CSS Research and Policy Seminar with Peter Andreas

Peter Andreas, John Hay professor of international studies and political science at Brown University, presented his forthcoming academic article “Drugs and War: What Is the Relationship?” at the CSS Research and Policy Seminar on February 5. CSS Senior PhD Research Fellow Polina Beliakova served as a discussant, and members of the CSS team and Fletcher graduate students offered feedback on the new paper.

Andreas’ article is part of a larger book project in which he provides a historical analysis of the five key dimensions of the relationship between drugs and war: war while on drugs, war through drugs, war for drugs, war against drugs, and drugs after war. Andreas points out a lack of comprehensive research on many of these dimensions in political science and aims to fill this gap. Unlike most existing research, Andreas’ article and book take into account both illegal and legal drugs—for example, caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol—significantly expanding the scope of historical examples illustrating the drug-war relationship. By broadening the historical perspective and the range of drugs included in the study, he is able to make a significant contribution by highlighting the many ways in which states have relied on drugs to advance their military and strategic objectives, in contrast to the dominant contemporary perception of non-state actors as the primary beneficiaries of the drug-war nexus.

The seminar discussion centered on definitional, theoretical, and policy issues. Andreas’ broad definition of drugs as “chemicals that alter the mental state of the user” does not exclude sugar, but his historical account does not cover the sugar-war relationship. Sugar is not typically discussed in the literature on drugs and a case for its importance in the drug-war relationship has yet to be made. Focusing on the theoretical implications of Andreas’ work, participants inquired about particular features or properties of drugs that could explain their persistent historical connection to war. Identifying these specific characteristics could help explain why some drugs have stronger relations to the use of force while others seem unrelated.

Andreas’ research also makes a significant contribution to policy discussions about the relationship between drugs and war. While the article and book have a historical focus, the analysis of policy implications could place this study and its findings at the center of current political debates.

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