Pubdate: Mon, 20 Sep 1999
Source: Nation, The (US)
Copyright: 1999, The Nation Company
Author: Russ Baker
Note: Part One:

[part 2 of 2 of:]


A Philanthropist Defies Drug War Orthodoxy

After five years of verbal brickbats from drug warriors, Soros says he
doesn't mind being a target: "Other people express more respect for me
because I am ready to say something that they would like to say if they
could afford it." Even staunch opponents of his views admire Soros's
unwavering commitment. "He doesn't care how many articles are written
against him," says New York Times columnist and drug warrior A.M. Rosenthal,
a heavy critic of Soros who nevertheless notes, "Social responsibility is
what is important to him."

Many Americans--especially strong supporters of a tough-on-drugs
policy--still imagine drug users as people distinctly different from
themselves. As Nadelmann likes to point out, Americans' attitude toward drug
users today is reminiscent of our attitude toward homosexuals thirty years
ago. "You know one, you just don't know you know one," he says. We also
don't know whether enlightened policy models that work in small, relatively
low-crime, relatively homogeneous and unfractured European societies will
necessarily work here. There are just too many variables.

To critics, Soros, Nadelmann and company are proposing a dangerous new
course whose consequences are uncertain at best and potentially disastrous.
"Lindesmith Center's line is deliberately vague," says UCLA public policy
professor Mark Kleiman, a drug-reform moderate. "It's like it used to be
with the Old Leftists when you'd ask them, 'What's life going to be like
after the revolution?' 'Oh, well, we'll decide that after the revolution.'"
Still, few would dispute that Soros is fostering a bracing debate on whether
being at war with ourselves is really the best--or only--way to win the
"war" against drugs.

Note: Russ Baker's last article for The Nation was "The Education of Mike
Milken" [May 3]. Research assistance: David Levinson Wilk.

Websites of DPR organizations mentioned: