The Folly of Drone Strikes
Image Credit: Rennett Stowe

The Folly of Drone Strikes


The tragic “friendly fire” incident at the weekend, in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were allegedly killed in a NATO airstrike, raises many questions. Who shot first? How should Pakistan respond? What is the future for the already traumatized U.S.-Pakistan relationship?

But surely the biggest question, after a decade of conflict, is this: Should the United States even have launched military action in Afghanistan in the first place? And was the magnitude of the attacks on September 11, 2001, so great as to mean there was no choice but to launch military operations?

Setting aside the support of the international community, the United States still chose to act unilaterally against Afghanistan, claiming self–defense. There was much debate at the time over the legality of the initial use of force. Yet the devastation that the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced over the last decade as U.S. and coalition forces have battled Taliban militias almost makes that debate seem trite.

Interestingly, the justification for the war has transformed from self-defense, to an even less well defined fight against global terrorism. Meanwhile, Pakistan-based Taliban have replaced al-Qaeda as the central enemy in a war that has gradually come to be seen by Afghans as regime enforcement.

Whatever the reason given for military action, it has become increasingly clear that a dangerous precedent was set in Afghanistan. The justification for the use of force as self-defense has been increasingly utilized by opportunistic states to meet the challenge of insurgents and rebels, and this unwanted development of the doctrine of pre-emptive and preventive self-defense now poses a grave threat to international peace and security.

In addition, it also appears to be a mistake for coalition forces, acting under the mandate of the UN Security Council, to indulge in peace enforcement rather than just peacekeeping initiatives in Afghanistan. After all, history has shown that such aggressive use of force has typically worsened conflicts, as witnessed in Somalia.

Indeed, as underscored by events at the weekend, the fight against Taliban militants has now spilled over into Pakistan, where civilian causalities far outnumber those of combatants. This is in large part due to the U.S. insistence of using drone attacks to target militants, attacks that have had only sporadic success, even as they have killed scores of civilians, thus fueling extremism and resentment in Pakistan.

Against this backdrop, the United States has avoided providing proper legal justification for drone attacks, which violate Pakistani sovereignty. When confronted on the issue, the Obama administration responds in vague terms that it has a right to defend itself. The Pakistani military, for its part, has generally stayed quiet over the issue.

Yet although the U.S. and Pakistani governments may have until recently been in tacit agreement over the drone strikes, these extra-judicial killings should be seen as illegal under international law, in violation of the Constitution of Pakistan, and without the support of the people of Pakistan.

mere mutabiq
December 7, 2011 at 06:23

I don’t agree with the people who are in favor of drone strikes because the strikes fire back and spark anger among people of the victimized country. Instead of creating peace and harmony, the strikes are giving a mixed signal of increase in terrorism, loss of innocent life and increase in production of terrorists. I won’t reject drone strikes if they are precise and produce fruitful and positive results but the results are negative and opposite. I would definitely support drone strikes if the terrorism is eliminated or reduced but it fires back with a forceful reaction. The paranoids link terrorist and terrorism with Islam and portrait Islam on the whole as a bad religion. This argument ignites anger among the followers of the 2nd largest religion on earth and blame west for anti Islamic propaganda. Fact of the matter is, the accusers are scared of the rise of Islam and to express their fear, anger, ego and pride the anti Islamic forces label Muslims Fundamentalists, Extremists and Terrorists. There are other responsible elements for the anger among Muslims. The Muslims of Palestine and Kashmir are fighting for freedom over 60 years but there right of freedom is not given to them because U.S and West are behind Israel and India. On the other hand E. Timor (predominantly followers of Christianity) a small territory with a little population a territory of Indonesia was liberated after a couple of year’s independence movement because Australia, Europe and U.S wanted E. Timor to get away from Indonesia because of its Oil. The other example of SUDAN (followers of Christianity) increase blood pressure and anger of Muslims because the Christian territory was liberated without any complication due to U.S and Europe backed the freedom movement; again Oil is the major cause. The denial of Muslims rights by West force them to believe that West is anti Islam and because of their behavior Islamic countries suffered a lot throughout their existence. It’s also in their hearts, minds and souls that Islamic countries were restricted to achieve prosperity and development deliberately due to anti Islamic and discriminative polices against Muslims. The general feeling among the citizens of Islamic countries is that the West and developed nations abuse rob and loot their resources for peanuts. The citizens of Islamic world believe that These sentiments are promoting anti West ideology and anger and due to the West has humiliated their countries and their claim is true too because history is a witness of the colonialism, humiliation, discrimination, double standards, atrocities, fake a fabricated propaganda campaign for the character assassination of their countries. This anger the people retaliate and in reaction to their reaction and retaliation the followers of modern and civilized world name them Islamists & Terrorists. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that Drone Strikes are useless and unproductive. The modern and developed Western world abused Islamic countries to the best of their ability. The people of the Islamic countries have the feeling that. The anger and anti West sentiments are increasing among Muslim day by day and a recent show was on horizon in the name of ARAB SPRING. The only solution is to end the genocide, stop the killing of Muslims and stop all the practices of looting, robbing, victimization, fabrications, accusations, atrocities, double standards, abuse, discrimination and anti Islamic propaganda. I know for sure that if the world follows my recommendations, there will definitely pace and harmony in the world and if these recommendations are ignored the future generations of West will pay the price because EVERY FALL HAS A RISE AND RISE HAS A FALL.

December 5, 2011 at 20:11

Are you serious? Of course the attacks were necessary. Noty only that but the drone strikes should continue relentlessly until every last terrorist chooses to hide in the markets in Islamabad and Peshwar and Quetta to save his skin. In fact, they should be expanded throughout Miram Shah and into those areas other as well, and target the Haqqani Maddrassa. It is the most effective tool we have. The “hearts and minds” campaign we play is failing-the radical Islamist will always want to kill us. Meanwhile let the “revionist” and “moral relativist” historians start their second guessing, just as they did post-World War II.

Vietnam Vet
December 5, 2011 at 07:44

So you think surrender is the best option? Just let the terrorists continue murdering innocents and they will get tired and stop? Why do leftists always say America can’t defend itself or it’s allies? How many Americans have to die before you think we can strike back?

December 4, 2011 at 23:28

“Should the United States even have launched military action in Afghanistan in the first place? And was the magnitude of the attacks on September 11, 2001, so great as to mean there was no choice but to launch military operations?”

Are you kidding me? I can’t believe CNN even published this article. I don’t like FOX because it’s too one sided, and CNN… you are bent to the left as far as FOX is to the right. Pathetic!

Rick from LA
December 4, 2011 at 16:06

Where does on begin on this matter?

The attacks of September 11 2001 was a wake-up call, one that needed to be answered. Our actions, as belligerent as they were, were a necessary evil and a good answer to what transpired. However there are short and to the point answers and then their are long winded answers that dilute that point. Right now we are seeing the latter. We went in toppled a regime with ease. We should of backed away long ago and left a calling card that said “try it again and we’ll be back”. Instead we mired ourselves into a never ending conflict and have irresponsibly shown our enemies that we have exploitable vulnerabilities.
Our technology cannot save us from our greatest adversary, our own pride. Yes our toys can bring death and destruction to our enemies, to combat that power our enemies bring innocents to that death and destruction, then they bring the media. One picture, one story of lost innocents and a blow greater then an entire bomber wing is inflicted on the unbeatable nation.

December 4, 2011 at 12:09

“Should the United States even have launched military action in Afghanistan in the first place? And was the magnitude of the attacks on September 11, 2001, so great as to mean there was no choice but to launch military operations?”

Are you kidding me????? YES YES YES and in case you still do not understand YES.

December 4, 2011 at 06:54

Of course a muslim writer thinks the drone attacks are illegal and should stop. What drone strike caused civilian deaths? Please provide a source. By civilian you must mean those who consort with terrorists that are targeted? Drones are the only thing that are working so of course our enemies want them stopped. What nonsense!!

December 4, 2011 at 05:53

It’s unbelievable to see how quickly some people within our nation have forgotten the events that occured on 9/11, the coward acts against our way of life, homeland and most importantly, our civilians. As far as the reporters question in this article; “was the magnitude of the attacks on September 11, 2001, so great as to mean there was no choice but to launch military operations?” Simple answer, YES.

December 4, 2011 at 03:26

The September 11th attacks were so insidious that we had no choice but to enter Afghanistan. There was a clear and present danger to U.S. security and it caused a total disruption to our way of life. This enemy must never be allowed to re-surge and therefore all the force we have used in Afghanistan is not only justified, but was necessary.

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