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Perspective: I have a drone

…[A] study conducted by the International Committee for the Red Cross [says] that on average, 10 civilians died for every combatant killed during the armed conflicts of the 20th century. From a pro-drone perspective drones are more precise and less damaging.

This is a sanitized use of drones in the US- not what its does in far off lands…

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: The News | Pakistan
By Talat Farooq | September 28, 2012

International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School (Stanford Clinic) and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law (NYU Clinic) have conducted research into the trauma suffered by Pakistani civilians via drones and the consequences of the drone strategy for US interests.

Titled “Living under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan,” the report rejects the US official narrative of the drone strikes being surgically precise in killing targeted terrorists with minimal collateral damage. It warns that “the number of high-level militants killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low – estimated at just 2%.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks.” Such research efforts are obviously commendable from Pakistan’s perspective and certainly draw our attention to the diverse approaches of the American think-tanks as well as ordinary citizens. However, by virtue of the same diversity there are competing views that need to be understood as well.

Rosa Brooks, a Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation, is a law professor at Georgetown University, and served as a counselor to the US defense undersecretary for policy from 2009 to 2011. Writing for the magazine Foreign Policy in September this year, she argues that of the death of civilians in drone strikes is not an argument against drone strikes per se.

Weapons of war cause unintended civilian deaths, some more than others; period. Drones actually permit far greater target-precision than traditional aerial bombing because they are equipped with imaging technologies that enable their operators to see the fine details of a human face from a distance. This, in turn, allows the operators to effectively differentiate between combatants and civilians. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can carry small bombs that obviate widespread damage and are not prone to pilot-fatigue that might limit flight time.

According to statistics by the New America Foundation, in the 344 known drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and 2012 somewhere between 1,873 and 3,171 people were killed overall in Pakistan, of which between 282 and 459 were civilians. The foundation also concludes that only three to nine civilians were killed during 72 US drone strikes in Pakistan in 2011, and so far 36 drone strikes in 2012 have killed no civilians. (The Stanford-NYU Report is highly critical of the unreliability of the New America Foundation)

According to Brooks, drones may not be very good for world peace but “compared to the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, drone strikes look pretty good.”

She cites the findings of a study conducted by the International Committee for the Red Cross that on average, 10 civilians died for every combatant killed during the armed conflicts of the 20th century. From a pro-drone perspective drones are more precise and less damaging.

In a February 8, 2010 article in the Guardian, Phillip Allston and Hina Shamsi pointed out the play-station or video-game-playing mentality that surrounds drone killing, which inculcates and reinforces a complete lack of respect for human life in the young military personnel far removed from the scene.

But the pro-drone lobby insists that if drone strikes enable the American forces to kill without exposing their personnel to the enemy, this is presumably a good thing for them. American tendency for casualty aversion obviously has a great part to play in American drone-bias. It is, however, interesting to note that, according to a US Air force study, “burnout” symptoms afflict around 29 percent of drone operators and at least 17 percent suffer from clinical depression.

Nonetheless, casualty-aversion has both military and political benefits. In view of the changed nature of warfare, drone strikes are obviously an advantageous part of US operational strategy. It also provides Mr Obama the benefits that secrecy and unaccountability linked with covert action have usually provided to American presidents.

He can just as conveniently circumvent the Congress as Reagan or Bush did, among others. It is within the realist framework of American national security objectives as well as Obama’s political goals to allow drone attacks regardless of collateral damage.

The Stanford-NYU Report seeks independent investigation into accurate numbers of non-combatant victims and prescribes respect for human rights and international norms regarding the use of force.

There is no doubt that human rights abuses and respect for international law are worthy values; however, realism tells us that value-laden arguments are the only option available to weak nations like Pakistan. After all, it is not without a nod from the Pakistani authorities that drone strikes are carried out in clear violation of international norms. In short, the US will only heed the idealist human rights arguments when it will be in its realist interest to do so.

The reason is simple. America has the largest and the most powerful military on earth, which has to be kept gainfully employed. Moreover, as an offensive power the US seeks to add to its global pre-eminence by grabbing more power.

This is facilitated by technological advancement and an expansionist vision encouraged by such right-wing think-tanks as the American Enterprise Institute. According to web-based sources, Washington’s empire is expanding thanks to the ‘lily-pad’ strategy that is based on building secretive, well equipped facilities around the world.

Although it has closed down a number of bases in countries such as Iraq and Germany, the US still has more than 1000 military installations outside its own territory. These include some old bases in Germany and Japan as well as new drone bases in Ethiopia and the Seychelles. The US has some form of military presence in about 150 countries; and let us not forget the floating bases, i.e. 11 aircraft carriers. According to unofficial estimates, the US spends around $250 billion per annum to maintain troops and bases overseas. In this saga of growing might in an age of unconventional conflict and transnational militancy, drone technology will continue to remain crucial.

Anti-drone studies are not likely to change US policies in the near future. US foreign policy – Republican or Democrat – is likely to remain besotted with classical and neo-realist principles of war and peace. Nonetheless, such studies are important to build up moral pressure on the American people whose votes matter to the politicians.

One also hopes that ‘a few good’ researchers within the American universities will one day investigate the American journey from Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” to Barack Hussein Obama’s “I have a drone” approach to human life.

The writer is a PhD student at Leicester, UK. Email: talatfarooq11@gmail.com

Read original post here: Perspective: I have a drone

This content-post is archived for backup and to keep archived records of any news Islam Ahmadiyya. The views expressed by the author and source of this news archive do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Ahmadiyya Times.

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