But a few other things have to happen. Some of them were mentioned by Martin J. Collo, a Widener University professor whose Commentary Page column appeared yesterday. He noted that tariffs ought to encourage reinvestment of profits - and promote greater social equality in nations where the poor stay poor, even when business is booming.
The other thing that needs to happen, though, is that the demand for drugs in North America has to be reduced. Until it is, growing coca will probably remain profitable for isolated and impoverished South American farmers.
However, nothing could be much worse than what Washington is up to these days in the Andes. Its "Andean Initiative," so named because the drug- exporting nations of Colombia, Bolivia and Peru are stripped along the mountain range, has been falsely premised on the notion that Latin armies are reliable allies in the drug fight. In fact, the opposite is true. That should have been obvious after the debacle in Panama, where the U.S.-supported defense forces had become a greedy narco-military defending Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration went ahead with "militarizing" the Latin drug war, a policy that stands in utter, abysmal disrepute today. In Colombia, drug lords who surrender are being promised kid-glove treatment. The situation in Peru is even bleaker: U.S. drug agents have actually been thwarted in crop-eradication efforts by Peruvian troops on the take. "A misguided and dangerous failure," is the way a Democrat-controlled House committee summed things up recently.
Indeed, success in the Andes is unlikely to be won with more Blackhawk helicopters and more cash for corrupt generals. It can only come if the oppressive social and economic conditions facing Latin America's poor are fundamentally changed. That means more U.S. aid for alternative development - and less for the self-aggrandizing militaries. It means opening U.S. markets for legitimate Latin imports, in return for creating Latin markets for U.S. goods - and shrinking the U.S. market for illegal drugs.
In the end, if the Bush administration plays its cards right, its new ''Enterprise for the Americas" free-trade initiative could do far more to curb drug trafficking than its militarization policy ever did. It is time to switch gears. Time to fight smart.