Obama Escalates Controversial Predator Drone Attacks on Pakistan

439385855_5e24a55c47It is the wet dream of every kid who grew up playing Hurlyburly download.htm”>Microsoft Flight Simulator. From the safety and comfort of Air Force bases in Nevada (read: your angsty teenage bedroom with the Kurt Cobain poster in the corner), grounded pilots bomb insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan using unmanned aerial vehicles, known more menacingly as Predator Drones. Gamers could not have come up with a more badass title.

A covert CIA drone program focuses on Pakistan, a country riddled with Taliban fighters and terrorists but no US troops. President Obama has ordered as many drone attacks in Pakistan as Bush did in his last three years in office combined. Approximately a third of drone attack casualties in Pakistan since 2006 were civilians, according to a report by the New American Foundation. If that is what passes for “surgical” strikes these days, the C.I.A. may be in need of its brand of own health care reform.

In terms of public opinion, a surge in drone attacks is still preferable to one in US troops. And by public opinion, I mean the apparent lack thereof when it comes to the ethics of drone attacks. In this week’s New Yorker Jane Mayer explains the illusion of “costless” war created by the use of these unmanned planes. Pilots face the same risks and realities of war they did growing up playing IL-2, but with more satisfaction than a high score. She argues, “cut off from the realities of the bombings in Pakistan, Americans have been insulated from the human toll, as well as the political and moral consequences.”

Mayer need only refer to David Rohde’s compelling account of a drone attack, which he witnessed during his eight months stint as a Taliban hostage, to demonstrate its perceptible and unpleasant repercussions.

“A stalemate between the United States and the Taliban seemed to unfold before me. The drones killed many senior commanders and hindered their operations. Yet the Taliban were able to garner recruits in their aftermath by exaggerating the number of civilian casualties… The strikes also created a paranoia among the Taliban. They believed that a network of local informants guided the missiles. Innocent civilians were rounded up, accused of working as American spies and then executed.”

In the absence of assailable Americans to wreak vengeance on, the Taliban is imagining enemies amongst the civilian population. I am in no way suggesting that American soldiers should be the alternative target of aggrieved Taliban fighters, but the indirect impact means drone attacks certainly don’t come cheap in terms of human lives.

Photo from Flickr userr JimNtexas’ under the Creative Commons License.


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  1. Mark Andrews says

    I for one see it as a benefit if the Haqqani Network, Al-Qaeda, and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan members become more paranoid due to drone strikes. This is war–would you have us held responsible for the things the enemy does?

    What did you expect was going to happen if we hurt them? That they would realize the error of their ways and surrender? And how is their killing civilians because they believe them to be spies different from them conscripting villages by force to fight the war?

    If they are more paranoid, they will trust each other less, and the cohesion and morale of the group will suffer. Attacks will become less coordinated, and thus, the insurgents will become less effective in their attacks. That alone makes this worth doing, in my book. Civilian casualties resulting from the attacks themselves are the greatest negative, but killing civilians because Talibs think theyre spies? That only turns the populace against them.

  2. Edgar Concha says

    Terrorists will die by the drone; is this without being found guilty in a fair trial reprsented by an attorney? o should we change Mr. Jefferson’s historical “All men are create equal and they are endwoed by their creator with certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure those rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governend” Did the people vote to use drones in other countries to kill suspects of terrorism while they are home in bed sleeping?