Monday, November 05, 2012

Droning on

Imran Kahn was a fine cricketer. Don't always expect the confidence needed to become a great sportsman to produce political wisdom. His pro-Taliban apologism makes me shudder, but his march against drone attacks has given him a positive hearing among Western leftists and brief problems with US immigration officials. So what about drones and the attacks aimed at the militants in Pakistan? This thoughtful piece from Pervez Hoodbhoy, representative of quite a few that are coming out of Pakistan at the moment, is worth reading in full. He writes:
A drone – of the kind discussed here – is a programmed killing machine. By definition it is self-propelled, semi-autonomous, and capable of negotiating difficult local environments. Remote handlers guide it towards an assigned target. A drone does not need to know why it must kill, only who and how. They have drenched Pakistan in blood, both of fighters and non-combatants. 
We know of the American drones, but he also talks of the Pakistani version:
Pakistan has many more drones than America. These are mullah-trained and mass-produced in madrassas and militant training camps. Their handlers are in Waziristan, not in Nevada. Like their aerial counterparts, they do not ask why they must kill. However, their targets lie among their own people, not in some distant country. Collateral damage does not matter.
And this is the problem with the moral outrage of moral people who recoil at the killing. If their anger is devoid of context and forgetful of consequence, if it focuses on one side to a conflict without looking at the other, it uses only half the world to describe the whole. Hoodbhoy asks the crucial question.
... who shall protect Pakistan’s population from religious militants, stop the daily dynamiting of girl’s schools and colleges, prevent human bombers from exploding themselves in mosques and markets, and end the slaughter of Shiites?
Who indeed? He tries to answer the question and concludes that, as part of a coordinated effort, "The use of aerial drones, terrible though it is, is a necessary evil."

It is an awful choice to have to make. However accurate the weapons, there is the certainty that innocent people will die. This is an inevitable consequence of a conscious decision. However, a drone attack may stop the deaths of unknown others elsewhere. Life and death becomes a random fate visited on people over which they have no control. It is easier to avoid the choice, to condemn the one and not the other, to hope the evil will pass. It is particularly easy if avoiding reality can be cloaked in moral righteousness. But there is no escape. If an undoubted evil is to be resisted, a choice has to be made. It is indeed awful; though utterly necessary.


Bob-B said...

A good post.

Anton Deque said...

I would be more sympathetic to the cause of stopping these drone strikes (piloted aircraft carry out many more stikes, but that is by-the-by) but for the presence within the chorus of dissenting opinion of avowed Islamists, who are slow to condemn the multiplicity of attacks on (Moslem) civilians carried out to further the aims of a wholly theocratic ideology. I do not believe I have heard anyone in authority in the U.S.A., I.S.A.F. or N.A.T.O. saying these drone attacks are the handiwork of God's purpose. The enemy do this all the time.

The numbers of known Taliban leadership and other Islmofascists killed by drones is now a very long one*. It is cliamed the average term of 'service' for the high and middle level ranks of jihad in Afghanistan and neighbouring North western Pakistan is around six months.

* The Taliban news organisation reports these deaths regularly as evidence of 'martyrdom'. Apparently, in ideological terms the more of them that are killed the closer they are to achieving 'God's will'.