Sometimes the best way to explain big policy issues is through metaphors. This short video, from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, walks through many of the criticisms of the war on drugs — with visuals of dragons and medieval warfare:
One of the key critiques shown in this video is what's known as the baloon effect. The idea is that, given the huge global demand for illicit drugs, drug producers and traffickers don't just cease to exist when governments go after them. Production and trafficking instead move to other areas, causing the drug trade and the violence that often comes with it to spread.
This effect has occurred again and again throughout the history of the war on drugs. During the 1990s, drug production moved to Colombia from Peru and Bolivia after crackdowns in both of the latter countries. After Mexico and Colombia, with US aid, went after drug traffickers and producers during the 2000s, criminal operations shifted from Colombia to neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela, and from Mexico to Central America's Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala). In these cases, production didn't slow for long, if at all. It just went elsewhere.
This trend is often called the balloon effect, because squeezing an inflated balloon just moves the air around, instead of getting rid of it. But it's also occasionally compared to a hydra, like in this video, because cutting off one head just causes a few more heads — or drug traffickers and producers — to sprout.