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COINdinistas: Stop the Drone Violence! « The Washington Independent

Jul 31, 2020
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Take a look at this New York Timesop-ed call for a moratorium on the Pakistan drone strikes by counterinsurgency luminaries Andrew Exum and Dave Kilcullen. (This, if I’m not mistaken, is the furthest Kilcullen has gone: in a recent discussion of his book,* *“The Accidental Guerrilla” at a Center for a New American Security event and in April congressional testimony, he called for reducing American reliance on the drones or to think long and hard before their uses, not an outright halt. I could be overlooking something, of course.)
The basic argument is familiar to all COINdinistas: the strikes give the veneer of efficacy while sowing the seeds for long term instability; and a real strategy prioritizes the provision of security and services to the population rather than focusing on the elimination of an enemy who you’re probably not so good at distinguishing anyway.
Imagine, for example, that burglars move into a neighborhood. If the police were to start blowing up people’s houses from the air, would this convince homeowners to rise up against the burglars? Wouldn’t it be more likely to turn the whole population against the police? And if their neighbors wanted to turn the burglars in, how would they do that, exactly? Yet this is the same basic logic underlying the drone war.
The drone strategy is similar to French aerial bombardment in rural Algeria in the 1950s, and to the “air control” methods employed by the British in what are now the Pakistani tribal areas in the 1920s. The historical resonance of the British effort encourages people in the tribal areas to see the drone attacks as a continuation of colonial-era policies.
Most readers here are probably persuaded. I’d be interested in reading a reply from a smart conservative observer of Af-Pak like Bill Roggio. (Not that I know what Bill thinks about the drones.) The alternative to the drones, as Dave and Exum write, is an increased U.S.-supported reliance on Pakistani forces to provide security for the population; and heretofore those forces have shown little competence or capability in doing so.
Camilo Wood

Camilo Wood

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