It’s almost Shakespearean. But since we’re in the 21st century instead of the 16th, we seal our pact with the king by sending machines, not human assassins.
by Noah Shachtman
Washington and Islamabad are “drawing up a fresh list of terrorist targets for Predator drone strikes“ in Pakistan, according to the Wall Street Journal. Militants crossing the border into Afghanistan would still be in the drones’ bullseyes, just like before. But Pakistani officials are also “seeking to broaden the scope of the program to target extremists who have carried out attacks against Pakistanis.”
If that’s the case, isn’t America, for all intents and purposes, at war in Pakistan? Only in this war, it’s our flying robots doing most of the fighting?
Crossing a border to chase militants is one thing — an organic expansion of a pre-existing conflict. This feels like a different matter: a commitment to the Pakistanis to put down their internal rebellion. It’s certainly linked to the first conflict (the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban have officially teamed up). But it’s not the same as the original fight — the one that started in Afghanistan.
Note: I’m not suggesting that we are at war with Pakistan, its people, or its government. But it seems pretty clear that the U.S. is almost (if not already) at war in Pakistan, against a whole series of militant networks.
UPDATE: It’s important to note that all of these militant groups share training, money, gear, and goons. So it’s natural to hop from one to the other — to keep on moving an inch further down this insurgent playing field. But travel one inch after another, and, eventually, you’re a mile down the road. Or, as Spencer Ackerman puts it: “Here’s where you feel like the frog who went for a leisurely dip in the warm stockpot bath and suddenly finds himself boiling,” he writes. “The American people are being asked to recommit in a major way to the Afghanistan war. It’s untenable to commit to a Pakistan war without their consent.”
“The American military has to be really, really careful about mission creep,” Jim Arkedis warns. “The military, as the Pentagon thinks it believes, can’t kill its way out of this problem, but this expanded target list only perpetuates the mindset that we can.”
I’d be curious to hear what you guys think. Drop me a line, or sound off, in the comments.
The latest drone strike went down yesterday — an attack on the network of Pakistani militant leader Baitullah Mehsud that killed at least eight. Continue readig…
Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians.
Mehsud is the main suspect behind the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Her widower, Asif Ali Zadari, is now president of Pakistan — and, according to the Journal, a prime supporter of the unmanned strikes.
Which leads Slate’s William Saletan to wonder: “Are we buying his support by sending our drones to avenge his wife’s death?”
It’s almost Shakespearean. But since we’re in the 21st century instead of the 16th, we seal our pact with the king by sending machines, not human assassins, to bring heaven’s wrath on the warlord who slew his beloved. And this time, the wrath really does come from heaven. Put yourself in Zardari’s shoes. You’re being offered the chance to destroy your enemy with a power unknown to history’s greatest kings and generals: a bloodless, all-seeing airborne hunting party.
Would you refuse?
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.
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