Are Drones Poison, Or Bitter Medicine?

DroneI recently wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about Raymond Davis and drones that was meant to show how the twisted logic of conspiracy theorists can just as easily be used to prove anything – even that Raymond Davis was protecting innocent Pakistanis from drone strikes. But there was one article that I linked to that I think deserves more attention. The article I refer to, of course, is the Los Angeles Times article which quotes Pakistani intelligence officials saying that the Americans are improving the accuracy of drone strikes and even passing on high level targets to protect innocents.

The CIA passed up a chance last year to kill Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of an anti-American insurgent network in Pakistan that is closely linked to Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, when it chose not to fire a missile at him from a Predator drone because women and children were nearby, U.S. and Pakistani officials say.

The incident was one of at least three occasions in the last six months when a militant was identified on video and a shot was available, but U.S. officials decided not to fire in order to avoid civilian casualties, said a senior Pakistani official familiar with the drone program.

No such attempt to protect the lives of innocents has been taken by militants who regularly carry out attacks against ‘soft targets’ such as markets and shrines with hopes of inflicting as many civilian deaths as possible. According to the Pakistan Security Report 2010 released by Pak Institute for Peace Studies, 1,344 civilians were killed or injured by drone strikes in 2010 while 8,737 civilians were killed by militants during the same time.

Obviously, something must be done to stop the militants who are committing wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians. But if not drone strikes, then what is the option? What is left is the blunt instrument of conventional military force. This has been tried in the past and found to cause more civilian deaths than drones. Following the Battle of Mir Ali n 2007, complaints were lodged that fighting killed scores of civilians as well as damaging the homes of innocents. One year ago the Army bombed a village in Khyber, killing at least 73 civilians. This is not due to any malice by the military, simply that it is not the usual job of the military to fight within its own country where it must be sensitive to protecting the civilian population while also fighting terrorists at the same time.

Whether or not we support drones in theory, in practice our options are limited. According to Farhat Taj, this is reason not to protest the drone strikes, but to support them.

The drone attacks on terrorist positions must continue regardless of the number of high value targets they kill. The drone strikes have killed several dozens al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and foot soldiers in FATA, and the local people inform me that the terrorists have sleepless nights due to these drone attacks. They live in fear and focus a good deal of their attention on self-preservation. Without the drone attacks that energy and attention would have been used in terrorist attacks against the Afghan, NATO and US forces in Afghanistan. This pressure must continue on the militants.

The drone attacks on terrorist positions must continue regardless of the number of high value targets they kill. The drone strikes have killed several dozens al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and foot soldiers in FATA, and the local people inform me that the terrorists have sleepless nights due to these drone attacks. They live in fear and focus a good deal of their attention on self-preservation. Without the drone attacks that energy and attention would have been used in terrorist attacks against the Afghan, NATO and US forces in Afghanistan. This pressure must continue on the militants.

Pakistan is infected with a virus of militancy. It is like a cancer that is eating away at the soul of the nation, and slowly killing us from within. There are only a few options open to us in response. None of them are perfect, but some are ‘less bad’ than others. We ignore the cancer and let it slowly consume us; we can use blunt instruments to attack it; or we can use the latest technology to target the virus as closely as possible. Thought about from this perspective, perhaps drones are not more like a bitter medicine than a poison.

2 thoughts on “Are Drones Poison, Or Bitter Medicine?

  1. Adeel, Should we appoint Raymond Davis as Minister of Interior! He would do better than Rahman Malik and if he gets Siraj Haqqani Then he should also hold Law Ministry.
    Should we not give Blanket Immunity to everyone from NATO
    US being the founding father of this Organization that way
    our forces can stay in the barracks and our incompetent police be disbanded.US along with her NATO partners have
    the latest technology so lets lower our Colors and raise
    the Stars&Stripes and decide whether to take our medicine
    in liquid or solid form.

  2. I ask a serious question and you answer with sarcasm. Appoint Davis as minister? Raise the stars & stripes? This is silly and childish. Don’t avoid the hard questions by making silly statements, rather please respond with some serious points please.

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