Commenting to the New York Times about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Pakistan, Admiral Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, admitted, “No one that I have talked to has come up with a grand strategy for that area.”
Given the now official fact of a strategy vacuum for Pakistan as well as the smoldering carcass of US strategy in Afghanistan, the US has continued the Bush Era tactic of launching drone missile strikes against targets the CIA has identified as outposts of Al Qaeda. While the CIA claims that US Predator drones have killed a few of the multitude of ‘senior leaders’ of Al Qaeda, to date the result is far from impressive — for there is a steadily rising mountain of civilian corpses killed by unmanned missiles that is producing a searing political backlash in the nuclear-armed nation.
Pakistan’s political outrage about the American drones is becoming ominous . Thousands have taken to the streets of Pakistan’s major cities to protest US missile attacks in Waziristan, the tribal regions deemed to be ungovernable that are located in the remote mountain fastness that is daunting terrain for even the world’s most potent military forces – NATO and US units under the direction of the CIA.
Worse. The drone attacks appear to have convinced the militants that the use of unmanned bombs proves that the US does not want to suffer any more military casualties – which is a polite way of saying that the US military is cowardly, anti-heroic and downright pusillanimous. This mindset encourages the form of resistance that the MSM habitually reports as “terrorism” — basically turbaned mujaheddin armed with Kalashnikovs and their infamous IEDs that seem rather puny in comparison to the high-tech satellite-guided Predators.
With the Byzantine accounting procedures of the US government the cost of the Predator MQ-1 is obscure, but figures from $30-50 million appear on defense and air force websites. Where is the Pakistani equivalent to Vice President Dick Cheney’s stealthy Executive Assassination Unit Seymour Hersh described recently in an academic forum sponsored by Walter Mondale at the University of Minnesota? A cooperative commando force of Pakistanis would appear to be the prescription to this deteriorating political scenario rather than robotic drones provided by a highly suspect foreign power.
For the present, the expensive US drones are launched by a button-pusher acting with all of the chilling aplomb of Ernst Stavro Blofeld who coldly pushed a button to electrocute his victim in Thunderball. Since Obama took the oath of office, these obscure button-pushers have launched US drones that have killed scores of civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The rising civilian death toll have provoked surges of political opposition against a US government and its president who promised to open a new era of relations with the Muslim world.
The specter of Predators flying over the Hindu Kush to strike small villages and encampments recalls the horror of London during the Blitz and later in the war — when V-1 and V-2 drones struck terror into the hearts of the British people. But, instead of producing Hitler’s desired effect: surrender — there was a backlash of Churchillian resolve to persevere and to fight on in the face of adversity to defeat such a monstrous enemy who would launch robotic machines to kill innocent civilians.
The strategic rationale underlying the American Predator drones in Pakistan is identical to Hitler’s strategic rationale for deploying the V-1 and V-2 missiles in WWII – to kill enemies and inject jolts of terror into the hearts and minds of the civilian population to compel surrender and submission to the dominant aggressor. Hitler’s drone tactic of terror bombing boomeranged in WWII, and the American drone tactic of counter-terror will fail in Pakistan, because it is politically counterproductive. But much more is at stake. Robotic drones that kill civilians will abort Obama’s embryonic appeal for a long-awaited rapprochement with the broader Muslim world of 22 nations that stretches far beyond the borders of Pakistan.
During WWII, Hitler’s deployment of the V-1 and V-2 rockets created a tidal wave of terror as well as an iron magnitude of will to develop more advanced weaponry to strike back with fury. The Manhattan Project’s atomic bomb arrived after VE day, but it was swiftly deployed against the Japanese. In the case of Pakistan, the situation is slightly different. Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. A political realignment is the only step necessary to transform Pakistan from a supine collaborator into a position of hostility similar to events in Iran thirty years ago. Armed with nukes, what would a new and hostile regime in Pakistan do next?
During the presidential campaign, then-candidate Obama was subtly pressured by then-candidates Biden and Clinton from the right who helped raise suspicions about his resolve to fight the War on Terror. To pre-empt suspicions of being weak on terror, Obama made several statements including the point that if elected president, he would authorize US strikes against “actionable” targets in Pakistan based on competent intelligence. At the time, Obama’s position drew groans from Clinton for telegraphing presidential strategy in advance, a position later echoed by John McCain. At the same time, Obama’s statement shocked many of his own supporters who saw him as a dovish alternative to the more hawkish Biden, Clinton and McCain.
As president, Obama promptly authorized the continuation of drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, thus fulfilling his campaign promise to pursue the roots of terror even unto those crafty culprits of Al Qaeda located across the borders of a nuclear-armed neutral state.
Given the limited results of the drones and the rising tide of civilian deaths in context with the political opposition in that nuclear nation, President Obama should ask himself whether the use of robot drones is a wise policy – or not. A plethora of options are arrayed before the president — from cooperation with the Pakistani military and security forces who should have commando units available for reasonable assignments to aid, education, healthcare and cultural programs designed to stimulate the local economy in Waziristan as well as the rest of Pakistan.
Today from Karachi to Islamabad, throngs are protesting the Zardari government. These insurgent Pakistanis are not happy with their government, nor with the policies still boiling out of what they see as the aggressive and dangerous cauldron of Washington, DC. Right now, nuclear Pakistan is literally a powder keg with a smoldering fuse provoked by the US drone attacks and the steadily rising tide of civilian corpses.
Isn’t it time for a more intelligent strategic vision?
Michael Carmichael is the founder of Planetary. Carmichael’s political commentary has appeared on many websites including: The Huffington Post, Global Research; Information Clearing House; Scoop; Counterpunch; Progressive Democrats of America; Dandelion Salad; Tea Break (Pakistan); Vijayvaani (New Delhi, India) and the Baltimore Chronicle.
© Copyright Michael Carmichael, PlanetaryMovement.org, 2009