Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
In a camouflaged trailer truck in the Nevada desert, a bank of computer screens shows live images of a mud-walled compound in Afghanistan, 8,000 miles away. Those pictures are coming from a Predator unmanned aircraft that you, hunched over the computer in the darkened room not far from Vegas, are flying remotely.
Soon two vehicles stop in front of the targeted mud-baked house. Half a dozen bearded men hurry into the house. Seconds later, you squeeze the trigger in Nevada and a 500-pound bomb flattens the building. Classic Hollywood stuff? Yes, except that this is happening in a real battlefield, and as P.W. Singer, a military expert at Brookings, writes in a new book Wired for War, The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, war by remote control is growing and leading a fundamental change.
There is a strange disconnect about it. Singer talks of pilots shooting missiles at enemies thousands of miles away and then getting into their Toyotas to be home for the kids’ soccer practice. “You are going to war for 12 hours, shooting weapons at targets, directing kills on enemy combatants, and then you get in the car, drive home, and within 20 minutes you are sitting at the dinner table talking to your kids about their homework,” he quotes one pilot as saying.
Of course it can all go wrong. Ask the people on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan who say missiles fired by drones have often killed civilians.
U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden held talks in Pakistan as part of a regional tour expected to focus on terrorism and tensions between Pakistan and India following the Mumbai attacks.
Before he left the United States, Biden, travelling in his capacity as outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that “What I hope to accomplish is to get sort of a baseline. This will be my God knows how many trips, I guess my 10th or 11th trip into Iraq and I don’t know how many times in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Politico quoted him as saying.