Drugs, Thugs, and Diplomats

9780804792011: Hardback
Release Date: 10th June 2015

9780804795661: Paperback
Release Date: 10th June 2015

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 304

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Anthropology of Policy

Stanford University Press

Drugs, Thugs, and Diplomats

U.S. Policymaking in Colombia

Hardback / £77.00
Paperback / £22.99

In 2000, the U.S. passed a major aid package that was going to help Colombia do it all: cut drug trafficking, defeat leftist guerrillas, support peace, and build democracy. More than 80% of the assistance, however, was military aid, at a time when the Colombian security forces were linked to abusive, drug-trafficking paramilitary forces. Drugs, Thugs, and Diplomats examines the U.S. policymaking process in the design, implementation, and consequences of Plan Colombia, as the aid package came to be known.

Winifred Tate explores the rhetoric and practice of foreign policy by the U.S. State Department, the Pentagon, Congress, and the U.S. military Southern Command. Tate's ethnography uncovers how policymakers' utopian visions and emotional entanglements play a profound role in their efforts to orchestrate and impose social transformation abroad. She argues that U.S. officials' zero tolerance for illegal drugs provided the ideological architecture for the subsequent militarization of domestic drug policy abroad. The U.S. also ignored Colombian state complicity with paramilitary brutality, presenting them as evidence of an absent state and the authentic expression of a frustrated middle class. For rural residents of Colombia living under paramilitary dominion, these denials circulated as a form of state terror. Tate's analysis examines how oppositional activists and the policy's targets—civilians and local state officials in southern Colombia—attempted to shape aid design and delivery, revealing the process and effects of human rights policymaking.

Contents and Abstracts
Introduction
chapter abstract

The introduction focuses on defining the central terms and agenda of an anthropology of policy. The chapter argues that policy narratives play a central role in making politics legible, that is, coherent and comprehensible, rather then setting out a concrete plan for future action. This chapter analyzes the process of policy problematization, through which particular social relationships, identities and practices are defined as requiring institutional intervention from the state, and how policy production generates alliances and support among competing bureaucracies through strategic ambiguity providing an appearance of institutional coherence and consensus among disparate programs. Such ambiguity also limits dissent and opposition. This chapter analyzes the challenges of ethnographic research on policy, developing the concept of "embedded ethnography," in which ethnographiers have taken on positions within organizations not as researchers, but in institutional roles gain valuable insight that enrich their later anthropological analysis.

1Domestic Drug Policy Goes to War
chapter abstract

This chapter argues that the zero tolerance paradigm that the U.S. embraced domestically in the 1980s provided the ideological architecture for the subsequent militarization of domestic drug policy abroad. It begins with the history of the contemporary US war on drugs beginning with the Nixon Administration and traces how illegal narcotics emerged as a national security threat, requiring the war-fighting machinery of the U.S. to be applied in concert with foreign militaries throughout the Western Hemisphere and the reorientation of the military industrial bureaucracy. Increased military roles bolstered a range of institutional interests, including the U.S. Southern Command's efforts to increase their mission profile and Democratic concerns about the culture wars. The labeling of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as a narcoguerrilla meta-threat merged lingering Cold War fears of Communism with the escalating concern of hyper-violent traffickers.

2Human Rights Policymaking and Military Aid
chapter abstract

Chapter 2 tells the story of how an increasingly professionalized human rights lobby attempted to transform their documentation of abuses into specific policy reforms. Many of these activist practices originated with the Central America peace movement of the 1980s. One of the most important examples of human rights legislation was the Leahy Law, which prohibited US military counternarcotics assistance to foreign military units facing credible allegations of abuses, and its unintended consequences. First passed in 1997, the law emerged from strategic alliances between elite NGO advocates, grassroots activists and critically located Congressional aides. This chapter explores the resulting transformation of aid delivery: rather than suspend aid when no "clean" units could be found, US officials convinced their Colombian allies to create new units consisting of vetted soldiers. Implementation of the law reveals the knowledge practices inherent in policy implementation, the social production of credibility, and erased some forms of violence.

3Paramilitary Proxies
chapter abstract

Chapter 3 examines evolving forms of counterinsurgency violence, arguing that the paramilitaries emerged as state proxies in part because of the human rights legislation that demanded accountability from official actors.

4Living Under Many Laws
chapter abstract

Chapter 4 describes the strategies employed by Putumayans to shape their political future while living in a region contested by multiple actors claiming the right to govern during the coca boom of the 1990s. For much of the 1980s and 1990s, the FARC were the dominant power in the region, regulating local conflicts, organizing collective work, and imposing their rules. The Catholic Church played a critical role in developing a vision of peasant autonomy and political participation. Despite repeated protests and ongoing lobbying efforts, local farmers were unable to shift the counternarcotics program imposed by the US: aerial spraying of chemical herbicides. Beginning in the late 1990s, United Self Defense Forces paramilitary forces working with military commanders terrorized the region in order to consolidate their social and territorial control. Despite their criminalization and repression, peasant farmers in Putumayo used a range of tactics to encourage state presence in the region.

5Origin Stories
chapter abstract

Chapter 5 employs origin stories produced through oral history interviews with policymakers to reveal agency and institutional action frequently hidden in public policy debates. The officials describe Plan Colombia as emerging from a range of policy priorities: a domestic counternarcotics policy intended to address the Clinton's administration moral crisis, a peace plan to bolster Colombian President Andres Pastrana's negotiations with the FARC, or a counterinsurgency program to defeat the Colombian guerrillas. This strategic ambiguity enabled the range of institutional alliances to coalesce in support of military aid. This chapter explores the functioning of the Plan Colombia Interagency Task Force, charged with creating Plan Colombia. The Colombian diplomatic corps also played an active role in shaping the aid package to fit their political agenda. Yet some lower ranking officials disputed the description of Plan Colombia as a consensus plan; they were the losers in the bureaucratic battles dominated by militarization.

6Competing Solidarities
chapter abstract

This chapter explores how solidarity emerges from the resonance of a particular issue or population has with a set of could-be advocates and materially made through institutional and organizational channels. Supporters and critics imagined themselves as acting in solidarity with distinct categories of Colombians, from counternarcotics soldiers to human rights activists. For critics of Plan Colombia, this process reactivated activist identities and commitments, legacies of the Central American peace movement. The focus of this chapter is travel as a technique of emotional management, producing new forms of political subjectivities accompanied by expectations of political action. Travel played a central role in the construction of distinct sensory, affective and moral geographies. Congressional delegations focused on militarized technology, weaponry and enacted scenarios of counternarcotics operations. These excursions were channeled into larger political field valorizing militarized expertise delineating the boundaries of appropriate policy debates.

7Putumayan Policymaking
chapter abstract

Chapter 7 explores how elected officials and local residents resisted criminalization and exclusion, attempted to engage distant powers and mobilized to shape the policies impacting their region, presenting policy alternatives through scientific efforts to document the harms of fumigation, depoliticized development proposals, and testimony. Although these efforts were invisible or discounted in official Washington policymaking arenas, the policy imaginaries and practices of the targets of intervention are a critical site for apprehending the full process of policymaking. Putumayan activists participated in proxy citizenship, the mechanism through which certain rights of citizenship—the ability to make claims for redress to a state—are conferred on activists through relationships with NGOs. This process generated political opportunities, created new citizenship subjectivities but also involved political costs, as activists were forced to transform their claims and their profound critiques of US policy were remade into support for US programs.

Conclusion: Plan Colombia in the US Policymaking Imagination
chapter abstract

U.S. intervention in Colombia has been widely praised as a success to be replicated in other sites. The conclusion analyze these claims to success and what constitutes "the Colombian miracle," as the title of a 2010 National Standard article put it. The life stories of three residents of Putumayo challenge this triumphal narrative, offering in their place sober assessments of damage in the region, including the failures and catastrophic results of counternarcotics programs, the economic and political legacies of paramilitarism, and the complexities of community security. This chapter argues that an anthropological approach necessarily includes the appraisals of policymakers and analysts and the targets of policy, their efforts to shape these programs and their reflections on the process. Examining democracy promotion and nation-building efforts reveal that such projects are less involved with encouraging widespread involvement in governance than facilitating specific policy outcomes.

Winifred Tate is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Colby College and author of Counting the Dead: The Culture and Politics of Human Rights Activism in Colombia (2007).

"Winifred Tate’s Drugs, Thugs, and Diplomats stands out among books on this topic for its methodological and theoretical rigor and its insightful arguments. This book is a powerful ethnography of foreign policymaking, focusing on Plan Colombia, the multibillion-dollar counternarcotics and counterinsurgency plan launched in 2000, to which the United States contributed more than $8 billion from 2000 to 2012 and which is now presented in policy circles as an example of a successful antinarcotics and antiterrorism policy. The book is more than an analysis of the genesis, implementation, and impact of Plan Colombia; it distills the complexities and negative consequences behind the plan’s touted success. Tate analyzes policymaking as a field that entails contradictory objectives, bureaucratic politics, and multiple actors inside and outside government institutions. Galvanizing her experience as a policy advocate, her extensive research in Colombia, and her skill in poignant analysis, she unveils how policy implementation depends on legitimizing discourses, alliances, the creation of “acceptable” expertise, and the mobilization of emotional attachments. She highlights the importance of understanding policymaking and policymakers not as rational, linear processes and actors but as evolving fields."—Angélica Durán-Martínez, Latin American Politics and Society

"Winifred Tate's Drugs, Thugs, and Diplomats: U.S. Policymaking in Colombia makes an interesting contribution not only to the field of the anthropology of policy but also to the understanding of Plan Colombia, one of the backbones of U.S. strategy in its War on Drugs in Latin America."—Alejandro Castillejo-Cuéllar, American Anthropologist

"Drugs, Thugs, and Diplomats is a rich and insightful analysis of the cultural dimensions of policy making, focusing on Plan Colombia, the massive US program of military and economic aid to Colombia. This book makes a major contribution to the exciting new field of the anthropology of policy."

Sally Engle Merry
New York University

"Tate's book sets a new standard for the anthropological study of policymaking. A master ethnographer with deep experience, she tells the chilling story of how the militarization of U.S. drug policy, the mobilization of fear, the limitations of human rights lobbying, and the outsourcing of Colombian security to paramilitary forces all came together to produce a 'model aid plan' that, for most Colombians, was anything but. A tour de force of political acuity."

Susan Greenhalgh
Harvard University

"Winifred Tate's Drugs, Thugs, and Diplomats stands out among books on this topic for its methodological and theoretical rigor and its insightful arguments. This book is a powerful ethnography of foreign policymaking, focusing on Plan Colombia, the multibillion-dollar counternarcotics and counterinsurgency plan launched in 2000, to which the United States contributed more than $8 billion from 2000 to 2012 and which is now presented in policy circles as an example of a successful antinarcotics and antiterrorism policy. The book is more than an analysis of the genesis, implementation, and impact of Plan Colombia; it distills the complexities and negative consequences behind the plan's touted success. Tate analyzes policymaking as a field that entails contradictory objectives, bureaucratic politics, and multiple actors inside and outside government institutions. Galvanizing her experience as a policy advocate, her extensive research in Colombia, and her skill in poignant analysis, she unveils how policy implementation depends on legitimizing discourses, alliances, the creation of "acceptable" expertise, and the mobilization of emotional attachments. She highlights the importance of understanding policymaking and policymakers not as rational, linear processes and actors but as evolving fields."

Angélica Durán-Martínez
Latin American Politics and Society

"Here's the book we've been waiting for to help us make sense of the much debated Plan Colombia, from the national security bureaucracy in Washington to the coca fields in Colombia. Tate's fascinating account is a model for how to do an ethnography of foreign policymaking."

Peter Andreas
Brown University

"Winifred Tate's Drugs, Thugs, and Diplomats: U.S. Policymaking in Colombia makes an interesting contribution not only to the field of the anthropology of policy but also to the understanding of Plan Colombia, one of the backbones of U.S. strategy in its War on Drugs in Latin America."

Alejandro Castillejo-Cuéllar
American Anthropologist