The War on Drugs in Colombia: The Environment, the Treadmill of Destruction and Risk-Transfer Militarism

Chad L. Smith, Gregory Hooks, Michael Lengefeld


Ecological damage, including global climate change, is commonly connected to practices and behaviors associated with economic activity and the Treadmill of Production (ToP). Less attention is paid to the connection between the military and environmental degradation, but recently the Treadmill of Destruction (ToD) has been documented as a global phenomenon with negative environmental effects. The ToD directly and indirectly contributes to environmental problems on many fronts, but one of the least obvious means by which the U.S. military influences the environment is through its policies supporting the "war on drugs. " The U.S. military aids Latin American countries, particularly Colombia, in the war on drugs in a number of capacities, including military support and training, weaponry, fumigation of crops, and logistical and surveillance support. The effort of the United States to curb the proliferation of illegal drug crops in Colombia is the most direct role that the military has played in this effort. Within the context of the "war on drugs" the United States is now engaged in risk-transfer militarism in which the consequences of this military action are borne by the Global South. We document the scope, magnitude, and consequences of the ToD in the war on drugs and the ways it negatively impacts the environment. Our argument reframes the ToD by emphasizing the role of risk-transfer militarism within the emergence of "new" wars as represented in the case of Colombia.


Treadmill of Destruction; War on Drugs; Colombia; Climate Change; Risk-Transfer Militarism; "New" Wars

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