We could buy the entire poppy crop in Afghanistan for more than the Taliban pays, put the Afghan warlords on our side and permanently break the economy of the Taliban.
A designated U.S. company could be the world's supplier of legal medicinal narcotics, making an incidental profit and giving Afghanistan a legitimate industry. We could then hire the Taliban as our agricultural agents. This would cost less than the cost of the war in Afghanistan, with many fewer casualties.
Leaving Afghanistan with no local industry guarantees the success of the Taliban, who offers to reinstate the drug trade as its middlemen. No government in Afghanistan can stop this by force because the people of Afghanistan are not committed to destroying their greatest natural resource.
Rufus Clay lives in Los Alamos, N.M.