The War on Drugs:  Leadership Revisited

By | March 9, 2017

[March 9, 2017]  Years ago while studying for my undergraduate degree at Texas Tech University, I also worked a part-time job that involved training dogs.  Several days a week I would walk one of my personal-bodyguard dogs to the local park.  Passing a public housing area en route I saw through nearly every open door intravenous drug users shooting up and could smell marijuana smoke.

“The war on drugs has been an utter failure.” – Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

Today, illegal drug use is more prominent by any measure.1  Despite a well funded government effort to reduce illegal drug manufacture, distribution, and use and abuse, the numbers of people involved has been increasing.  This explains, in part, why President Obama made the comment that the U.S. war on drugs was a failure.

Three years ago here at I wrote about how this “war” (not actually a war but a set of policies and laws) was resisted by politicians, medical doctors, users, and social activists that consider it really as a racist attack on black and poor Americans.2  More importantly, my point was that the nation’s political leadership failed to uphold their basic duty to make American safe.

The abdication of any fundamental responsibility by any leader should be grounds for removal.  This is however not the case and, in fact, will get a politician more votes when they support efforts to legalize and legitimatize the distribution and use of illegal drugs.  This may be baffling to some but the seductive nature of such drugs has been liberalized for at least the 1960s.

Part of this campaign to legitimatize illegal drug use is based on the idea of freedom (a value of Americans) and that substance abuse of any drug is merely a disease that must not be stigmatized or the user incarcerated.  As a nation we have been renouncing our allegiances to anything that forbids (policies and laws) or commands (religion).  This is perhaps why those of us in the “sober world”3 have struggled to come to grips with the problem.

Unlike a disease where the patient truly wants to get better, illegal drug users and abusers of legal drugs want to continue to use their drugs.  Family, friends, and the political establishment – for many complex, seductive, and intertwining reasons – are willing to support them in their cause.  Politicians, senior leadership, are signaling that illegal drug use is okay.

Such is a classic example of leadership failure at all levels.

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  1. Illegal drugs is a broad, changing categorization of a number of lawfully banned mild to strong addictive substances and illegal use of legal prescription drugs. Laws vary by country and by region.  For a good summary, see:
  3. A term used by Christopher Caldwell; see his cogent article here on drug abuse:



Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.