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Books - American Diplomacy and the narcotics traffic
Written by Paul Goldstein   

International efforts to control the traffic in narcotic drugs reflect a dualistic interplay of humanitarian and political influences in international relations. It was within the political context of the Opium War that the misuse of opium first attracted widespread attention in the Western world near the middle of the nineteenth century. Opium consumption was regarded then, however, as a problem peculiar to the East, especially China. It was to help China rid itself of this problem and thus take its place in the international community as a stable and prosperous nation capable of carrying on mutually profitable trade relations with the West that the United States inaugurated the international antidrug campaign in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Up to the outbreak of World War I China's welfare was the chief consideration underlying American promotion of the movement. At the same time, however, it was discovered that Western nations, and particularly the United States, had a substantial drug problem of their own. After the war, therefore, the United States paid increasing attention to its own drug situation, and China's difficulties were relegated to a secondary though still very important place.

Though morally inspired and promoted by the United States with missionary vigor, the antidrug campaign was carried on within a highly political context. Many nations, because of economic and social conditions in their territories, were reluctant to take drastic steps to suppress the traffic in and consumption of narcotic substances. From the standpoint of the United States, the movement was conceived within the framework of a broad interpretation of the Open Door policy in regard to China. It was complicated and sometimes retarded by the American attitude toward the League of Nations, Japanese designs on China, and recognition of the Soviet regime in Russia.

Despite the intrusion of political considerations, a highly complex (and imperfect) system of international control of the drug traffic based largely on principles advocated by the United States had been put into effect by the outbreak of the Second World War. Nevertheless, the problem of drug addiction remained acute in the United States and other nations as well. Efforts to ameliorate the situation were continued in the postwar period under the auspices of the United Nations.

The literature on the narcotic drug traffic and the efforts to curb it is voluminous. That the United States has played a prominent role in these efforts is generally known, but the role has not heretofore been given adequate, organized historical coverage. This study is thus an attempt to fill a gap in the existing literature on the subject by discussing in detail, within the context of the principles, motivations, and objectives of American foreign policy, the nature and extent of the activities of the United States in promoting consideration and solution of the problem. As such, it is a study in international relations and humanitarian reform.

My debt to others for assistance is large. The labor of research was eased considerably by the assistance given me by the personnel of the Foreign Affairs Section of the National Archives, particularly by Mrs. Patricia G. Dowling and Mr. Albert Blair, and of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress when I was working on this study as a doctoral dissertation at the Catholic University of America. For permission to consult the records of the State Department later -than 1930 I am indebted to the late Dr. E. Taylor Parks of the Historical Division of that Department. As my advisor, the late Dr. John T. Farrell gave me considerable help, inspiration, and encouragement, for which I am deeply appreciative. I also wish to thank Sister Marie Carolyn, 0.P., Ph.D., and Dr. John K. Zeender for reading the manuscript and offering many helpful suggestions. In revising the manuscript for publication, I am grateful for the encouragement of my wife Joyce, who, among other things, kept little Bradford occupied, and to the Faculty Research Committee of North Carolina College, which awarded a grant for photocopying the manuscript. The discussion in Chapter II on the opium problem in the Philippines was published in revised form as an article in the Pacific Historical Review, August 1967.

Arnold H. Taylor
Durham, North Carolina
March 1969