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Subject: How To Win In Afghanistan Without Killing Anyone
Softwar    3/3/2009 2:54:18 PM << I noted in several previous postings that a tailored bio-war attack against the Opium poppy could wipe it out. Apparently, this is a weapon we already have on the shelf >> OPED by Representative Dana Rohrabacher Though the trend in Afghanistan is disturbing, it is not unsalvageable. Opium production obviously remains a great challenge. Micro-herbicide can provide a solution. The State Department for years has refused to test this anti-opium poppy-killing fungus, though I saw to it that money was budgeted for such testing. If we have the courage to use this option, the entire Afghan poppy crop could disappear for decades and no other crop would be affected. Of course, this strategy would also require instituting a major economic recovery plan as soon as the fungus is used.
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Parmenion       3/4/2009 5:27:02 AM

Hemp is a logical biobutanol feedstock.  Which we're going to want for cellulosic fuel.  Or so I believe.  Both disclosed and undisclosed research suggests this.  0.02


Erm... Yes, that's what I was referring to...
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Softwar       3/4/2009 9:26:39 AM
I would suspect it is far more difficult to develop a bio-weapon to attack cannibus as compared to the opium poppy - considering the genetic strain of cannibus and its similarities to other forms of flora.  The poppy is pretty unique and has certain vulnerabilities in the seed pod and reproductive areas.  Thus, the reason why such an attack would not strike the food crops located in Afghanistan.
I have been told before that Lotus Eater exists and its design is so specific that it only can survive on a poppy - long enough to kill it.  Then it dies too.  Frankly, I have been wondering how long this technology would remain in government hands before one or more of the drug gangs gets a hold of it.  Seriously, if you have opium fields in South America or the Burma triangle - then hitting the main source in Afghanistan would increase the value of your stock by 100 times or maybe more.
Still, even good old chemical defoliants are more dangerous but if we must quibble about tools...  why not use something chemcial in the inventory?  The opium fields are available to our air power and if not lotus eater why not Roundup, agent pink or something else?
I mean - what is the real gripe here?  Do we want to win in Afghanistan or do as Rep. Murtha proposes and send 600,000 troops in?  Obama appears to be leaning toward the 600,000 foot soldiers - a really dumb idea.  I personally feel that we could stuff a million soldiers in Afghanistan and still get swallowed whole. 
On the other hand - a few special forces professionals, some air power and a few sprayers could end it all by Christmas 2009.
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Wicked Chinchilla       3/4/2009 10:18:57 AM
That is a very, very bad idea and as Herald mentioned highly illegal.
1st Red Flag: using a fungus is a very blunt instrument.  I would compare it to trying to do surgery with an axe.  Sure, you can guarantee that it will only it the poppy plant but there is no possible way you could guarantee it wont it something else.
2nd Red Flag: Any organism goes through evolutions and mutations.  We might luck out if we used it and nothing else is or in in the future on a short timescale.  But once its released, its released and there is no way of knowing how long or short it would take for the anti-poppy fungus to adapt or mutate into something with a greater diet.  In that same vein of thought there is bound to be some poppy's that have a natural accidental mutation already in the genome that makes them resistant.  These survivors then become the only plants left and you have to start from scratch or make fungus incredibly blunt which pretty much destroys any hope of immediate bad effects on other plants. 
3rd Red Flag:  If we break the international rule that bans this stuff we open ourselves to agricultural sabotage and terrorism.  Sure it wont have a sophisticated specificity or incredible effectiveness if it comes from some small terrorist group but a nation state could really screw with us.  Even if does come from a non-national entity there are plenty of animal/plant virions out there already that would truly wreck our agriculture or animal production.  Generaly these are incredibly to deliver: how many sprayer planes over fields are held in secure areas after all?
Even if you abandoned the fungus and switched to a specific genomic attack using a virus you still run into every single one of the problems above and that is incredibly more focused.  The time scales for mutations might be longer but they still exist.  The initial problems with specifity guarantees still exist in the same amount because all mutations occur on a genetic level anyway.
Not a bad idea, at all.  Think Cats Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.  Wonderful theory, guaranteed to cause massive destruction beyond what you intended. 
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RockyMTNClimber    Ethanol!   3/6/2009 5:47:54 PM

Why don't we just buy the damn opium and use it for legitimate uses?

My Gawd! We just solved all of our problems! Turn the Afghan poppy crop into Ethanol and we can buy all of our gasoline from them from now on!
It so simple.....
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theBird    Don't break out the bioweapons yet!   3/7/2009 1:32:22 AM
Unless I'm mistaken, Opium is pretty easy crop to spot what with its giant fields of poppies and all.  Why not just spray the stuff with good old fashioned herbicides instead?
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DarthAmerica    Softwar Reply   3/8/2009 1:00:03 AM
As others have suggested, it's much easier to buy them off. Not to mention, legal. That kills no one and avoids the risk of unintended consequences. You also have to make sure they don't switch to other crops like weed which they could make even more profit from since it isn't as seasonal and doesn't have opium's higher labor cost. But it has to be very carrot and stick. Buy off the willing, deter the others and for those who insist, 7.62mm x 39mm in the AM hours works well and can be done with plausible deniability. 

Remove the killing stipulation and RQ-1 or even AC-130 sorties could be selectively used as well. 

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