Emancipation or Intoxication? Regimes of Truth, Aztec Ontology, Sun Tzu, and the U.S. “War on Drugs”
Much has already been written on the “War on Drugs”, but very little has been within the discipline of international relations from a critical perspective. A critical perspective is valuable when looking at the “War on Drugs” because mainstream international relations approaches (either reactionary or progressive) get one stuck within a particular discourse that does not ask how the drug prohibition and the “War on Drugs” came to be. From a Foucauldian perspective it is clear that the “War on Drugs” is not about protecting the public from a potential security and health risk as policy-makers have argued, but that the “War on Drugs”, as David Campbell has argued, has more to do with the formation and maintenance of the American (and to a certain extent Western) national identity. Yet, the identity-based nature of the “War on Drugs” has been cloaked within the prevailing drugs discourse. To a large degree, this has been facilitated by a particular “regime of truth” which not only sets the acceptable parameters for legitimate discussion within the drugs discourse, but also operates to define what can be said to exist in the “War on Drugs” while advocating a particular epistemology which further legitimizes these ontological presuppositions. Inspired by Michael Shapiro’s treatment of the subject, the ‘War on Drugs” can best be understood as the transposition of an Aztec Flower War into the modern industrial age. It is clear that the United States has not taken heed of the ancient teachings of Sun Tzu on the “art of war” and his words of wisdom about the importance of self-knowledge and knowledge of the “other” in order to wage effective military campaigns. Due to the fact that the United States knows neither itself nor its enemy (from several different perspectives), it is inevitable that it will lose its Flower War against drugs.