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Policy Issues Essay

In Hilton’s (2002) “Drug Control in Central Asia” from the film “Bitter Harvest: The War on Drugs Meets the War on Terror,” several issues and circumstances become clear. The people within the (Hilton, 2002) “[…] five Central Asian nations on the Old Silk Road—Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan” are ill-prepared to fight the war on drugs, a war the narrator reveals the U.S. and other richer nations have failed to win. Additionally, the U.S. has influenced the idea of tying Islamists and Muslims to the drug trade (2002). This had led to even further divisions within society and incorrect policies engaged within Uzbekistan in particular (Marat, 2006, p. 94). After all, it has ostracized many Muslims, planted drugs on people it deemed “separatists” and perpetuated many of the policies and practices the Soviet Union used in ethnic regions (p. 94, 95; Hilton, 2002, “U.S. State”).

Deepening the Divide within the Transition Zone and Cultivating Strain This merely deepens the divide between persons who seek a vibrant independent country and those that fail to believe it can happen (Marat, 2006, p. 94, 95). After all, the socioeconomic disparities, the human rights abuses and the lack of government legitimacy speak tomes. Moreover, the failure of the government to address their grievances, to meet their political, social, religious and economic demands also signals problems with corruption. It substantiates the favored educated few (p. 95). In this way, the current regimes in Central Asia are more cruel and more inefficient than those administrations established under the Soviet Union based upon ethnicity and regional economic and geographical conditions (p. 94-96). Because of this, perhaps, they have engendered the rise of the shadow economies and businesses coauthored by illegal businesses and drug trade (p. 97, 98). For citizens in each region, the history, geography, and distance from the convergence zone in the Soviet Union played a role in the current problems (Gabbidon, n.d.).

After all, Tajikistan was largely agricultural and in the transition zone where people and goods move through in accordance with the transition zone rules and affiliations (Gabbidon, n. d.; Marat, 2006, p. 96, 98). Yet, Tajikistan was the most weakened of the five politically and economically after the civil war (p. 94). This, of course less to the rise of clans and militant regimes in the region brokering drug trade deals with the Afghans (p. 96). Whereas, some people have interpreted this as a break between the Communists and religion, North and South Tajikistan have fought for control. Economically exhausted, the government could not secure its borders of the region (p. 103). For people caught within the transition zone where ties are stronger than in the concentric zone where people make deals to realize economic security and success in terms of the country or more legitimate norms, the lack of legitimate government induced loose rules and mechanical solidarity (Gabbidon, n.d.).

Building upon ethnic and/or religious ties within a place that was virtually unrecognizable after the Soviets, this is understandable (Marat, 2006, p. 96). After all, the people realized a disparate chance of attaining economic viability, safety and security. As Professor Robert Fuller (n.d.) articulated Merton’s Strain theory, this consequence induces strain. One could argue that those who established the cooperative agreements with the Afghans or others in the shadow industries were innovative. After all, they do work hard and are willing to reach for the economic viability to which Central Asia aspires. Some persons within the region are ritualists, those who according to Merton (as cited by Fuller, n.d.) just go along with societal norms and practices. For ethnic populations this might mean performing one’s occupation or societal duty within the narrow lines (Marat, 2006, p. 96, 104). These persons would also be those who attend the state Mosque in Uzbekistan (Hilton, 2002, “U.S. State”).

The problems enter in when these ritualists are targeted by the government as rebellionists (“U.S. State”). In fact, the U.S State Department Report on Human Rights within the film, “Bitter harvest: The War on Drugs Meets the War on Terror,” successfully demonstrates how an oppressive government coauthors retreatists and rebellionists (Hilton, 2002). After all, the government targets Muslims, argues these Muslims have Islamic contraband, which is often planted and then takes them away (2002). Within two days they are often held on drug charges, their friends and families contend are false (2002). This leads to fatalism for youths caught betwixt and between. Engaging in heroin use merely satisfies a need, a release form the pressures of society and the strain persistent socioeconomic equality engenders (Gabbodin, n.d.).

For other Muslims and ethnic groups, of course, unfair discrimination and persecution either induce participation in the drug trade as a rebellion or coauthor militant participation (Hilton, 2002, “U.S. State”). The latter draws upon mechanical solidarity the familial and ethnic ties that have bound people together for generations (Marat, 2006, p. 96-98). Midst the uncertainty posed by the authoritarian and illegitimate government and societal organic solidarity, this is a natural extension. Living within the transition zone, this is even more commonplace.


Understandably, the region’s stability and security have weakened significantly since the days of the U.S.S.R. and its regional administrations charged with these districts. However, the costs of emancipation, of the people’s wished for administration support, for stability and for more equitable socioeconomic statuses inevitably led to the reestablishment and reaffirmation of clan ties and mechanical solidarity (Marat, 2006, p. 94-97). Within a region built upon such ties, one that has thrived through tourism and trade since its Silk Road days, the shadow industries and occupations have also served other needs. They have given rise to legitimate businesses and occupations (Hilton, 2002, “Central Asia”).

However, these ritualists often become trapped in the middle of unfair or unjust policies, dissimilar solidarity roles and functions and ultimately find themselves trapped between the choice of innovation, retreat or rebellion (Gabbodin, n.d.). For all the aforementioned reasons then, the UN in Central Asia, its regional office charged with obstructing and punctuating the drug trade on the Old Silk Road must do much more than increase pay for its officers. It must draw upon the ties the regional peoples do and start rebuilding trust, security and a sense of stability. Devoid of socioeconomic and ethnic support, the UN office and its mission in Central Asia will not succeed.

Fuller, J. (n.d.). Robert Merton.
Gabbidon, S. (n.d.) Concentric Zone Theory.
Hilton, C. (2002). Drug Control in Central Asia. Bitter Harvest: The War on Drugs Meets the
War on Terror. Retrieved from http://digital.films.com/play/ZRFSWL#
(2002). U.S. State Department Human Rights Report on Uzbekistan. Bitter Harvest: The
War on Drugs Meets the War on Terror. Retrieved from http://digital.films.com/play/ ZRFSWL#
Marat, E. (2006). Impact of drug trade and organized crime on state functioning in Kyrgyzstan
and Tajikistan. China and Eurasia Quarterly, 4(1): 93-111. Retrieved from http://www.silkroadstudies.org/new/docs/cef/quarterly/february_2006/erica_marat.pdf

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