Monday, March 23, 2009

Richard Holbrooke on Afghan Poppies

Richard Holbrooke, the new US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan described the US and NATO attempts to arrest Afghan poppy production as “wasteful and ineffective.” The BBC reported on Saturday, that Holbrooke reported that despite US expenditures of $800 million/year in poppy eradication efforts the US is getting no return for their investment. Holbrooke recommends that the US should redirect money spent on eradication to assistance to farmers.

About a month ago, I wrote here about the damage US poppy eradication policy was doing on the overall effort to stabilize Afghanistan and defeat the resurgent Taliban. Holbrooke’s comments are a hopeful indicator that US policy will shift over the coming months, away from destroying the livelihood of farmers (which ultimately encourages their support of the Taliban) to providing alternative means of wage earning. As I wrote a month ago, if this means purchasing crops from these farmers t several times the market price, it will be money well spent. Aggressive eradication methods not only do not work to stem the tide of poppy farming but actively undermine the US mission in Afghanistan.

US Unemployment County-by-County

The New York Times published this map of the United States illustrating the unemployment rate county-by-county. It is instructive to remember that the traditional unemployment measure undercounts the unemployed. Unsurprisingly, the heavily agrarian plain states seem to be doing better (that is, less poorly) than the rest. Oddly enough you’re better off living on the East Coast rather than the West Coast, and if you live in Alaska, well, Federal Subsidies notwithstanding, you should consider moving.