The Cost of Our Drone War in Pakistan

An Interview with Ambassador Akbar Ahmed.

Wajahat Ali in the Boston Review:

4420589240_3a0720aa6eWajahat Ali: You’re very critical of America’s drone policy and argue that it’s a war on tribal Islam, especially in Pakistan and Yemen. How is it decimating tribal life and what are the consequences?

Akbar Ahmed: I am critical on several counts, not least legal ones involving international borders. What worries me the most, however, are the moral grounds. The fact that every drone strike kills not only the intended target but also many more totally innocent people—too often women and children—is troubling. The consequences of U.S. drone policy are clear to see: It feeds into already high levels of anti-Americanism. It sustains a long line of young suicide bombers seeking revenge. Finally, along with the military actions of the central government and the deadly attacks of suicide bombers, it forces large sections of the local population to flee their homes. Already destitute communities are now scattered in the bigger towns and cities trying to survive with limited financial resources. I fear that an entire generation is being thrown into turmoil and there is little doubt that there will be many angry, confused, and even vengeful men emerging from them. Violence is therefore almost inevitable.

We must do everything possible to check present and possible future violence. Drones, however, have proved to be ineffective in doing so, as I have explained in The Thistle and the Drone. The study relied on 40 case studies of societies beset with violence as a result of the breakdown of relations between the periphery and the central government. Granted, the crisis in these societies already existed before 9/11 and is not a consequence of drones—drones are just one highly symbolic and emotionally charged aspect of the violence in these societies.

More here.