The Reasoned Review

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Somewhere in Pakistan, a militant has no wife

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A Taliban finds himself single once again, courtesy of the United States

Apparently we now consider the US slaying of a militant’s wife newsworthy enough to make the Times front page. Three others were also killed in the attack with four children wounded – but as Donald Rusmfeld famously said, “stuff happens”. Whatever nefarious actions this woman may have committed (given the status of women in traditional Islamic societies, I think it safe to assume such deeds as washing, cooking, and cowed obedience), we can rest assured that she will perform them no longer. Mr. Meshud will have to find someone else to wash his rags – but maybe this will induce him to go unwashed for a while. Victory!

Every so often the Times or the Post will trot out an article such as this in order to prove the efficacy of our continued unmanned attacks upon Pakistan. Lately standards have fallen – from killing highly-placed militants to grunt workers to mere passersby. Now, if today’s front page is any indication, we are content with killing their wives.  Every such article is taken as evidence of our “drone” attacks’ efficacy. Bomb enough villages, and surely they’ll desist!

It is worth taking a look, however, at what these cross-border attacks actually do. Though each one kills  or cripples several (usually up to ten)  civilians, only around one in five actually ends up killing a militant. Usually our intelligence is at least a day behind – by the time coordinates are fixed and an attack ordered, the intended target is long gone. And even a ‘direct hit’ is nothing to boast over. The defining characteristic of the Islamic movement, as described by Mark Sageman in his excellent book, “Leaderless Jihad” is its complete de-centralization. Often the “terrorist leaders” who we proudly claim to have dispatched end up leading only a small band of disgruntled misfits. The large-scale “terror networks” of yester-decade have been replaced, according to Sageman, by what he terms “bunches of guys” – pocket cells of less than ten. It is not difficult to see how combating such cells by pilot-less rockets would prove rather difficult.

On the flip side, our rockets have undeniably inflamed anti-American sentiment. It is a truism that every civilian killed spawns two or three (or ten?) new militants.  Given our vocal support of the Zardari government, our rockets have the unintended effect of causing extreme instability within Pakistan. People don’t like it when their government allows a foreign nation to fire rockets upon them all willy-nilly. Ask the Israelis.

So why do we continue this mis-begotten campaign of destruction, which serves no purpose and acts to the detriment of many noble ones? Why, to fill the pocketbooks of a few large arms manufacturers! I recently spoke with a former engineer of a prominent arms company who said that these drones are essentially their bread and butter.

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Written by pavanvan

August 5, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Posted in Policy, War

Tagged with , , , , , ,

One Response

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  1. Perhaps the best article I have ever read about the useless activities in the name of curbing terrorism. I hope President Obama reads this article.

    Gopala Vinjamuri

    August 7, 2009 at 2:08 pm


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