Author Topic: A case against drones (Pakistan)  (Read 642 times)

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Offline EC

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A case against drones (Pakistan)
« on: October 27, 2013, 12:25:17 PM »
Via al Jazeera: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2013/10/case-against-drones-201310267541941623.html

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Pakistani officials are accused of deep involvement in the US drone programme used by the Obama administration to hunt down suspected al-Qaeda fighters in the country. But hat has not stopped Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from publically calling on the US to end its drone programme.

On a visit to Washington, he said: "The use of drones is not only a continued violation of our territorial integrity but also detrimental to our efforts at eliminating terrorism from our country ... This issue has become a major irritant in our bilateral relationship as well. I would therefore stress the need to end drone attacks."

This kind of criticism has long been known to irritate officials in Washington, who have privately insisted drone attacks are sectretly sanctioned by officials in Islamabad.

I think the intelligence agencies, the military and the civilian leadership were all party to it but they didn't want to come in public because it would be a very bad public relations exercise, and it would show how weak Pakistan is ... allowing its sovereignty to be violated ... But the new civilian government has taken a different position. It says, well we were not a party to that and we think that ... the drones are doing much greater harm.

Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani army general

"Everybody knew that they [Pakistani officials] were heavily involved … the way in which it was done they could publicly say they're not but behind the scenes everybody knew it… Not only were they involved, they were letting us use their airstrips," says Larry Korb, a former assistant secretary of defence under the Reagan administration.

Secret CIA documents obtained by the Washington Post seem to confirm that Pakistani officials have known about drone strikes for years. And they even received classified American briefings about the operations and the number of casualties.

Drone strikes are an explosive issue in Pakistan. Amnesty International estimates they have killed as many as 900 Pakistani civilians and seriously injured at least 600 since 2004.

A joint report published by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch this week accuses the US of violating international human rights law by failing to prevent civilian casualties. Amnesty says US drone strikes could be classed as war crimes.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the US gave Pakistan a stark choice: Either you are with us or against us.

Pakistan's president at the time, former Army General Pervez Musharraf, made the choice by becoming a key partner in what became known as the 'War on Terror'.

The relationship had its ups and downs but Musharraf acknowledged that his government signed off on a limited number of US drone strikes.

Yousuf Raza Gilani however, Pakistan's prime minister from 2008, strongly denies ever authorising US drone strikes. But he could not rule out deals made under Musharraf that may have continued during his time in office.

Critics increasingly point out that drone strikes are heightening anti-American anger.


More at link, including 25 minute video report. Not watched the whole thing yet, but it is to Inside Story's usual high standard thus far.
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Offline Oceander

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Re: A case against drones (Pakistan)
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2013, 12:45:59 PM »
A very strong case can be made against the sort of business-as-usual manner with which this (mal)administration uses drones.  Notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan's public complaints may be undercut by their private approval/consent to drone attacks, flying a drone into another country's airspace to attack a target is precisely the same as flying in an A-10 Warthog, and doing the latter would most definitely violate that country's sovereignity unless express permission had been given.

The problem with drones is that it is so much easier to slip a drone into another country, particularly the isolated, thinly-populated areas of a third-world country, without the sort of major repercussions that would result from sending in an A-10 Warthog that the temptation to use drones on a routine basis can become almost irresistable.  This is particularly the case with liberals/leftists who have arrogated to themselves the high ground of the peacemaker and who are much more afraid of the blow-back from their own supporters and of the rank hypocrisy the use of an A-10 would expose.

Granted, cruise missiles raise the same sort of temptation; however, cruise missiles tend to require that you send the support infrastructure and the launch platform closer to the target country.  Cruise missiles are also more prone to causing collateral damage since they are fire-and-forget and are not guided onto target by a live human operator.  Both of those aspects raise the risks of blowback a liberal/leftist doesn't have the backbone to withstand.  Drones do not raise either issue with as much intensity.

The underlying problem with this is that in many of the business-as-usual scenarios, the use of a drone is disproportionate to the benefits to be gained:  the target to be hit and the risks of collateral damage - even though those risks are less than those occasioned by a cruise missile - and the business-as-usual use of drones can easily become immoral (and potentially illegal under the generally-accepted rules of war - not the UN b.s., but the ancient, time-tested rules).

Because of these risks it should be easy to see why a country like Pakistan would secretly approve of drone strikes while publicly decrying them:  the risks of disproportionality and potential war-crimes accusations fall on the country that deploys the drones - the US - while giving the consenting country - Pakistan - to claim, at the least, that even though they authorized a degree of incursion into their territory, they never intended to, and did not, authorize such a disproportionate attack.

I'm sure others can make the case much more forcefully than I; however, hope that I have at least gotten the gist of such an argument.

Offline EC

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Re: A case against drones (Pakistan)
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2013, 12:54:24 PM »
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I'm sure others can make the case much more forcefully than I; however, hope that I have at least gotten the gist of such an argument.

Nope - you nailed it, as far as I can see. A perfect summary of the current situation - with one exception.

You hinted at it, but it is worth stating clearly.

This administration is TERRIFIED of a "boots on the ground" scenario. That means taking responsibility for lives as a direct result of their actions and decisions. Using drones reduces the whole thing to the level of a video game. Consequence free action, as far as their optics are concerned.

So, someone's airspace gets violated. It's for the War on Terror, innit? All Bush's fault, that.
It was a surgical strike to remove a clear and credible threat to the President's popularity. Well, Sir - I don't often do surgery, but when I do I don't think an axe is more subtle than a chainsaw.
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Offline Oceander

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Re: A case against drones (Pakistan)
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2013, 01:04:10 PM »
*  *  *

This administration is TERRIFIED of a "boots on the ground" scenario. That means taking responsibility for lives as a direct result of their actions and decisions. Using drones reduces the whole thing to the level of a video game. Consequence free action, as far as their optics are concerned.

*  *  *

Which reminds me of one of the themes in Orson Scott Card's book Ender's Game, the movie adaptation of which is to be released shortly:  the training of soldiers in a complete simulation system which then transitions - without the knowledge or awareness of the soldiers - into the actual conflict itself so that the soldiers continue to believe that they are fighting in a simulated universe - one in which comrades who "die" in the fighting come back - when they are in fact engaged in real combat against a real foe and where the dead are just that, dead.

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Re: A case against drones (Pakistan)
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2013, 01:10:44 PM »
--bin Laden harbored for 10 years in Pakistan, close to their West Point military academy.

--I'd put it to them this way: It is either drones, or nukes. You chose.
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Offline Oceander

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Re: A case against drones (Pakistan)
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2013, 01:17:26 PM »
--bin Laden harbored for 10 years in Pakistan, close to their West Point military academy.

--I'd put it to them this way: It is either drones, or nukes. You chose.

Bin Laden was worth a full invasion - that would have been a proportionate response; the use that this (mal)administration puts drones to is not.  The case of Bin Laden is the long tail and doesn't provide a rule of conduct that can be broadly applied.

Offline EC

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Re: A case against drones (Pakistan)
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2013, 01:20:53 PM »
I LOVED Ender's Game, though Ender's Shadow topped it by a wide margin. The analogy is particularly apt when you consider that the soldiers commanding the "simulation" were children.
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Offline Oceander

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Re: A case against drones (Pakistan)
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2013, 01:23:23 PM »
I LOVED Ender's Game, though Ender's Shadow topped it by a wide margin. The analogy is particularly apt when you consider that the soldiers commanding the "simulation" were children.

I very much enjoyed the books; Orson Scott Card is a good writer.

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Re: A case against drones (Pakistan)
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2013, 01:26:39 PM »
I very much enjoyed the books; Orson Scott Card is a good writer.

He is. Couldn't get in to Shadow of the Hegemon though. Tried 4 times, then someone made the fatal mistake of introducing me to The Dresden Files. Those took up a few weeks!  :laugh:
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