Sunday, December 13, 2009

Illegal Drug Trade: A Set of Maps

Sometime early in studying for my Master's degree in international relations, I learned to love maps. They cut the theory to show some realities. We need to get out of the PowerPoint Zone, where all things are accomplished by bullet points and wishful thinking.

All three of these are Transit Maps. They don't talk about Manufacture, but Distribution.

This first map is from Stratfor. It has only two weaknesses: first, (like so many international affairs offerings from the U.S.), it doesn't show U.S. domestic trafficking routes. Second, it doesn't list any opioids.

1. For U.S. domestic trafficking routes, you can get a partial idea by studying a highway map. Good roads facilitate legal and illegal trade.

2. Virtually all heroin (over 90%) comes from poppies in Afghanistan. According to the UN report before last, the route for opioids changed, from out of Afghanistan by sea and into Iran, then across Africa. Eastern Iran has a huge problem with heroin use and governmental corruption from that trade.

But here is Mexico, one major source from the south: If we blame Mexico for being Transit, we have to blame ourselves for being Destination. Mexico could make a strong case that we are ruining their country's governance. We fight drug trade there partly because we need to shore up legal government.

Stratfor did a great job on this one. Le Monde Diplomatique, a French magazine of international affairs, has the next map. It expands the model but is not as detailed in other ways:

Last for now, this map from the UN World Drug Report 2008 on cocaine, (by way of the Guardian/UK) shows that we're hardly alone. They get their opioids by way of Africa but also a long smuggling train through Central Asia and Eastern Europe. This map is even less detailed. As we lose detail, we lose information on the threat.

We could use a Stratfor-level-of-detail map on Western Africa right about now, to help us compare. But I haven't found it yet.

So, I hope you find these useful.


Slamdunk said...

Interesting visuals. I have been impressed with the military and intelligence articles from Stratfor that I've read.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
Yes, I like them very much, although, I think I would be a good person for them to hire on Central Asia, oil, and who knows--maybe a few new things!

Thanks for commenting,
Ann T.