US Foreign Policy in Colombia. International Relations. (32)3: 343-365
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