Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Launching an air strike in another nation would normally be considered an act of aggression. But advocates of America’s rapidly expanding unmanned drone programme don’t see it that way.
They are arguing, as Tom Ricks writes on his blog The Best Defense over at Foreign Policy, that the campaign to kill militants with missile strikes from these unmanned aircraft, is more like police action in a tough neighbourhood than a military conflict.
These raids conducted by sinister-looking Predator or Reaper aircraft in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen – and since last month in Somalia - should not be seen as a challenge to states and their authority. Instead they are meant to supplement the power of governments that are either unable to or unwilling to fight the militants operating from their territories.
They are precise, limited, strikes aimed at taking down specific individuals, and in that sense are more like the police going after criminals, rather than a full-on military assault. Ricks writes:
For more than three weeks now, there has been no U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s northwest, triggering speculation that the pause may be related to the tensions between the two countries over the arrest of an American embassy employee for murder. Washington is seeking the release of Raymond Davis, a former Special Forces soldier who killed two Pakistanis on Jan 27 during what he said was an attempted robbery in a Lahore street, arguing he is covered under diplomatic immunity.
Pakistanis, deeply resentful of the heavy U.S. involvement in the country, are refusing to hand over Davis, saying he should face trial in Pakistan as he didn’t have immunity.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Pakistan of ‘severe consequences” if a future attack on the U.S. homeland is traced back to Pakistani militant groups.
It’s the kind of language that harks back to the Bush administration when they threatened to “bomb Pakistan to the Stone Age” if it didn’t cooperate in the war against al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban following the Sept. 11 attacks. Pakistan fell in line, turning on militant groups, some of whom with close ties to the security establishment.