Drone warfare against Pakistan
December 17, 2010 7:20 PM   Subscribe

It may take years, but some researcher will travel to Pakistan’s tribal areas and produce a definitive study on what it’s been like to live amidst an aerial bombardment from American pilotless aircraft. When that account inevitably comes out, it’s likely to find that 2010 — and especially the final quarter of 2010 — marked a turning point in how civilians coped with a drone war that turned relentless. (previously: 1,2)
posted by Joe Beese (151 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pakistan fights back.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:21 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I want to plead guilty and I'm going to plead guilty 100 times forward because until the hour the US pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands and stops Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking US, and I plead guilty to that.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:25 PM on December 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


The daily work duties are arduous, involving close tracking of insurgents, patiently watching them dart in and out of shelters and, if the opportunity presents itself, occasionally raining missiles down on their heads.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:26 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Related: ACLU sues Obama over his assertion that he the right to order the killing of a US citizen anywhere in the world, with no judicial process whatsoever. I wish I was making this up or exaggerating..
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:37 PM on December 17, 2010 [22 favorites]


The only good I can *possibly* see coming from all this is that maybe Obama abuses his power to the point where conservatives start joining the ACLU.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:38 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


until the hour the US pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands and stops Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands

Right. Except that before the US had forces Iraq and Afghanistan, and before it used drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and Pakistan, it was still being attacked. I was stunned the other day when a friend suggested that the war in Afghanistan was spurring al Qaeda to attack - this was a friend who was an adult when 9/11 happened. Like, just how short are our memories? Back then, what were people saying? Oh, it's the fault of the US for having troops in Saudi Arabia (at the request of the Saudi government!), and for containing Saddam with air strikes (with the support of every other Arab state), and for supporting Israel (if Wikileaks has done one thing, it's to show that the Arab states don't give a shit about the Palestinians, all they care about is Iran).

The idea that drone strikes are the root causes of terrorism is such transparent bullshit that it's unbelievable anyone even bothers quoting it (oh, right, it's the Guardian, nevermind). The United States is the preeminent global power. It will be involved around the world, including in the Middle East, for the forseeable future. That means there will always be a root cause that some fanatic can latch onto as sufficient justification for the murder of civilians. If the United States brokered a peace deal tomorrow between Israel and the Palestinians, bin Laden would put out a tape saying that until Muslims ruled over all of historical Palestine, there would be no peace. So long as the Arab world produces millions of angry, unemployed men each year, Muslim terrorism is not going to end. There will always be a justification for attacking the United States. Drone strikes don't cause terrorism - they are, in fact, the single most effective weapon against terrorism that the US has at the moment. They are precise; they allow for considerable forethought and deliberation. In comparison to ground troops and traditional air strikes, they cause far fewer civilian casualties in comparison to terrorists killed. But leave it to academics who have no responsibility to anyone to tell us how awful they are.
posted by Dasein at 7:42 PM on December 17, 2010 [22 favorites]


The Supreme Court ruled today that the ACLU does not have standing to sue on the issue of extra-judicial drone strikes. Only someone who is currently the target of such a missile while it is in flight would have standing to sue.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:43 PM on December 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


Dasein, try this on for size. Most people in tribal areas of Afghanistan have no idea that 9/11 even happened, and yet they are now living in a war zone. An errant drone strike could easily be the root cause of their turning against the US. In fact, anywhere you go dropping bombs in large amounts you will make enemies you didn't have before.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:45 PM on December 17, 2010 [33 favorites]


They are precise; they allow for considerable forethought and deliberation.

That got me a little turned on.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:45 PM on December 17, 2010


They are precise; they allow for considerable forethought and deliberation.

That got me a little turned on.

Then this should make you cream your shorts (find me any historical equivalent for the ability of people at the highest level of decision-making to be able to precisely evaluate the nature of a target, the potential civilian casualties, to tailor the amount of firepower used, and the precision of the targeting; it's not an exaggeration to say that in WWII, we would have leveled a city without doing as much damage to enemy leadership):

On August 5th, officials at the Central Intelligence Agency, in Langley, Virginia, watched a live video feed relaying closeup footage of one of the most wanted terrorists in Pakistan. Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, could be seen reclining on the rooftop of his father-in-law’s house, in Zanghara, a hamlet in South Waziristan. It was a hot summer night, and he was joined outside by his wife and his uncle, a medic; at one point, the remarkably crisp images showed that Mehsud, who suffered from diabetes and a kidney ailment, was receiving an intravenous drip.

The video was being captured by the infrared camera of a Predator drone, a remotely controlled, unmanned plane that had been hovering, undetected, two miles or so above the house. Pakistan’s Interior Minister, A. Rehman Malik, told me recently that Mehsud was resting on his back. Malik, using his hands to make a picture frame, explained that the Predator’s targeters could see Mehsud’s entire body, not just the top of his head. “It was a perfect picture,” Malik, who watched the videotape later, said. “We used to see James Bond movies where he talked into his shoe or his watch. We thought it was a fairy tale. But this was fact!” The image remained just as stable when the C.I.A. remotely launched two Hellfire missiles from the Predator. Authorities watched the fiery blast in real time. After the dust cloud dissipated, all that remained of Mehsud was a detached torso. Eleven others died: his wife, his father-in-law, his mother-in-law, a lieutenant, and seven bodyguards.

posted by Dasein at 7:57 PM on December 17, 2010


I wonder if when the Executive Branch decides to put someone on the Kill List, they convene some kind of Panel? You know, a Panel to order that person's Death?
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:02 PM on December 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Man, I don't know which dumb comment to rebut with a snarky one-liner. There's so much here. I guess I'll go with the non-parenthetical trifecta:


The idea that drone strikes are the root causes of terrorism is such transparent bullshit that it's unbelievable anyone even bothers quoting it.

"I guess that makes killing civilians okay then. Fire away!"


In comparison to ground troops and traditional air strikes, they cause far fewer civilian casualties in comparison to terrorists killed.

"So, instead of say, a 1:100 ratio, it's down to a a 1:36. That's so much more acceptable!"


But leave it to academics who have no responsibility to anyone to tell us how awful they are.

"Academics! HERP DERP!"


Pick which once you like and pretend that was my response.
posted by clarknova at 8:06 PM on December 17, 2010 [25 favorites]


Predator drones can't hover. I suspect that the rest of that anecdote is similarly inaccurate. The US is going to lose this war, it is unfortunate that we are going to kill so many civilians in the process of losing.
posted by ChrisHartley at 8:07 PM on December 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


Pick which once you like and pretend that was my response.

I could pick any of them; not one of them is a response to anything. They are all excellent superficial snark, though. May you forever feel morally superior to the people who actually have to keep you safe.

Predator drones can't hover. I suspect that the rest of that anecdote is similarly inaccurate.

Yes, the distinction between hovering and loitering or circling means that you are right and the New Yorker doesn't know what it's talking about.
posted by Dasein at 8:12 PM on December 17, 2010


so, back to the B-52s'.
posted by clavdivs at 8:12 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"war is over if you want it. happy xmas"...john and yoko
posted by kitchenrat at 8:13 PM on December 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


And yet, Dasein, we are no closer to resolution. Is it that we must ply an ineffective war? Are we damned to grind this world into hamburger?


War is over, if you want it.
posted by kuatto at 8:16 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


one of those favorites is mine, beese. goddam i love a rant like that
posted by kitchenrat at 8:16 PM on December 17, 2010


But leave it to academics who have no responsibility to anyone to tell us how awful they are.

People who engage in military action and are unable to tell the difference between killing enemy combatants and killing civilians are generally known around the world as terrorists.

Or do non-Americans not count as civilians?
posted by yeloson at 8:17 PM on December 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Two more possible responses:

May you forever feel morally superior to the people who actually have to keep you safe.

"If by 'keeping me safe' you mean 'shooting hellfire misses into civilian huts via satellite feed', I don't think I'll have to work very hard at it."


They are all excellent superficial snark, though.

"If it's bullshit that the relatives of the dead can become terrorists that can threaten me, then it's bullshit that the people they're blowing up are terrorists that threaten me now. Or are you having it both ways?"


It's like Choose Your Own MetaFilter Comment Adventure.
posted by clarknova at 8:25 PM on December 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


Or do non-Americans not count as civilians?

It's hard to tell sometimes whether people are being serious. You do realize that the law of war explicitly allows for military action that will kill civilians, right? It's all about proportionality: what is the value of the target, what are the likely civilian casualties? Because no war can ever be fought without civilian casualties. If you aren't willing to cause some civilian deaths in pursuit of your own security, then you surrender to people who have no compunction about killing the maximum possible number of civilians.

As I said above, find me - please - a military campaign anytime in modern history that has produced fewer civilian casualties per enemy combatant killed - and especially a high-level enemy combatant - than the current drone war in Pakistan. It's an incredibly effective and discriminating campaign by any historical standard (though, admittedly, not by the abstract standards of perfection sought by those whose only stake in this is how many favourites they garner with their snarky comments).
posted by Dasein at 8:25 PM on December 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Our study shows that the 209 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, including 113 in 2010, from 2004 to the present have killed approximately between 1,320 and 2,049 individuals, of whom around 1,009 to 1,512 were described as militants in reliable press accounts. Thus, the true non-militant fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 25 percent. In 2010, it is more like six percent.

This research was last updated on December 17, 2010.
posted by gman at 8:27 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


But leave it to academics who have no responsibility to anyone to tell us how awful they are.

Thus typeth the noble keyboard warrior, a credit to his race.
posted by docgonzo at 8:29 PM on December 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


Predator drones can't hover.

Term of the trade. Hover, in the sense of a helicopter, no -- but it can fly circles at altitude for a long while before making an attack run -- thus, allowing it to "hover" in the area until needed, as opposed to being launched and flying in for the strike.

As I said above, find me - please - a military campaign anytime in modern history that has produced fewer civilian casualties per enemy combatant killed

Right: *Prove* to me those people -- without uniform, not in formation -- were "enemy combatants."

Because, right now, what I see is about somewhere around 2000 civilians killed by drone strikes in Pakistan -- and no proof that any one of them could cause any harm, or did cause harm, to anyone in the United States.
posted by eriko at 8:33 PM on December 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


In 2010, it is more like six percent.

I'm imagining that France, in at attempt to wipe out violent Basque separatists, is conducting unmanned bombing campaigns in our rural areas - killling hundreds of American men, women, and children.

They boast that our civilian casualty rate is a mere six percent.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:33 PM on December 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


“It was a perfect picture,” Malik, who watched the videotape later, said. “We used to see James Bond movies where he talked into his shoe or his watch. We thought it was a fairy tale. But this was fact!” The image remained just as stable when the C.I.A. remotely launched two Hellfire missiles from the Predator. Authorities watched the fiery blast in real time. After the dust cloud dissipated, all that remained of Mehsud was a detached torso. Eleven others died: his wife, his father-in-law, his mother-in-law, a lieutenant, and seven bodyguards.
Gee whiz! Gosh! Wow! I guess that proves he was guilty of something! And were those eleven other people guilty of something too?

Like the blacks in Africa made eligible for enslavement, and like the indigenous Americans made eligible for genocide, those who lack our technology are lesser beings and of little significance.
posted by fredludd at 8:39 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Predators are bullshit. The war was essentially lost from day one... the most critical part was cutting off retreat into Pakistan, and that really wasn't even considered until way too late in the game, because the Bush Administration simply wasn't paying attention, went in without understanding the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the internal politics of Pakistan.

With a little forethought, diplomacy and money by the truckload, a careful dismantling of the Taliban was possible.

We went in with stealth fighters, bombs bursting, guns blazing. Idiots. Assholes.

Bin Laden is in Pakistan. There's no reason to be in Afghanistan any longer, and it's just fucking up diplomatic attempts to get at Bin Laden.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:58 PM on December 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Thus, the true non-militant fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 25 percent. In 2010, it is more like six percent.

That's what you say your study says. However, in the 144 examples you cite, 99 of those list the non-militant deaths as "Unknown". So unless you guys deliberately chose those examples to discredit yourselves, in 87% of cases you have no clue whether that's true or not. You're just making it up.
posted by clarknova at 9:01 PM on December 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


Er, 114 examples.. But the percentage is correct.
posted by clarknova at 9:07 PM on December 17, 2010


You do realize that the law of war explicitly allows for military action that will kill civilians, right?

Really? There's a law about that?

I'm have to admit I'm surprised; the only one I'm aware of in that vein is the fourth of the four Geneva Conventions, which basically says exactly the opposite of that.

Do you have a citation?
posted by mhoye at 9:25 PM on December 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


mhoye,

I think Dasein was referring to the law of "Might makes Right"
posted by kuatto at 9:40 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


which basically says exactly the opposite of that.

I think you're wrong on that. The Fourth Geneva Convention doesn't seem to address what we today might call "collateral damage". It spells out pretty specific things such as hostage taking, collective punishment etc... actions that quite intentionally target civilians. There is a difference, albeit not to the dead person, between a civilian intentionally shot in the head as punishment and someone who catches a piece of shrapnel from a nearby explosion during an attack. In drafting these conventions nobody involved was such a Pollyanna as to believe that armed conflict without civilian casualties was possible.
posted by MikeMc at 9:40 PM on December 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Oh, it's the fault of the US for having troops in Saudi Arabia (at the request of the Saudi government!), and for containing Saddam with air strikes (with the support of every other Arab state), and for supporting Israel (if Wikileaks has done one thing, it's to show that the Arab states don't give a shit about the Palestinians, all they care about is Iran)."

Dasein seems to view contemporary conflict through a very 'old school' lens.

Look at the above quote, where US interventionism is justified by the complicit agreement of regional, undemocratic nation states. As if would be terrorists give a lick of credibility to said undemocratic governments, and as if the deference of said governments alone justifies US intervention.

The comparison to World War II similarly reveals an old school perspective approach. Currently the objectives are very different and the threats far less severe than in World War II. In that time, the threats were immediate and existential. In the case of the War on Terror, the threats may be generational and less than existential. We wouldn't condone police incurring collateral damage, on any scale, in order to take out a murderer in extra-judicial fashion. I'm not saying that fighting terrorism should be treated simply as a police action, but it does make clear that the amount of acceptable collateral damage varies with the threat, and that direct comparisons to World War II are somewhat simplistic.
posted by striatic at 10:37 PM on December 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


The use of drones will continue until the Palestinians start using them.

WHICH IS INEVITABLE.
posted by three blind mice at 10:49 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


We wouldn't condone police incurring collateral damage, on any scale, in order to take out a murderer in extra-judicial fashion.

Except that we do, in fact, condone this through the widespread use of violent SWAT tactics.

Personally, I see a direct parallel between the increasing militarization of the police and our self-defeating efforts in Afghanistan; we seem to have forgotten that, while overwhelming might does indeed make right, it doesn't always make tactical sense.
posted by vorfeed at 10:52 PM on December 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can we at least agree that killing children for freedom is mostly stupid?
posted by nola at 10:54 PM on December 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


yes
posted by clavdivs at 10:59 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


His eyes were pulsating in hectic desperation, flapping like bat's wings, as the many tall policemen seized him by the arms and legs and lifted him up. His books were spilled on the ground. 'Help!' he shrieked shrilly in a voice strangling in its own emotion, as the policemen carried him to the open doors in the rear of the ambulance and threw him inside. ’ Police! Help! Police!’ The doors were shut and bolted, and the ambulance raced away. There was a humorless irony in the ludicrous panic of the man screaming for help to the police while policemen were all around him. Yossarian smiled wryly at the futile and ridiculous cry for aid, then saw with a start that the words were ambiguous, realized with alarm that they were not, perhaps, intended as a call for police but as a heroic warning from the grave by a doomed friend to everyone who was not a policeman with a club and a gun and a mob of other policemen with clubs and guns to back him up. ’Help! Police!’ the man had cried, and he could have been shouting of danger.
Joseph Heller
Catch-22

I see Heller more and more as I watch the US devolve into a police state, I have so often thought of the passage I pasted in above as I consider that our 'leaders' -- not my leaders, that's for sure, as I'm not terribly interested in following lying, thieving, conniving, low-rent cold-blooded mass murderers -- are all the time warning us of terrorism, when in fact they are the terrorists. The world is shrieking 'Help! Help! Terrorists! Help!' and our politicians through their media mouthpieces have us convinced that the world is asking us for help from terrorists when in fact it's shrieking at US state terrorism.

The US government is by far the largest terrorist organization on this planet -- who can know how many have died for no reason in Iraq, having done absolutely nothing to the US, nor ever will do anything to the US, my heart breaks when I think back to a video of an Iraqi woman, interviewed before the US rape of Iraq began, and she believed the lies our government spread, she actually believed that her life would be better, the ache comes when I remember her saying how she'd like gardens as we have in the US, a wanting in her eyes; poor sweetie, who wouldn't want nice gardens in their town, who wouldn't want a nice safe place to live?

She's someones daughter, and she's someones mother, and I know that my mother would have had that same look on her face, the same wanting of gardens of beauty, and she'd want it for us kids, too, she'd just know that it'd be so nice, that it could be so nice.

Who knows if that woman is even still alive, has she been killed, have members of her family been killed, has her son been to Abu Gharab, or her husband, or her father or brother, has she been displaced, does she have electricity today, and water, I'm wondering what holiday present to purchase for my brother and she's -- yeah, if she's still alive -- there's a damn good chance she's living in a total hell, created by the US war machine.

She wanted to believe in their lies. She really did. The US really was seen as a decent state, the US had the trust of so many people. Had we come as what we'd said we were coming as -- liberators, to help them -- they'd have welcomed us. But the US war machine wasn't coming to help them, it was coming to fuck them, and it did fuck them, and not politely, either, it didn't care if they had a good time, was it good for them

Too bad she didn't have an internet connection, she'd have known ahead of time that it was all a farce, she could have read the PNAC manifesto and gotten a clue as to what was coming her way, and why.

Never, ever believe what your government tells you. Ever. It might be true, it might not, depends on what they want, it has nothing to do with honor, decency, any other virtue. I learned it with Nixon, I remember as yesterday him saying that he'd end the war in Vietnam in 90 days if elected, and he stretched it on and on, and the joke of "Peace Is At Hand" two or three days before the '72 presidential election, and then -- largest joke of all, and the blackest, too -- Kissinger getting the Nobel Peace Prize. Ha ha ha ha ha! Isn't that just the richest? Ha ha ha ha ha! That piece of dogshit, that lying scumbag, that beady-eyed little scrotum wandering the halls of power... I just love it! Don't you? Comedy gold!

That's as rich as it gets.

It's also really cute that Obama got that same prize before he'd even looked around the white house.

Don't believe them, any of them, ever. They are not in the business of helping you, of caring about you, of keeping your rights protected. They are bought, paid for, they don't get in unless they suck every dick waved in their face, it's part of that game. "The Patriot Act" was written beforehand, it was waiting, it was in hand, these people signed it without reading it, they didn't even have time to read it. Even people who would maybe be decent -- I do believe that many of these people would be decent, probably are decent to their families, their gardeners, their veterinarians, the kid in the grocery store, etc and etc -- even people who would be decent cannot do so in their role as politician. They can't. It's not set up that way. It never has been. It's a filthy business, and it damn sure is a business. The good old days weren't.

Listen to any Bill Hicks routine, the man had his eyes open, for sure. Watch Carlin, some of the stuff later in his life, the man was funny as hell but it's funny because it's true. It doesn't matter what party it is, you can't subscribe to that bs any more, surely this presidency will open your eyes to that fact. Think for yourself, do not listen to anything anyone in any media portal tells you, though I do think that Amy Goodman is pretty damn straight, and the rest of that crew. But think, think think think before you open your mouth to say the word "terrorist" or whatever other word is dreamed up to hook you into the game, into their way of seeing things... No, not their way of seeing things; no, it's their way of wanting *you* to see things -- they see things quite clearly, the entire, odious truths.

The money has been pumped into the war machine and it's pulsing out bombs 24/7/365, the son of a friend of mine joined the navy and was on a carrier and the missions never stop, the bombs keep getting loaded, the planes keep coming back and getting more and taking off again, it goes on and on. It's a horrific nightmare, it's the blackest of black comedies, I would bet you five thousand dollars that in some room somewhere there are pilots controlling drones hurling bombs at brown peasants, I'd bet that in that room next weekend there will be a beautiful, heartfelt moment where all those people rise and sing as one 'Silent Night / Holy Night / All is calm / All is bright' and do so without a hint of irony, not even seeing...

Yeah, I'm ranting. Sue me. I thought about that poor Iraqi woman earlier today, saw this thread tonight, people defending the ongoing horror show...
posted by dancestoblue at 11:09 PM on December 17, 2010 [54 favorites]


"Except that we do, in fact, condone this through the widespread use of violent SWAT tactics."

Point taken, and it is a very good point, although the public attitudes remain somewhat different.

In the case of innocent 'collateral' deaths in SWAT assaults, the public views those as horrible, tragic accidents... and little changes.

In the case of collateral deaths in foreign lands during military conflict, the public views the deaths as the 'price of doing business'.

Perhaps not a difference in outcome, but something of a difference in attitude.
posted by striatic at 11:11 PM on December 17, 2010


May you forever feel morally superior to the people who actually have to keep you safe.

So who are these people and what are they keeping me safe from? Are they keeping me safe from lightning? Because there's a better chance that I will get struck by lightning than ever be killed in a terrorist attack. What about cars? Who's gonna protect me from cars? A better question is who is going to protect us(the citizens of the U.S.A.) and everyone else from our own government?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:11 PM on December 17, 2010 [21 favorites]


Quoting for the truth:

Never, ever believe what your government tells you. Ever. It might be true, it might not, depends on what they want, it has nothing to do with honor, decency, any other virtue. [...] Don't believe them, any of them, ever. They are not in the business of helping you, of caring about you, of keeping your rights protected. They are bought, paid for, they don't get in unless they suck every dick waved in their face, it's part of that game.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:20 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can we at least agree that killing children for freedom is mostly stupid?

Is not! Obviously, we cannot possibly win if we sit at home, 7000 miles from the enemy, and get on with the important business of not giving two hot shits about Afghanistan. No, this is the War On Terror, and we have an overwhelming numerical and technological advantage... which, as we've known since Vietnam, means it's time to fight in someone else's backyard on someone else's terms until we give up and go home.

A strange game: the only winning move is not to play.
posted by vorfeed at 11:30 PM on December 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


who is going to protect us(the citizens of the U.S.A.) and everyone else from our own government?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar

{but you would like to answer that huh}

The Ewoks of course.
posted by clavdivs at 11:50 PM on December 17, 2010


The Ewoks of course.

I'm guessing fictional aliens won't cut it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:11 AM on December 18, 2010


"If it's bullshit that the relatives of the dead can become terrorists that can threaten me, then it's bullshit that the people they're blowing up are terrorists that threaten me now. Or are you having it both ways?"

If we had a military capability as precise and as devastating to its target as that comment was...

...then all we'd be missing is a morality as irrefutable as its logic.
posted by perspicio at 12:38 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


dancestoblue: Don't believe them, any of them, ever. They are not in the business of helping you, of caring about you, of keeping your rights protected.

Now project these anti-government feelings onto health-care, welfare, and every other government run program (run by the same corrupt, not-in-the-business-of-helping-you government) and you might begin to understand what the Tea Party is nattering on about.
posted by three blind mice at 2:04 AM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


In the mean time, the drone attacks has cost one CIA Station Chief his job:

[source]:
The top CIA official in Pakistan has been called back home from Islamabad after his cover was blown allegedly by the ISI, resulting in serious threat to his life.

[..]

The station chief, the official said, was recalled to CIA headquarters because “terrorist threats against him in Pakistan were of such a serious nature that it would be imprudent not to act.”

In Pakistan, Geo News channel quoted an unidentified US embassy official as saying that the CIA station chief in Islamabad was named in a case filed with police by a tribesman who claims his son and brother were killed in an American drone attack.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:05 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


So long as the Arab world produces millions of angry, unemployed men each year, Muslim terrorism is not going to end.

So the best plan would be to find some Muslim areas and destroy them and their property with bombs in an effort to stimulate their economy?

You do realize that the law of war explicitly allows for military action that will kill civilians, right?

Cool. So when these terrorists you're at war with come to America and kill some civilians, that's OK too?
posted by robertc at 3:09 AM on December 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


Let's follow this logic, because it really seems to come to the core of America's seemingly infinite myopathy. The American culture perspective is borderline solipsistic - the idea that only one's own countrymen exist, and perhaps only certain subgroups of those, as human beings

The United States is the preeminent global power. It will be involved around the world, including in the Middle East, for the forseeable future. That means there will always be a root cause that some fanatic can latch onto as sufficient justification for the murder of civilians

We choose to spend huge sums on our military, which results in us being the most militarily powerful country, therefore we need to pick sides and get involved in nearly every messy global conflict - our judgement gets to trump everyone else's, at the end of the day. So just because we've been the biggest defender of what is to many Arabs a pariah state and led and funded various sides of numerous recent and ongoing wars in their region of the world, well of course some of them are going to be angry at us and try to attack us. Probably a very small number, relative to the huge populations of their countries, many of which we either occupy or have active remotely controlled robots attacking every day. All the rest we have troops and special forces and CIA units present in at all times, to catch or kill these small number of fanatics who hate us, and do our best to limit the collateral damage to their innocent countrymen, who we are the true friends of. We have to be there though, that much is certain. We're the world's preeminent global power, you see. Of course people will hate us. We just need to kill those people
posted by crayz at 3:58 AM on December 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


It is very clear to me that while we are often attacked because we "occupy" Arab lands, in many Muslim run nations there is not the feeling that leave us alone and we leave the rest of the non-muslim world alone. Russia and China, to name but two nations, have muslim populations that are not content to be merely citizens within those nations but want to convert or separate from those nations. Then there are Muslims in Africa, also at odds with their non-Muslim neighbors. Yes. Drones are horrific. But Pakistan is filled with militants that even their own govt is unable to control, and that nation has nukes and a military that seems sympathetic to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
And the comment above that we will use drones (hey, we used them along the Mexican border too)till the Palestinians get them is a bit churlish: they use rockets and refuse to accept a legitimate state in that region (Israel).

Of course an argument can be made that 9/11 would not have happened had we not had forces in a Muslim land--Saudi Arabia, there however because they allowed us in to protect them against Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. The Saudi's booted us out after we won and so we moved our forces into Kuwait.

When we have no forces anywhere, we were isolationist. Today, with long-range missiles and globalization, it is difficult to remain so. And though "national interests" is often used as a cover for imperialism, so too, there does exist the need at times to protect what we see as a national interest. Example: do we pull out our troops from South Korea and let the North do whatever its nutty leader wants to do about the South? And Taiwan?

Pakistan is clearly known as a housing ground for Taliban and Al Qaeda, and it remains the route for supplies coming into Afghanistan. Yes. We could exit Afghanistan, allow Taliban to take it over--why not? is it our business who runs it? But there still leaves a nuke armed Pakistan as a major enemy against our partner in arms and in trading, India, another nuke armed nation. Thus it seems we do need to make choices at time.
posted by Postroad at 5:30 AM on December 18, 2010


I think it's pretty easy to sit and call this a "better war" when you're not the one facing direct consequences. It isn't your family getting blown to bits when the drone attacks are mis-targeted, or simply destroy more than the target. It isn't (at least not yet) your homes that are being attacked by people in reprisal for these attacks. It isn't your child who cannot go to school because who knows where the next bomb attack is going to be.

Let there be no mistake. This war is costing the United States a tremendous amount. It's just on credit. For now, it is urban Pakistan that is facing the blowback from the war. The direct result of that is that educated Pakistanis (the ones who were least likely to be radically anti-US before) are becoming more and more angry about American military action in Pakistan. Sitting in the US, it's not easy for you to see how things have changed, and what difference it makes. You look at the numbers, and say "well, we're killing fewer civilians." The fact that most Pakistanis now think that Americans believe American lives are more valuable than anyone else's is going to come back to haunt the US.

The fact that the US was instrumental in creating this problem to begin with is really easy to ignore. Pakistani militants were armed by a military government that was funded and supported by the US. Clinton finally acknowledged this publicly (I guess it was last year) when the whole Kerry Lugar bill furore was going on.

I do not deny the responsibility of nations for their own fates. But to deny American complicity is ridiculous. It was convenient to arm the progenitors of the Taliban when Russia was in Afghanistan. It was convenient to turn a blind eye to the long-term effects of Saudi funding of militants, of supporting the continued existence of a military government in Pakistan, and of the continued lopsided development of the Pakistani military at the expense of Pakistani social development. It was then equally convenient to throw up one's hands in horror at the development of the Pakistani nuclear program, and to put in place economic sanctions, now that the Russians were gone from Afghanistan. That the dogs of war had been let loose was irrelevant to US foreign policy at the time.

Pakistani society has been shaped by this history. To pretend otherwise, to pretend that American actions had no bearing on this is offensive. Religious extremists and militants forged an unholy alliance with American arms, and with Saudi money that the US was happy to see flowing into Pakistan, so that their proxy war could be funded. Those religious extremists and militants now want to take over the world. Were you expecting them to be rational? That they would have measured responses?

Do you have any idea what it's like to live in a place where people wonder whether they should go out for dinner tonight because maybe that restaurant will have become the next target? Do you know what it's like to have to park half a mile away from your place of work because no motor vehicles are allowed past the barricade anymore? Do you know what it's like to scan the news every night for news of your home country, dreading that there will be another explosion somewhere?

The drone war is never going to end terrorism. All that's happening is that a lid is being put on a pot of milk that's about to boil over. Urban Pakistan is close enough that we're getting scalded by what's spilling out right now. But I dread to think of what will happen when the lid blows off.
posted by bardophile at 5:46 AM on December 18, 2010 [23 favorites]


Because there's a better chance that I will get struck by lightning than ever be killed in a terrorist attack. What about cars? Who's gonna protect me from cars?

I'm not all rah-rah War on Terror but I also don't pretend that this is an entirely black and white issue. How, I sometimes ask myself, do I know that the only reason there haven't been more 9-11s and thus a very much higher likelihood of getting killed in a terrorist attack is cuz the US responded to 9-11 with outright war? I don't. I suspect that the lack of subsequent attacks has nothing to do with the War on Terror, but I cannot completely discount the idea.
posted by spicynuts at 6:04 AM on December 18, 2010


Tariq Ali considers Pakistan to be a US satrapy whose military and political leaders are a venal elite, happy to kill and maim its own people at the behest of a foreign power. As quoted by Fatimah Bhutto in her article A Flood of Drone Stikes; What the Wikileaks Revelations Tell Us About How Washington Runs Pakistan.
posted by adamvasco at 6:13 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


mhoye ... your cite ... wikipedia
posted by jannw at 6:33 AM on December 18, 2010


You do realize that the law of war explicitly allows for military action that will kill civilians, right?

i realize that congress has yet to declare an actual war against pakistan - or yemen - or afghanistan or iraq, for that matter - we are not even following our own basic law, the constitution, when it comes to what we are doing

the effects are not anything as simple as, "we're bombing civilians, so we're making terrorists", although that may be one plausible result

we are also spending money we don't really have on these wars - we have damaged our standing in the world to the point where in a future crisis, we may find a serious lack of cooperation or outright hostility that will negatively affect the outcome - we have also committed our military to the point where we will be very hard put to it to deal with a major blow up in another part of the world

is this endless war on terror protecting us against a looming 2nd korean war? - are we prepared for that? - are our current military adventures protecting us from the prospect of mexico sliding into civil war or anarchy and the troubles spilling over our borders? - is anything we are doing in pakistan preparing us for the possible destabilization of this country and possession of nuclear bombs by islamic radicals? - no, and i think we may be making that outcome more likely with our current actions

i'm afraid history will record that while we were bogged down with our war on terror we allowed other vital interests in the world to get out of hand and when they finally did, we were utterly unprepared to deal with them and our military was in the wrong place at the wrong time, in a world that became increasingly unfriendly to us

we will not pay for our drone wars with increased terrorism - we will pay with our inability to react to other situations in a timely manner

we are in a far more dangerous situation than we were on sept 12, 2001 and very few people seem to realize this or that it has nothing to do with terrorists - and we are not ready
posted by pyramid termite at 6:57 AM on December 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


.
posted by Drasher at 7:28 AM on December 18, 2010


dancestoblue: Don't believe them, any of them, ever. They are not in the business of helping you, of caring about you, of keeping your rights protected.

Now project these anti-government feelings onto health-care, welfare, and every other government run program (run by the same corrupt, not-in-the-business-of-helping-you government) and you might begin to understand what the Tea Party is nattering on about.


Well let's see... they did deliver us like sheep to the insurance companies, who are large campaign contributors, rather than even considering a single-payer universal healthcare option....
posted by Hal Mumkin at 7:31 AM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Except that before the US had forces Iraq and Afghanistan, and before it used drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and Pakistan, it was still being attacked.

The U.S. was being attacked?

Please clarify:And for extra credit: …and that's just his first sentence.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:40 AM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


You do realize that the law of war explicitly allows for military action that will kill civilians, right?

Really? There's a law about that?

I'm have to admit I'm surprised; the only one I'm aware of in that vein is the fourth of the four Geneva Conventions, which basically says exactly the opposite of that.

Do you have a citation?
There are lots of laws concerning armed conflict, bashed out in many a treaty. However, and with some sadness, I cannot count the Treaty of Westphalia amongst them.
posted by dougrayrankin at 7:44 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


How, I sometimes ask myself, do I know that the only reason there haven't been more 9-11s and thus a very much higher likelihood of getting killed in a terrorist attack is cuz the US responded to 9-11 with outright war?

The difference between the "War on Terror" and Homer's tiger-repellant rock is that the latter doesn't result in this.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:46 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I may chip in, I think for me the reasoning is something like this:

1. The US was attacked.

2. It cannot fight a perfect war, killing only those who would kill. It cannot do nothing.

3. It's fighting the only way it can, and sadly people are being killed who should not be.

It sucks. I'm not claiming the US was/is completely innocent, but flying airliners into towers full of civilians was taking the piss.
posted by dougrayrankin at 7:57 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The American culture perspective is borderline solipsistic - the idea that only one's own countrymen exist, and perhaps only certain subgroups of those, as human beings

You know, every time I hear anyone say something like this, the only conclusion I can draw is that the commenter has never visited any other country in any capacity other than to sit around in the tourist section. I've heard Romanians talk about Jews and gays as if they were subhuman, I've heard Croatians talk about Bosnians as if they were animals, don't get me started on the French, the Russians and Israel. I mean, this is not an American trait. It's a human trait. The fact that America is the current, single reigning super-power just makes our human failings much more public. Seriously man...go to Romania and start talking about Jews.
posted by spicynuts at 8:00 AM on December 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Related: ACLU sues Obama over his assertion that he the right to order the killing of a US citizen anywhere in the world, with no judicial process whatsoever. I wish I was making this up or exaggerating..

I'm glad I renewed my membership recently. I don't know how successful they will be, but at least they're pursuing legal means to stop it.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:06 AM on December 18, 2010


dougrayrankin: "If I may chip in, I think for me the reasoning is something like this:

1. The US was attacked.

2. It cannot fight a perfect war, killing only those who would kill. It cannot do nothing.

3. It's fighting the only way it can, and sadly people are being killed who should not be.

It sucks. I'm not claiming the US was/is completely innocent, but flying airliners into towers full of civilians was taking the piss.
"


Do you have any proof whatsoever that the people being murdered in the NWFP ("militant" or not) are in any way responsible for the attacks which took place on 9/11? And do you honestly feel that targeting these individuals makes the U.S. safer? How would you like it if the civilians who died in the Twin Towers were labeled "collateral damage" of the intended target - America's economy and it's false sense of invincibility?
posted by gman at 8:12 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


When we have no forces anywhere, we were isolationist.

When, pray tell, was this mythical time in history? The U.S. has always been expansionist from the founding up until present day.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:24 AM on December 18, 2010


How would you like it if the civilians who died in the Twin Towers were labeled "collateral damage" of the intended target - America's economy and it's false sense of invincibility?

It's a spurious comparison.

1. Only America and those acting on her behalf are allowed to decide when strategic concerns necessitate civilian deaths.

2. We always consider those deaths regrettable.

3. Muslim lives are not as valuable as American lives.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:24 AM on December 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Do you have any proof whatsoever that the people being murdered in the NWFP ("militant" or not) are in any way responsible for the attacks which took place on 9/11? And do you honestly feel that targeting these individuals makes the U.S. safer? How would you like it if the civilians who died in the Twin Towers were labeled "collateral damage" of the intended target - America's economy and it's false sense of invincibility?
I apologise, I shouldn't have made such a loose connection. At present, the ongoing plots to target the mainland US and Europe are primarily coming from the AQ Senior Leadership in the region, as well as Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan, currently being run by Hakimullah Mehsud. The recent September upsurge in drone strikes (more in September 2010 than in the many years prior if memory serves) was in response to intelligence suggesting an imminent threat.

I mean, I suppose you can say I don't have the recorded phone intercepts here, with signed statements of authenticity by three trustworthy and independent individuals who witnessed the intercept and checked the equipment for serviceability, but the truth of the matter is that the region represents a clear and present danger.

You were right to suggest that there is no direct link to the 9/11 attacks with NWFP (now actually known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), but neither did the drone strikes start hitting the region in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The drone strikes began as militants in Afghanistan began making extensive use of the "safe havens" in Pakistan, much as the North Vietnamese did in Cambodia.

Ultimately, were the Pakistani Military more able/willing to enter North Waziristan and clear it as they have done/are doing in South Waziristan at present, there would be less of a need for drone strikes and (as strange as it sounds to say this), it is better that a Pakistani militant is killed by a Pakistani soldier than a UAV manufactured in Texas and piloted from Nevada. However, General Kayani and Foreign Minister Qureshi have both stated they'll go in when they're ready. America, pulling out from Afghanistan in a few years, is getting jittery.

At least that's how I see it.
posted by dougrayrankin at 8:34 AM on December 18, 2010


Just to add... even the Pakistanis themselves think the Pakistani Army should deal with the presence of militants in the region.
posted by dougrayrankin at 8:40 AM on December 18, 2010


I mean, this is not an American trait. It's a human trait. The fact that America is the current, single reigning super-power just makes our human failings much more public.

You are absolutely right that it is a human trait. However, America's current position in the world doesn't just make those failings more public, it also makes them more damaging, in practical terms. As would be true of any superpower engaged in armed conflict in so many different places in the world.
posted by bardophile at 8:45 AM on December 18, 2010


(as strange as it sounds to say this), it is better that a Pakistani militant is killed by a Pakistani soldier than a UAV manufactured in Texas and piloted from Nevada

I'm not so sure.

To return to my earlier analogy, which would make you likelier to want the violent overthrow of the US government? Finding your loved one - or what pieces are left of them - dead from a French drone bomber? Or shot by a US soldier following orders dictated in Paris?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:46 AM on December 18, 2010


To return to my earlier analogy, which would make you likelier to want the violent overthrow of the US government? Finding your loved one - or what pieces are left of them - dead from a French drone bomber? Or shot by a US soldier following orders dictated in Paris?
I was speaking from the point of view of the Pakistani people as a whole. The drone strikes are seen as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. The Pakistani public as a whole, and not just those in the affected regions, are opposed to the drone strikes yet simultaneously supportive of Pakistani Army operations against the militants.
posted by dougrayrankin at 9:01 AM on December 18, 2010


The drone strikes are seen as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. The Pakistani public as a whole, and not just those in the affected regions, are opposed to the drone strikes yt simultaneously supportive of Pakistani Army operations against the militants.

If you're gathering that from the link you posted, your interpretation is inaccurate. The poll was of 1000 FATA residents. That's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Of which North and South Waziristan are both part.
posted by bardophile at 9:07 AM on December 18, 2010


But that group over there, that group we kill, is composed of people that aren't us! I don't get how we are so caught up in whether or not they feel pain or have emotions. They are not of our tribe. We cannot know these things.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:08 AM on December 18, 2010


> I see Heller more and more as I watch the US devolve into a police state

Then don't pay your federal taxes this year. Send the money to the ACLU instead.
posted by msittig at 9:10 AM on December 18, 2010


If you're gathering that from the link you posted, your interpretation is inaccurate. The poll was of 1000 FATA residents. That's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Of which North and South Waziristan are both part.
No, not from that link. I've been following the whole region with interest... mostly cause of things I've read here on the blue to be honest. I understand you are from Pakistan? Or grew up there or something? Perhaps you can provide input on what you think is the general public opinion?
posted by dougrayrankin at 9:17 AM on December 18, 2010


I mean, this is not an American trait. It's a human trait.

The thing that makes America solipsistic is that we, more than any other nation, go around stomping on all those "others", and then when they ever hit back, can't begin to understand why

You again reiterate "we're the reigning superpower." Why? Why does the US put more money towards its military than any country on earth, more as a percent of GDP than nearly any other country - certainly any other world power. In fact there's a good argument to be made that we may be in the top 5 countries on earth for spending as a percent of GDP

This is just some fact of the world, according to you. We must spend this absurd, disproportionate amount of money on our military, knowing full well it well this giant war machine will end up directed against faceless enemies in immoral wars of agression. How can anyone blame us for bankrupting our country trying to hold onto a crumbling global empire?
posted by crayz at 9:20 AM on December 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Dasein, try this on for size. Most people in tribal areas of Afghanistan have no idea that 9/11 even happened, and yet they are now living in a war zone.

Then they probably shouldn't have let the weird guys with magic talking boxes and computer-machines stay with them for a while. Not saying they deserve to be killed, but they did have an out.

Don't we all have uncles, nephews and friends of friends who we DON'T let crash with us because we know trouble follows them?


Further. You can't just walk away. Bush started these wars, and Obama is stuck with the responsibility to end them in the least harmful way possible. This is what he and his advisors think that is.

There is ZERO evidence that there is a better way that leads to less bloodshed.
posted by gjc at 9:21 AM on December 18, 2010


Then they probably shouldn't have let the weird guys with magic talking boxes and computer-machines stay with them for a while. Not saying they deserve to be killed, but they did have an out.
Mullah Omar was between a rock and a hard place in that he couldn't hand over his guest, Bin Laden, as to do so would be a violation of the Pashtun code of honour, Pashtunwali.
posted by dougrayrankin at 9:27 AM on December 18, 2010


3. It's fighting the only way it can, and sadly people are being killed who should not be.

Fighting the only way it can? What does that mean? You make it sound like it's a forgone conclusion, that the US is an entity apart from the people who live there, that it's some lumbering radioactive beast we call from the depths of the ocean like Godzilla, helpful but unaware of its own strength, and mostly violent and out of control. We are still rational actors here, and we're in control of the decisions we make.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:27 AM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


If I may chip in, I think for me the reasoning is something like this

Let me try your reasoning a different way round:
1. My country was attacked.

2. We cannot fight a perfect war, killing only those who would kill. We cannot do nothing.

3. We're fighting the only way we can, and sadly people are being killed who should not be.

It sucks. I'm not claiming we are/were completely innocent, but flying airliners into towers full of civilians is the only thing we can afford to do that our enemies would notice.
It's also funny (in a sad way) that the entire argument hinges on the "we cannot do nothing" line, I must have misinterpreted that "turn the other cheek" idea.
posted by robertc at 9:30 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is ZERO evidence that there is a better way that leads to less bloodshed.

A better way to what? What is the goal here? Because we're increasingly likely to cut a deal with the Taliban to get this thing done. A military "defeat" which results in a local population which hates the US is about the worst outcome imaginable.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:31 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fighting the only way it can? What does that mean? You make it sound like it's a forgone conclusion, that the US is an entity apart from the people who live there, that it's some lumbering radioactive beast we call from the depths of the ocean like Godzilla, helpful but unaware of its own strength, and mostly violent and out of control. We are still rational actors here, and we're in control of the decisions we make.
I meant that the US, and most Western nations, have spent the last fifty years planning and training to fight a conventional war against an enemy who have tanks, artillery, air support and uniforms. An enemy who obeys the law of armed conflict.

They're not fighting the way they hoped for, or planned for, and are struggling to learn what works and what doesn't and how to balance the positive effect of killing terrorist leaders against the negative effects of civilian deaths as a result.
posted by dougrayrankin at 9:33 AM on December 18, 2010


Don't we all have uncles, nephews and friends of friends who we DON'T let crash with us because we know trouble follows them?

If my house was blown up with me in it after the first time it happened then I'm sure I'd learn the lesson, but I wouldn't really get a chance to implement it.
posted by robertc at 9:33 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's also funny (in a sad way) that the entire argument hinges on the "we cannot do nothing" line, I must have misinterpreted that "turn the other cheek" idea.
I don't think this is the time nor the place to debate the validity of Christian doctrine.
posted by dougrayrankin at 9:35 AM on December 18, 2010


I meant that the US, and most Western nations, have spent the last fifty years planning and training to fight a conventional war against an enemy who have tanks, artillery, air support and uniforms. An enemy who obeys the law of armed conflict.

That seems a bit myopic given, you know, Vietnam and all that. Have they spent the last 40 years trying to pretend that didn't happen?
posted by robertc at 9:35 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think this is the time nor the place to debate the validity of Christian doctrine.

I wasn't. "Turn the other cheek" is a good idea, irrespective of the general validity (or otherwise) of Christian doctrine, if you want to defuse violence rather than escalate it.
posted by robertc at 9:39 AM on December 18, 2010


That seems a bit myopic given, you know, Vietnam and all that. Have they spent the last 40 years trying to pretend that didn't happen?
Even during the Vietnam war, the principal focus of American military doctrine was "Prevent Spread of Communism, prepare to fight the Soviets". Besides, the Vietnam war itself was only in part a counter-insurgency. What's happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan is nothing but a counter-insurgency. Something that our military commanders are slowly beginning to realise.
posted by dougrayrankin at 9:42 AM on December 18, 2010


It's fighting the only way it can...

Here's an idea: build, rather than destroy. In my (admittedly idealistic) version of the action in Afghanistan, the U.S. built and defended cell phone towers for a decade, and rained cel phones down on villages, rather than death. For a net cost savings, and a net gain rather than a steep loss of good will. Ten years of this might have been enough to see an improvement in living standards, in the ability of women to communicate and organize.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:45 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wasn't. "Turn the other cheek" is a good idea, irrespective of the general validity (or otherwise) of Christian doctrine, if you want to defuse violence rather than escalate it.
Fortunately for Jesus, he was not dealing with an endless supply of people who would blow themselves and others up and would not compromise until a global caliphate is established. You see, "turn the other cheek" works when facing a rational opponent. Radical Islamists are the antithesis or rationality. As I've said to others before... your ideas are nice on paper, but not particularly realistic.
posted by dougrayrankin at 9:46 AM on December 18, 2010


Here's an idea: build, rather than destroy. In my (admittedly idealistic) version of the action in Afghanistan, the U.S. built and defended cell phone towers for a decade, and rained cel phones down on villages, rather than death. For a net cost savings, and a net gain rather than a steep loss of good will. Ten years of this might have been enough to see an improvement in living standards, in the ability of women to communicate and organize.
You mean like this? It's a common thing, but unfortunately it tends to make a fine target for those who oppose development.
posted by dougrayrankin at 9:49 AM on December 18, 2010


I don't know what I would call general public opinion. Mixed, I guess. Everyone wants the terrorist attacks to stop. The vast majority wants the US to stop attacking Pakistan. A possibly marginally smaller majority wants the militants stopped by whatever means necessary. But, when it comes to whether the Pakistani military should do it or not, opinion is really mixed. Some argue that military action is not going to work. Some argue that it is necessary. Everyone agrees that it is a godawful mess. I don't think very many Pakistanis are hopeful that this is going to be solved for this generation.

The Pashtuns have a long history of making war. Anyone who has read up on the area knows, for example, that the British decided that it was simpler to simply sign treaties with them than to further attempt subjugation. The Brits famously fought two disastrous wars in Afghanistan. Feuds go on for generations in this culture. Not taking revenge is a slight upon the family honour. Most of urban Pakistan regards Pathans in much the same light as people from "the East" regarded wild woolly cowboys. With good reason. To expect that military action against them is going to end in a lasting peace, without first killing every last one of them is probably unrealistic. Killing every last one of them is completely unacceptable to me and most Pakistanis.

So there are probably better ways to get them to stop blowing people up than by attacking them militarily.

A friend of mine in Lahore is part Pathan. He is also an economist who often does development work in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (and also FATA, IIRC). One time, when he was in what was then NWFP, he was talking to a Pathan villager. Upon being asked about whether his kids went to school the man told him that he had several children, but they couldn't go to school because his wife had died in childbirth, and the elder children did the housework and childcare. My friend asked him how the woman had died and was told that it was because there hadn't been a female doctor in the village, so she never got seen by a doctor. "So you're telling me that you let your wife die rather than have her seen by a male doctor?" It was a matter of honour, he was told. My friend was angry enough that he ignored the fact that this man was carrying a large rifle, and said "You know, Khan, you better make damn sure your daughter gets an education. So that tomorrow, when one of your daughters is having a child and needs a doctor, she doesn't die because there still isn't a female doctor in the village." The man's face reddened, and my friend's colleague was terrified, saying to him in English "What the hell do you think you're doing? He'll shoot you!" (Please note that this was not an ill-founded fear. It was perfectly likely.) Anyway, what was done was done, and fortunately, the Pathan villager walked away.

But the thing is, the next morning, he marched all his kids to school.
posted by bardophile at 9:50 AM on December 18, 2010 [12 favorites]


it tends to make a fine target for those who oppose development.

That's true, to some degree. But there, again, the real opposition to development is coming from people who simply want to retain their hold on a woefully neglected people. The easiest way for them to discredit an initiative is to show that there is some connection with the US. This is only true because of all the mistrust engendered by American military action and the knowledge with the tribal areas that they were initially armed by "the dollar".
posted by bardophile at 9:53 AM on December 18, 2010


I don't think this is the time nor the place to debate the validity of Christian doctrine.
Too Late.
Military spending millions to urge soldiers to kill for Jesus
posted by adamvasco at 9:55 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]



I don't think this is the time nor the place to debate the validity of Christian doctrine.

MULTICULTURAL MOMENT: The ethical debate regarding Hospitality vs. Hostility is and has not ever been exclusive to Christendom. It isn't even, strictly speaking, a theological issue. Even Game Theory gets into it, and it is not uncommon for the most optimization-crazed utilitarian to come down on the side of "don't kill the monstrous stranger."
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:55 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can't just walk away. Bush started these wars, and Obama is stuck with the responsibility to end them in the least harmful way possible.

Actually, Jimmy Carter started them.

This decision of the Carter Administration in 1979 to intervene and destabilise Afghanistan is the root cause of Afghanistan's destruction as a nation.

And the least harmful way of ending them is to immediately order the complete withdrawal of all American forces from the region - a process that will take months, if not years.

Anything else is a cocktail of American Exceptionalism and White Man's Burden.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:56 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


CAAAAAAAARRRRRRRTERRRRR
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:57 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


As I've said to others before... your ideas are nice on paper, but not particularly realistic.

Realistically if, following September 11th, rather than stomping off and invading two other countries, the US had upgraded airport security some and increased political pressure on Middle Eastern nations thought to be harbouring terrorists - how many Americans would have died at the hands of terrorists?
posted by robertc at 10:08 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


What ever wrong you have suffered, violence against the United States will only make your problems worse. There are many non violent ways to resolve your problems. Sheltere those who make make violence against us or do violence and you and your village will only know more sorrow.
posted by humanfont at 10:09 AM on December 18, 2010


What ever wrong you have suffered, violence against the United States will only make your problems worse. There are many non violent ways to resolve your problems. Sheltere those who make make violence against us or do violence and you and your village will only know more sorrow.

Doesn't that work equally well if you remove "against the United States" and "against us"?
posted by bardophile at 10:14 AM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


There are many non violent ways to resolve your problems.

I wish we had one.

Sheltere those who make make violence against us or do violence and you and your village will only know more sorrow.

Have I mentioned how creepy you sound when you write stuff like this?
posted by Joe Beese at 10:14 AM on December 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Fortunately for Jesus, he was not dealing with an endless supply of people who would blow themselves and others up...

He was dealing with the Roman Empire, among many other enemies. I'd rather face a ragged bunch of soccer players than those Roman guys.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:16 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


You mean like this?

The link provided points to a report that generates a 404 error, so I can't answer your question.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:20 AM on December 18, 2010


The most unmanly thing Uncle Sam ever did was cry and punch back. We coulda been the tough guy at the pool table. Stared them down, like, who the fuck punches me in the ankle? What are you trying to prove? I'm a multi-trillion dollar economy with a military that could ruin you. Do you think that did anything but irritate me? You haven't even bruised me. If we just put in play one simple rule after 9/11, a rule just like the one for people sitting in the the emergency rows except in this case it would be for the first few rows of all Aircrafts: "You protect this motherfucking plane. You cannot have a heart condition if you sit here. You must be able to lift 50 pounds if you sit here. Here is a stun gun and a baton behind some safety glass. It is a federal offense to break this glass." Then we would look like the bad asses we could have been. Instead all it takes is shit like a guy with a shoe bomb to make us flip the fuck out like there is a mouse in the kitchen. America = Wusses.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:27 AM on December 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


lol
posted by clavdivs at 10:44 AM on December 18, 2010


Nigeria drops Cheney graft charges

I was worried for a moment.

He was dealing with the Roman Empire, among many other enemies

Jesus did not 'deal' with the romans, he just expalined how impotant they were.
posted by clavdivs at 11:03 AM on December 18, 2010


Today I sat with a young Afghan Uniformed Police officer and helped him learn how to read Dari. He spelled Afghanistan, mother and father. While I was helping him, it occurred to me, what's going to happen to this guy? When I leave, when we leave, is he going to get killed? For what? Because he wanted to be a policeman, because that's the best job a guy who cannot read can get?

Two weeks ago, two miles from here, two men wearing the same uniform killed twelve of his fellow AUP officers with suicide vests.

I see a lot of bullshit, waste and stupidity here, but in my opinion we are trying, however fumblingly, to make this a better place.

Pakistan could stop this tomorrow, if they wanted to.

Do I think it's awful, terrible, that someone's child is caught in the crossfire, blasted by a Hellfire missile? Of course I do. I have a little girl that I love more than anything in this world. But, but; that guy dragged his family into this. That guy wants me to die. Wants my friend to die. Well, fuck him.
posted by atchafalaya at 11:15 AM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh we're so hurt by you by calling us wussies, or telling us that we are over compensating for our tiny peni by building great huge missiles. Are you going to call us sone sissy pants next, with a pink brigade or faggy soldiers that's got girls in uniform. You going to say we're all a bunch of stupid video game junkies next, or maybe just a nation of doughboy shopkeepers. Well guess what, those girlie fag loving unstable sissies are going to lay the fucking pain and sorrow on your nation for a few generations while we churn out a few more gay vampire chick flicks. We are going to be more concerned about if Bella will end up with Edward or Jacob, and how Coco got screwed by Leno, than we will about if our autonomous robot bomber hit your house, or the house next door. Pray to your gods for deliverance, call us your most filthy insults, hold in your heart a blackness if that really makes you feel better. We don't give a shit. You start sending sticks and stones, or suicide boomers against us though and we are going to hit back. When blows are falling down upon your nation, you can decide if your taunts were accurate or are providing you any measure of protection.
posted by humanfont at 11:19 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Doesn't that work equally well if you remove "against the United States" and "against us"?

Greg Mortenson's Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan illustrates this principle in action. Actually I thought it was much better than his first book, Three Cups of Tea.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:21 AM on December 18, 2010


Humanfont, you hit the nail on the head. That is the voice of America as it is heard by the world.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:28 AM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Pakistan could stop this tomorrow, if they wanted to.

That's simply not true for several reasons:
1) "Pakistan" is not a monolithic entity.
2) "this" is a really messed up situation that is the result of hundreds of years of history.
3) Even if you were to take "Pakistan" to mean "the Pakistani government" or "the Pakistani army" they do not have the wherewithal or the moral authority to rein in the military insurgents.
4) If by "Pakistan" you mean "the insurgents," then they also are not some unified group that do things as one.


To act as if the Afghans are hapless victims while all the trouble is coming from Pakistan is simplistic to a dangerous degree. Many of the problems that you see in Afghanistan are just as present in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Viewing the situation as simplistically as you seem to is extremely problematic, in practical terms, as well as moral ones.
posted by bardophile at 11:29 AM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


A little more about the CIA Station Chief whose his cover was blown in a legal action brought by victims of US drone strikes in the tribal belt.
The officer, named in Pakistan as Jonathan Banks, left the country yesterday, after a tribesman publicly accused him of being responsible for the death of his brother and son in a CIA drone strike in December 2009. Karim Khan, a journalist from North Waziristan, called for Banks to be charged with murder and executed and also sought $500 million damages.
posted by adamvasco at 12:37 PM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Karim Khan, a journalist from North Waziristan, called for Banks to be charged with murder and executed and also sought $500 million damages.
That's what I like to see. People marching from the FATA to Islamabad and standing there saying "You've wronged me, I expect recompense." - I'm not being facetious either. If every family member of those killed in the drone strikes did the same, the political pressure to reconsider the strikes would be immense.

It's easy to dismiss civilian "collateral damage" when they remain nameless. Let's see the families turn up and tell the press about their sons, their daughters, their brothers, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers that were killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
posted by dougrayrankin at 12:49 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


ongoing plots to target the mainland US and Europe are primarily coming from the AQ Senior Leadership in the region

Well, the U.S. story you link to says:

Mr Shahzad has told investigators he acted alone, unnamed US law enforcement officials say. However, they are still exploring whether he or others who might have been involved had been in contact with people or groups overseas...


This is so vague as to be absurd.

The story goes on:


There is scepticism among experts in Pakistan about a direct Taliban link, our correspondent adds.

This is so confused - why would "The Taliban" a loosely aligned group of tribal leaders in Afghanistan, have an interest in setting off a bomb in the U.S.? They do not. How many degrees of separation constitutes "a link"? Six?


There are numerous militant groups, and potentially hundreds of people an individual could approach for militant training in Pakistan.


As the yt link I posted earlier points out, the bombers pay for training out of their own pocket. They are disaffected youth without much in the way of options for a prosperous life, and try to find meaning for their lives in other ways.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 12:49 PM on December 18, 2010


This is so confused - why would "The Taliban" a loosely aligned group of tribal leaders in Afghanistan, have an interest in setting off a bomb in the U.S.? They do not.
They do.
posted by dougrayrankin at 1:35 PM on December 18, 2010


This is so confused - why would "The Taliban" a loosely aligned group of tribal leaders in Afghanistan, have an interest in setting off a bomb in the U.S.? They do not.

They do.

they do *now*. did you read the article? they're vowing *revenge* attacks.
posted by sineater at 1:48 PM on December 18, 2010


>>Let's see the families turn up and tell the press about their sons, their daughters, their brothers, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers that were killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

>>tell the press

>>the press


You almost tricked me into having some hope there for a minute.
posted by Trochanter at 2:39 PM on December 18, 2010


they do *now*. did you read the article? they're vowing *revenge* attacks.
*After* the US targeted them for providing support to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
posted by dougrayrankin at 2:48 PM on December 18, 2010


I will agree that my wider, possibly more nuanced view of the conflict here has narrowed since I've gotten here.

I'm not sure your perspective is more correct than mine, however.

I do believe the Taliban are essentially an element of Pakistani policy, and as such are funded and otherwise aided by Pakistan, and without whose aid and direction would not prevail here in Afghanistan. I firmly believe they do not represent the desires of anywhere near the majority of people here, but rather represent the desire of at least part of the Pakistani government to ensure Afghanistan remains a weak client state.

As part of this strategy by Pakistan, they would also like to kill me and the people who are trying to govern Afghanistan.

For this reason, my perspective has, as you have noted, simplified somewhat.
posted by atchafalaya at 3:14 PM on December 18, 2010


We cannot do nothing.

after 9 years of war in afghanistan, i don't see how anyone could be accused of doing nothing, even if every troop was withdrawn tomorrow

we've done plenty - and it hasn't worked
posted by pyramid termite at 3:36 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dasein, your description of a drone strike was very vivid, especially the bit where it says that "After the dust cloud dissipated, all that remained of Mehsud was a detached torso." But this article cites two of his lieutenants as saying that he died a fortnight later from injuries that he received in the air strike. Were they lying - to what point? - or is it more probable that the drone's operator really wasn't able to distinguish between the torso of Baitullah Mehsud and that of, say, one of his children? Isn't it likely that the hecatombs counted by your armed forces are really padded out by the mangled bodies of civilians?
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:06 PM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Gman cited: Our study shows that the 209 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, including 113 in 2010, from 2004 to the present have killed approximately between 1,320 and 2,049 individuals, of whom around 1,009 to 1,512 were described as militants in reliable press accounts. Thus, the true non-militant fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 25 percent. In 2010, it is more like six percent.

As someone else pointed out, most of those strikes give the number of civilians killed as "unknown". So they can't support any conclusion about a "non-militant fatality rate". Even if they were to give a civilian death rate it couldn't be very accurate since the sources can't distinguish between 1320 and 2049 people. And the threshold for accuracy is amazingly low - "described as militants in reliable press accounts"? Really?

But my real interest is the table they give for "Strikes by Target". In 2009 it says that your military struck at 44 Taliban (Taliban + Haqqani + Mehsud) targets, 10 Al-Qaeda targets, and 4 "Unclear/Other" targets. So about 7% of your targets in 2009 were "unclear/other". In the current year you struck 58 Taliban, 7 Al-Qaeda and 66 "unclear/other". So this table says that most of your drone attacks are now against unidentified, perhaps unidentifiable Afghani groups. Where are these people coming from? I suggest that you are creating your own resistance and you have lost the war.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:06 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Fourth Geneva Convention doesn't seem to address what we today might call "collateral damage".

I'm late getting back to this party, for which I apologize, but my point wasn't that the Geneva Conventions prohibit civilian deaths, full stop; I wanted only to point out that Dasein's idea of what constitutes "the laws of war" was fabricated entirely out of his own macho posturing, and not out of anything resembling an international treaty, convention or official document of any kind. I defy you to find an international agreement of any kind saying anything that amounts to "killing civilians is totally acceptable under the following circumstances".

The followup assertion that it is "all about proportionality" is likewise one that accomplishes the trick of conceding that there is a moral element to the application of force while deferring to a (nonexistent, it turns out) law in order to avoid having to confront the questions that raises. Which is, I should tell you, just a classic Keyboard Kommando finishing move; it turns out nobody believes that it's OK to just follow orders but if you're obeying the laws, well that's different! Unless, of course, when you're making those laws up on the spot.
posted by mhoye at 6:20 PM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh we're so hurt by you by calling us wussies, or telling us that we are over compensating for our tiny peni by building great huge missiles. Are you going to call us sone sissy pants next, with a pink brigade or faggy soldiers that's got girls in uniform. You going to say we're all a bunch of stupid video game junkies next, or maybe just a nation of doughboy shopkeepers. Well guess what, those girlie fag loving unstable sissies are going to lay the fucking pain and sorrow on your nation for a few generations while we churn out a few more gay vampire chick flicks. We are going to be more concerned about if Bella will end up with Edward or Jacob, and how Coco got screwed by Leno, than we will about if our autonomous robot bomber hit your house, or the house next door. Pray to your gods for deliverance, call us your most filthy insults, hold in your heart a blackness if that really makes you feel better. We don't give a shit. You start sending sticks and stones, or suicide boomers against us though and we are going to hit back. When blows are falling down upon your nation, you can decide if your taunts were accurate or are providing you any measure of protection.

WTF is this shit? All this tells me is that our actions are no better than any other genocidal empire that has existed over the last five millenia.

You do realize that our wars are bankrupting our country and we are wasting money that could be spent elsewhere. Here are a few areas that this money could be well spent: space exploration, a large hadron collider bigger than CERN's, fixing our crumbling infrastructure, healthcare for our children, education for our children, investments in renewable energy production reserch, investing in a large scale land management scheme which will create carbon sinks to offset our carbon footprint setting an example for the rest of the world to followe, and most importantly investing in the proven green technologies such as solar and wind. I know it's a radical concept investing in things that have the potential to pay off in the future.

"Their taunts" are not "providing them any protection" because they are using their bodies and lands as sponges sucking up our treasury until one morning the American people wake up and realize there is nothing left but endless war and our standard of living and education will be no better than those upon who we are laying "the fucking pain and sorrow" on.

I know that we are not spending money but borrowing it. Regardless what does it tell you about our leaders that they are willing to borrow billions of dollars to spend on endless war but not to invest in our future. Need billions to spend on a war or bail out wall street...here you go no problem. Health care or education...not so much.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:32 PM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know that we are not spending money but borrowing it

Correction we are printing it. Do you know who grew their solar enegy production by 38% and became a net solar exporter thanks to stimulus spending and tax credits, now funded for the next two years thanks to our Presidents apparently not so bad negotiating skills. You know what else we've cut our total presence in Iraq to a third of what it was on the day he took office.

Are we better than Rome, the British Empire, or the other empires that are now in the history books. I like to think so. At the end of WWII we chose to take the british empire apart and replace it with the IMF, World Bank and what became the WTO. We created a new international trading system based on the dollar, but one that allowed a much more open trading system between all participating countries. The result was a far more peaceful world than we'd known previously. Consider that the only major full scale war in Europe was fought amoungst the Balkans, not France / Germany and the UK. We really screwed up in Latin America and Iran. However we've gotten a lot better since the Nicaragua fiasco with the Contras. Hugo Chavez makes his speeches all the time, and sure we'd not be terribly happy about him being deposed, but it isn't like we really went out on the limb for the guys who plotted the coup against him. I mean america of 1955 would have sent in the marines and the CIA with bags of cash, the Bush Admin (not noted for it's progressive worldview) barely managed a press release neither supporting nor condmening the act. Our misguided neocons seem to have been more idealists than realists in their approach to Iraq, which is why the whole thing went terribly wrong. They actually thought they could conquer Iraq, privatise state industries, get rid of welfare and create a conservative paradise showcase of democracy. That's how fucked up it was. We forced the palestinians to hold an election when Hamas, our mortal enemy was up twenty points in the polls.
posted by humanfont at 7:46 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are we better than Rome, the British Empire...

At this moment, sir, you are not. You are perhaps no worse, but while you are killing goat herders and their families in third world countries by firing intelligent missiles from robot planes, you are certainly no better.
posted by Trochanter at 7:57 PM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do you know who grew their solar enegy production by 38%

So, like 1% of the total or something?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:13 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


after 9 years of war in afghanistan, i don't see how anyone could be accused of doing nothing, even if every troop was withdrawn tomorrow

we've done plenty - and it hasn't worked


Only 9 years? That's not reallly long enough to know whether a low-intensity counterinsurgency campaign has succeeded or not. Absent the Hama strategy, well over a decade is the minimum time one should expect in a counterinsurgency. Hell back in the 80s I remember quite a few people saying the Northern Ireland conflict was unwinnable, and the Brits should just pull out and let the IRA have the area so there could be peace at last (and then of course they would go and give money to IRA organizations because the Brits were evil bullies, etc. Go fig.).

Not that I'm in favor of the Hafez al-Assad method- even though more lives may be saved in the long run, the scorched earth policy is fundamentally unappealing to me. Of course that means I have to accept more casualties in the long run, but oh well. The fundamental problem of low intensity insurgencies is rhat while our government is trying to win hearts and minds over there, the insurgents are busy trying to win hearts and minds over here. Given the responses in this thread, I have to say the insurgents have done a pretty decent job of getting people to agree with their message.

Insurgencies are a battle of endurance, and the advantage the insurgents have is that industrial and post-industrial cultures are generally both soft hearted and have no patience when it comes to war. This as much as anything is keeping the Iraqi insurgents in the game.
posted by happyroach at 8:30 PM on December 18, 2010


I do believe the Taliban are essentially an element of Pakistani policy, and as such are funded and otherwise aided by Pakistan, and without whose aid and direction would not prevail here in Afghanistan. I firmly believe they do not represent the desires of anywhere near the majority of people here, but rather represent the desire of at least part of the Pakistani government to ensure Afghanistan remains a weak client state.


I would replace the "essentially" with "at least in part." Also, "Pakistan" with "at least part of the Pakistani establishment." Then we'd be in agreement. But the fact that it is not all of the government, but only part of it is precisely why no one could "stop it tomorrow" if they wanted to. And the fact that it isn't just Pakistan, but partly Pakistani influence is also a reason why it can't just be stopped tomorrow. Would that it could.
posted by bardophile at 9:14 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Misguided America squanders its treasure in a fit of pique which has now lasted 9 years. As Aelfwine points out with the amount wasted on these foreign ventures the once great country could have assured a stable future for itself and its citizens.
Misguided because America's goal is not Pakistan's goal.
Ahmed Rashid the esteemed Pakistani writer and journalist has indicated that The Road to Kabul Runs Through Kashmir.
Pakistan does not want a strong Afghanistan as it fears an increasing Indian influence.
Former US Ambassador Anne W Patterson had also pressed Washington to resolve the Kashmir dispute. She also stated that Washington's whole policy is counterproductive: it risks destabilizing the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and the military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis without finally achieving the goal.
The cables further reveal just how dangerously involved the Americans are in every aspect of Pakistan's affairs; and the only winners are the military industrial complex and the corrupt local politicians and military.
Bardophile please correct me if you see this differently as you have "local" eyes and ears.
posted by adamvasco at 1:43 AM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


A single death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.

We are the empire and we're all living on the Deathstar.

Luckily, I don't have to fight in a war or pilot a drone from Nevada
because there professionals to do that work.

You know, I don't even know what Afghanistan looks like,
I never see any pictures of it.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:10 AM on December 19, 2010


I'm late getting back to this party, for which I apologize, but my point wasn't that the Geneva Conventions prohibit civilian deaths, full stop; I wanted only to point out that Dasein's idea of what constitutes "the laws of war" was fabricated entirely out of his own macho posturing, and not out of anything resembling an international treaty, convention or official document of any kind. I defy you to find an international agreement of any kind saying anything that amounts to "killing civilians is totally acceptable under the following circumstances".

The followup assertion that it is "all about proportionality" is likewise one that accomplishes the trick of conceding that there is a moral element to the application of force while deferring to a (nonexistent, it turns out) law in order to avoid having to confront the questions that raises. Which is, I should tell you, just a classic Keyboard Kommando finishing move; it turns out nobody believes that it's OK to just follow orders but if you're obeying the laws, well that's different! Unless, of course, when you're making those laws up on the spot.
Did you see my post following yours which referenced a whole bunch of laws? The "Law of Armed Conflict" is not one single law, or bill. It's a term used to refer to all those treaties that govern what is and is not acceptable in the pursuit of a valid military aim. It is applicable in this case in so much as (for example) Baitullah Mehsud was the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. When he was killed it also meant killing a few members of his family and bodyguards. This was balanced against the effect achieved - disarray within the organisation, infighting, lack of co-ordination, a reduction in attacks carried out (lives therefore saved).

Useful Reference
posted by dougrayrankin at 2:29 AM on December 19, 2010


Only 9 years? That's not reallly long enough to know whether a low-intensity counterinsurgency campaign has succeeded or not.

but that's not why we went there, is it? - we went there to get obama bin laden and the government that was sheltering him

we weren't there to fight a counterinsurgency campaign

somewhere along the line we got confused about what we were trying to do

Given the responses in this thread, I have to say the insurgents have done a pretty decent job of getting people to agree with their message.

do they have a web site? p r agents? news conferences? a newsletter i can subscribe to?

i'm not aware of any message they've sent us - and it's a fallacy to say that because we want an end to this campaign that we are agreeing with some message they have sent, as if we were constrained to consider the problem from their point of view only

it's also the modern equivalent of calling someone a "fellow traveler"
posted by pyramid termite at 6:40 AM on December 19, 2010


Pray to your gods for deliverance, call us your most filthy insults, hold in your heart a blackness if that really makes you feel better. We don't give a shit.

Is that the TSA-checkpoint equivalent of "close your eyes and think of england"?
posted by mhoye at 6:56 AM on December 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Dougrayrankin wrote: When [Baitullah Mehsud] was killed it also meant killing a few members of his family and bodyguards. This was balanced against the effect achieved - disarray within the organisation, infighting, lack of co-ordination, a reduction in attacks carried out...

Have you any evidence for this remarkable feat of calculation, or are you simply begging the question? In other words, can you demonstrate that anyone actually sat down and worked it out? I must say that I'd love to see the calculus of suffering that lets you prove results like this.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:58 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


do they have a web site? p r agents? news conferences? a newsletter i can subscribe to

newsletter
Website
recent statement from their official spokesperson

For those who think we should leave immediately consider that if we left today tree would be a huge refugee crisis displacing a million or two afghans. 50,000-75,000 afghans would be killed in bloodletting and there would be at least 3-4 years of war before the Taliban probably reassessed control over Kabul. The regime the soviets put in lasted that long.
posted by humanfont at 6:08 PM on December 19, 2010


Nuthin' like a few numbers. That's what I always say. Where are you getting them? Same people who said we'd be home for Christmas, like, ten fucking years ago?
posted by Trochanter at 7:08 PM on December 19, 2010


For those who think we should leave immediately consider that if we left today tree would be a huge refugee crisis displacing a million or two afghans.

there are already millions displaced, partially by our presence there

50,000-75,000 afghans would be killed in bloodletting

where's your proof of that? estimates say that our current action over the past nine years have cost anywhere from 5,000-35,000 lives

and there would be at least 3-4 years of war before the Taliban probably reassessed control over Kabul.

they've been at war for 30+ years - and i daresay that there would be 3-4 more years of war no matter what we do

meanwhile, much worse things have been going on in africa - but no one ever suggests we send troops there to stop it - 2,600 people were killed in ciudad juarez last year, right across our border and yet no one's suggesting we invade mexico to stop it - even though the ongoing drug war there is much more of a potential threat to us than afghanistan is

no, it's not going to be the number of people killed that drives the decision to stay or go - it all boils down to our national self-interest - and i believe that due to the circumstances we have there, we will spend more lives and money in winning, if winning is even possible, than it is worth

dire things are happening right in our backyard - and we're screwing around halfway across the world

is it really in our national interest that we do so?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:29 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mexico has a functional central government and military. It does receive assistance from us in the form of intel, supplies and other assistance. Those seeking to have us depart based on moral grounds should bear the burden of demonstrating the consequences of their actions. I've modeled my predictions of refugees and deaths based on prior phases such as the 1996-2001 Taliban takeover and the post Russian fallout and collapse of the Najibullah regime. A similar scale catastrophe seems likely, absent some kind of negotiated settlement.

From a real politik perspective. The US has important strategic interest in Central Asia as do our ISAF allies. The region is an important historic cross roads of trade. The large opium crop is a major problem. The consensus view among policymakers is that a stateless or Taliban controlled Afghanistan is going to mean more direct attacks against the US. So we stay until 2014 at which point we ought to be able to create enough ANA and Afghan police to be able to let the central governemt manage the LIC with limited outside assistance. Hopefully some of the real Taliban will come to the table before then.
posted by humanfont at 9:31 PM on December 19, 2010


Those seeking to have us depart based on moral grounds should bear the burden of demonstrating the consequences of their actions.

This is ass-backwards. It should read: Before invading other countries based on moral grounds(or for revenge) those seeking to do so should bear the burden of demonstrating the consequences of their actions. This same tired argument was used during Vietnam; it wan't valid then and it isn't valid now.

I've modeled my predictions of refugees and deaths based on prior phases such as the 1996-2001 Taliban takeover and the post Russian fallout and collapse of the Najibullah regime. A similar scale catastrophe seems likely, absent some kind of negotiated settlement.

Who the fuck are you, Jack Ryan? With all due respect your models count for shit when there are real people dying right now. All of your interventionist comments read like a CFR talking points memo. The fact of the matter is that no matter what we do we can't win in Afghanistan. Not only can we not win we can't even begin to construct something looking like a functioning modern state. "All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty(Afghanistan) back together again." The British empire couldn't, the Soviet empire couldn't, and the American empire can't. You can't take what amounts to a feudal society wracked by 30 years of war and turn it into a functioning democracy by waging more war. Anyone who thinks this is possible is deluded beyond belief.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:26 PM on December 20, 2010


The British empire couldn't, the Soviet empire couldn't, and the American empire can't. You can't take what amounts to a feudal society wracked by 30 years of war and turn it into a functioning democracy by waging more war. Anyone who thinks this is possible is deluded beyond belief.

Not true either case. The Soviets had a very functional state in Afghanistan which we spent several billion dollars demolishing. The Brits final intervention in Afghanistan installed a ruling family that lasted until the early 1970s when it began to become destabilized by a combination of Pakistani and Soviet meddling. There is no delusion here, only the simple mathematics of coutner insurgency and determination.

South Vietnam was a unique case, and even so it took over two years for the North to conquer the South and then only by direct military intervention, not by means of Vietcong insurgency. In that situation there were over million refugees (aka boat people) over 800k of which settled in the USA and it has been estimated that 250k died in labor camps and as a part of reeducation campaigns as the Norh conquered the south. It should also be noted that following the US withdrawal in 1973, it still took almost 2 years for he south to fall. The south Vietnamese army was even able to manage to hold off the Vietcong and it wasn't until the North did a full fledged invasion with the NVA that the government of south Vietnam collapsed. Not to mention the shit that went down in Cambodia.

The North Vietnamese also had the benefit of billions of dollars in Russian military aid, Russian training for their airforce and air defense systems. The Vietcong had safe havens where they could train and requip and resupply. The same goes for the Mujahadeen vs. the Soviets, where the US, Pakistan and the Saudis provided overt assistance to the insurgents. The Taliban situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is much more complicated. Their funding sources are much less reliable and the ability of their leaders to find safe havens in Pakistan is mixed.
posted by humanfont at 6:32 PM on December 20, 2010


The North Vietnamese also had the benefit of billions of dollars in Russian military aid.

'which we spent several billion dollars demolishing'

Not to mention the shit that went down in Cambodia

Phnom Pehn fell almost two weeks before Saigon. The United States kept the supplies coming but had little in the way of miltary even CIA advisors by 75'. South Vietnam had more support in covert action and logistics. By 1974, it was just a matter of time unless the U.S. recommitted troops to SV, one aspect of historical inevitabilty i will admit too.
I only mention this because Vietnam and Cambodia enjoy relative peace and rightly so without any direct military intervention by the United States, not to side track your argument.


You can't take what amounts to a feudal society wracked by 30 years of war and turn it into a functioning democracy by waging more war

ARVN was not effective in static postions with U.S. mobility
posted by clavdivs at 9:36 PM on December 20, 2010


(nix the ARVN comment/ preview bubbles)
posted by clavdivs at 9:36 PM on December 20, 2010


The Soviets had a very functional state in Afghanistan

Wrong. Unless by functional state you mean genocidal regime....1 to 2 million killed over a 9 year period, and the majority civillians. Taking the low estimate of 1 million dead that's a little over 100,000 a year. If you consider a state in which 100,000 of it's citizens dies in a year functional than I'd hate to see what your definition of a dysfunctional state is.

The Brits final intervention in Afghanistan installed a ruling family that lasted until the early 1970s

Hmmmm. Let's review the history together shall we. First of all your contention that "the Brits final intervention...installed a ruling family that lasted until the early 1970's" is incorrect. The Barakzai dynasty was founded in 1926 by Dost Mohammad Khan, well before any direct British involvement in Afghanistan, and lasted until 1973.

The first Anglo-Afghan war (1838-1842) resulted in the destruction of the British army and Lord Ellenborough giving the order for the withdrawal of all remaining troops and reinforcements.

The second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-1880) resulted in a stalemate. The British unable to control the entire country and the Afghans unable to repel the British came to a compromise; Abdur Rahman Khan would retain internal sovereignty and cede control of foreign affairs to the British. This situation lasted until 1919 when Rahman Khan's grandson, Amanullah Khan, declared independence from the British.

The third Anglo-Afghan war (1919) ended with the Treaty of Rawalpindi which gave Afghanistan complete sovereignty over it's foreign affairs.

Even with the most charitable reading of history one would be hard pressed to say the British in any way subdued or created a stable state in Afghanistan as their attempts to control Afghanistan militarily were thwarted at every attempt. What the British Empire did was for a period of about 40 years find a confluence of interests that met their geopolitical goals and also allowed a strong monarchy to consolidate it's power over most of the country.

it has been estimated that 250k died in labor camps and as a part of reeducation campaigns as the Norh conquered the south.

cite?

The Taliban situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is much more complicated. Their funding sources are much less reliable and the ability of their leaders to find safe havens in Pakistan is mixed.

cite?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:58 PM on December 20, 2010


clavdivs are you comparing the 1 month long Sino-Vietnamese war with the current war in Afghanistan?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:05 PM on December 20, 2010


geopolitically-yes.

you posited
You can't take what amounts to a feudal society wracked by 30 years of war and turn it into a functioning democracy by waging more war

well, yes you can or is vietnam not considered a democracy?

hmmm... Cambodia?

'In December 1979, the USSR intervened in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan to aid the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan whose Communist régime was losing the Afghan Civil War (1978–present). The PRC viewed that Soviet action in aid of an ally, as a feint, part of a greater geopolitical encirclement, and so entered a tri-partite alliance with Pakistan and the US to sponsor armed Islamist resistance in Afghanistan to end the Soviet war in Afghanistan'(1979–89).'

(WK>c3:)
posted by clavdivs at 11:41 PM on December 20, 2010


geopolitically-yes.

Could you please elaborate on this?

or is vietnam not considered a democracy?

No it is not, it's considered a single-party communist state. Either way any stability and prosperity has happened in spite of the wars the country has been wracked by not because of them.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:58 AM on December 21, 2010


Could you please elaborate on this?

no, You have a brain, connect the dots yourself. If you do not agree simply say so.

in spite not because of- and you want me to elaborate, i think not.
posted by clavdivs at 10:42 AM on December 21, 2010


no, You have a brain, connect the dots yourself. If you do not agree simply say so.

It's not so much that I disagree it's that I don't understand the assertion. I am having trouble finding analogs to the current situation. China=?, Soviet Union=?, U.S.A.=U.S.A.?, South Vietnam=Afghan govt.?, North Vietnam=Taliban?, Cambodia=Pakistan?, Laos=? If you don't want to clear up your analogy that's prerogative. I guess the one thing I would disagree with is trying to compare two completely different geopolitical situations which happened in two completely different historical contexts. But I can't really point out in detail why you are incorrect if I don't understand the analogs. Sometimes being vague, especially when discussing complex geopolitical and historical situations, is not a good thing.

(WK>c3:)

Also, WTF does this mean? :)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:08 PM on December 21, 2010


The Barakzai dynasty was founded in 1926 by Dost Mohammad Khan, well before any direct British involvement in Afghanistan, and lasted until 1973

That is an terribly misguided reading of history. The Barakzai (1826) dynasty had a complex relationship with Great Britain. The British intervention in 1857 against Iran preserved their dynasty, and the second Afghan war established british control over Afghan foreign policy from 1880 to 1921. The British were content with a stable Afghanistan that didn't make trouble for their interests in northern India.

it has been estimated that 250k died in labor camps and as a part of reeducation campaigns as the Norh conquered the south.

Cite
An estimated 95,000 civilians died in the communist re-education camps, another 500,000 were involved in forced labor projects, which killed 48,000 civilians. Another 100,000 were executed. Finally, 400,000 boat people died while trying to flee Vietnam. This is 643,000 killed during the consolidation of communist rule.[17] This consolidation ended around 1984, although boat people deaths occurred through 1988
This is one example though and there are a great many differences between Afghanistan and Vietnam. It seems more likely that we would have an extended period of continued statelessness like existed in Lebanon (until Syrian intervention in the early 1990s) or as exists today in Somalia. Kabul's population has tripled since 2001 (as it is one of the safer places). What's going to happen if we just pull up stakes and go. I suspect chaos and population displacement. This year about 3000 civilians have died in the conflict. If we pull out that number will rise substantially.

posted by humanfont at 2:02 PM on December 21, 2010


Aelfy:
what amounts to a feudal society

1. I cannot except this term for debate, try another.

2. Define functioning democracy

3. waging more war

Anyone who thinks this is possible is deluded beyond belief.

I have given 2 examples (second being Vietnams' invasion of Cambodia/ 1978) of war being waged that has led to peace. The sino-soviet split, in geo-political terms is one cause of these conflicts.

The question I have is were these countries delusional?
That does not let me off the hook with a tie-in with the sino-soviet split to present day geo-politics of allied intervention/WAR in Afghanistan.
Is the united states delusional in what is being done? war is beyond delusion if your searching for the far reaching questions and answers of geo-political realties.

As to what i know is at least being done by one person in this thread.

and helped him learn how to read Dari. He spelled Afghanistan, mother and father. While I was helping him, it occurred to me, what's going to happen to this guy
posted by atchafalaya

you wanna play chess or not.
posted by clavdivs at 7:21 PM on December 21, 2010


you wanna play chess or not.

I love to play chess but usually with people closer to my skill level. You guys aren't worth the effort. If your lucky tomorrow I will have enough time to respond to your assertions.

I do thank you, humanfront, for the source on the re-education camps. I have been looking and I can't seem to find much via google. I ordered some books online tonight pertaining to Vietnamese history hoping to learn more.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:37 PM on December 21, 2010


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