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Death From Above, Outrage Down Below

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by David Kilcullen and Andrew McDonald Exum

17 May 09 | NYT

It would be in our best interests, and those of the Pakistani people, to declare a moratorium on drone strikes into Pakistan.

Imagine, for example, that burglars move into a neighborhood. If the police were to start blowing up people’s houses from the air, would this convince homeowners to rise up against the burglars? Wouldn’t it be more likely to turn the whole population against the police? And if their neighbors wanted to turn the burglars in, how would they do that, exactly? Yet this is the same basic logic underlying the drone war.

In recent days, the Pentagon has made two major changes in its strategy to defeat the Taliban, Al Qaeda and their affiliates in Afghanistan and Pakistan. First came the announcement that Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal would take over as the top United States commander in Afghanistan. Next, Pentagon officials said that the United States was giving Pakistan more information on its drone attacks on terrorist targets, while news reports indicated that Pakistani officers would have significant future control over drone routes, targets and decisions to fire weapons (though the military has denied that).

While we agree with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that “fresh eyes were needed” to review our military strategy in the region, we feel that expanding or even just continuing the drone war is a mistake. In fact, it would be in our best interests, and those of the Pakistani people, to declare a moratorium on drone strikes into Pakistan.

After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, and following much internal debate, President George W. Bush authorized a broad expansion of drone strikes against a wide array of targets within Pakistan: Qaeda operatives, Pakistan-based members of the Afghan Taliban insurgency and — in some cases — other militants bent on destabilizing Pakistan.

The use of drones in military operations has steadily grown — we know from public documents that from last September to this March alone, C.I.A. operatives launched more than three dozen strikes. >>>

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Written by Editors

17 May 2009 at 5:49 pm

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  1. [...] Death From Above, Outrage Down Below (17 May 09) [...]


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