US security & drone attacks

Rana Athar Javed

Saturday, September 29, 2012 - What the US should learn from history in irregular warfare is that the reasons to fight a conflict change over time. By declining to accept the legitimate rationality on the basis of which these changes take place will only increase the dangers of the twenty-first century. Thus there is aneed to alter the tactical-paradigm inherited from the post-9/11 war planning because the conceptual construct based on Cold War and war on terror had shown that every conflict tampers the universal standards of civilian lives and, spread fear for the future. The recently published report, “Living under Drones, death, injury and trauma to civilians, quotes the experts’ findings that“the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false”. (NYU Law School: the US).

The report presents evidence “of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strikes”. The entire assessment is based on nine months of intensive and investigative interviews with “victims, witnesses and experts”, who live in the region and are directly being affected by these drone attacks. The history of Afghan conflict shows how it has been about disregarding the humanitarian aspect in Pakistan’s FATA region and thereby placing the questions of US security doctrines and hovering of drones twenty-four hours a day, which terrorize men, women and children. The ambition to conduct an assassination campaign cannot be rationalized by a certain type of “means and ends” theory (i.e. US national Security & Pakistani civilians).

By focusing determinedly on securing national interests throughout the world, the US is no more immune to the dilemma of “sending down” a new generation of terrorists, especially the youth from remote areas of Afghan-Pakistan border. The immediate impact of “living under drones” is that the general population feels powerless to protect themselves against deadly military technology of the US, which evidently is also killing rescue workers. Thus, excluding the possibility of a fair assessment of their situation, and invariably verifying the fears that the US is implementing democracy and modernization without debating consequences of their economic and military policies for nations “other” than the Western world. There can be no peace without acknowledging the detrimental effects of current US drone strikes policies against a vast population of FATA because experts assessed that “US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks… drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for the US (New York Times/CNN – September 6, 2012).

This assessment does not rule out success of those drone strikes that killed alleged “combatants” and al-Qaeda militants, however, serious concerns are raised about the original mission of securing Americans from terrorist attacks. Bonded by ideological constraints and perception, rather than formal threat of terrorism in the mainland, principally, the US tendered a very scanty record of precision of their drone strikes. FromJune 2004 through the mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2, 362-3,325 people in Pakistan of whom 474-881 were civilians including 176 children (- The bureau of Investigative Journalism). The number of “high-level targets killed as a percentage of total causalities are extremely low – estimated at just 2%”, an evidence that reflects that the US is struggling to maintain its so-called strategic mission and operational credibility.

This outcome is also permitting differentiation between the US and Pakistan for a permanent inconvenience, and thus is providing a vehicle for mistrust and tactical inflexibility. Still, it is difficult to resolve strategic challenges of the world by threatening Pakistan because domestic sociopolitical evolution within its society sought to strengthen effective understanding of international security situation. But on the other hand, it can be argued that the present American strategy of national security is based on “unequal treaties”, and whenever internal security risk fluctuates in the US, the international security equilibrium tips against the weakest and hence impacting sovereign nations’ right to seek coalitions for their own advantage. The most common and clumsy argument of the US national security decision-makers is that the US dialogue on world peace is best served if an ambivalent Third World “stop suspecting” America’s interpretation of international security.The assessment of experts also describes the US drone strike practices parallel to “... [Undermining] respect for the rule of law and international legal protectionand may set dangerous precedents” for other countries of the world.

The examples of revenge attacks and ideological aggression across Europe and the Muslim world are familiar to most as contributing to militants and radical forces. A realization that drone strike program alone is lethal, insufficient, and counterproductive- andits application is a persistent failure to truly appreciatelong-term nature of irregular warfare. Therefore, the US should “conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current target killing practices – taking into account all available evidence, concerns of various stakeholders and the short and long-term costs and benefits”. It is in this context that the future foreign and national securities policies of the US will ultimately be reflected in the behavior of international terrorists who ought to exploit overwhelming difference of policies between allay countries. If the subject matter of the US security includes knowledge and understanding of sufferings of civilians in Pakistan, the perspective of stabilizing Afghanistan and beyond will be heeded, despite the problematic question of American strategy for the region of South Asia.

—The author is a Denmark-based National Security Expert and Defence Analyst.

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