WHEN THE U.S. invaded Panama in 1989, one of its stated objectives, in President Bush's words, was "to combat drug trafficking." The other was to rid Panama of a wanton dictator and bring him to trial.
The latter objective is still only partly realized: Gen. Manuel Noriega, lounging in the relative comfort of federal custody, is still a long way from a court date. The former goal, judging by recent reports, was an unqualified failure. Experts on drug traffic say more cocaine is now being shipped through Panama, at lower prices, than before the invasion.
This dismal conclusion does not even take into account the botching of the military action, with hundreds of civilian casualties and the devastation of the Panamanian capital.