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The Terrible Arithmetic

Kelley’s article [1] on counting the collateral damage arising from the drone wars starting me thinking about the latest “success” being reported in Washington, the killing of alleged al-Qaeda number two Abu Yahya al-Libi.  A series of drone strikes took place on Saturday through Monday, June 2nd through the 4th, part and parcel of eight strikes that have taken place since May 20th, when Pakistan refused to reopen the NATO supply route to Afghanistan.  The June 4th attack was a double strike that reportedly killed al-Libi.  Local sources reported thirty people were killed in the multiple attacks over the June 2nd weekend alone.  We have learned recently that the CIA, which is carrying out the attacks, regards anyone killed in a drone strike as a militant as long as they are male and of arms bearing age.

Apparently the recent strikes zeroed in on a cell phone that was being used intermittently by someone believed to be close to al-Libi supplemented by satellite imagery on small groups moving about during the night in the tribal area where the attacks took place.  The information was less than definitive, hence the multiple strikes.

Al-Libi’s death has not been independently confirmed.  He was reported killed back in 2009 but later resurfaced.  I have a problem with any use of drones to kill people unless someone is absolutely caught in flagrante preparing or carrying out a terrorist act against US persons, but the more serious issue relates to whether the collateral damage to civilians, which is undeniably taking placed in spite of White House disclaimers, does more harm than the good derived from killing an occasional terrorist.  The evidence would appear to suggest that the current bad relationship with Pakistan is a direct result of Pakistani media reports of the civilians killed in the drone attacks.  Since the US government fudges the numbers by referring to everyone as a militant, only admitting to a tiny number of civilian deaths, at least 30 people were killed to get al-Libi who might have, in fact, escaped.

Sunday’s papers [2] reported that the Obama Administration will accelerate its drone attack schedule in the spirit of “what have we got to lose?”  Well, actually we have everything to lose.  Without a measure of Pakistani cooperation the entire central and south Asian enterprise that the United States has so foolishly entered into will collapse and we will be forced to watch a United States Army again beating a hasty retreat from a foreign country.  But this time there will be no helicopters flying off the roof of an embassy to aircraft carriers standing nearby offshore – Afghanistan is landlocked.

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#1 Comment By David Peterson On June 11, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

Rand Paul is showing his pragmatic side in his endorsement of Mitt Romney — who has chosen the Neo-Cons to play the role of Rasputin. Bay Buchanan is also on board, and brother Pat Buchanan is getting awfully close. Big tent is all the rage these days.

#2 Comment By TomB On June 11, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

Phil Giraldi wrote:

“Sunday’s papers reported that the Obama Administration will accelerate its drone attack schedule in the spirit of ‘what have we got to lose?'”

If true, as impossible as it can seem, the Obama Administration will prove itself even stupider than Mr. Bush’s.

Whoever they are—and the gotta include Obama at some point—the only other explanation is a recklessness that is the full equal of drunkeness.

Can anyone imagine Pakistan going up in flames and its extremists getting their hands on its nukes? Is the U.S. going to support India launching preventative nuke strikes on it? Or Israel? And yet, how would we *object* to that? (Not that such objection would sway even one muslim to forgive us.)

For all his manifold problems at least Obama, I thought, had to be an improvement on Bush. But in so intimately involving *already existing nukes*, this Obama stuff can seem nothing less than madness.

We just simply *can’t* have descended to such stupidity, can we?

#3 Comment By Andy On June 11, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

I think it likley given our policies that either “we have “descended to such stupidity” or the true reasons for our policies are being hidden from the voting public, and they make sense based on classified information.Seems unlikley but can’t rule it out. If Obama fails in his bid for a second term seems to me that Romney may have a long honeymoon as expectations will be minimal given the previous two administrations.

#4 Comment By TomB On June 11, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

Andy wrote:

“or the true reasons for our policies are being hidden from the voting public, and they make sense based on classified information.”

You know, ordinarily I’d have a lot of respect for this possibility. I just can’t for the life of me conceive of what such a thing could be when toying with the enormously consequential question of whose hands Pakistan’s nukes are in. It would have to be something nearly on the grand-strategic level, and there’s just nothing I can imagine here like that.

Plus there’s the other quasi-rule one learns after awhile: When confronted with the question of whether something confounding has resulted from either design or blundering, bet on the latter.

If the balloon goes up in Pakistan, it’ll make Iraq and Afghanistan look like children’s puzzles.

#5 Comment By mlnw On June 12, 2012 @ 2:50 am

Obama’s judgment, ideology and moral core have been revealed to be deeply flawed, but so are Hillary’s, Leon’s, and every Administration member, Senator and Representative who voted for the emperor’s new clothes, including such “liberals” as Diane Feinstein, who in March, 2012 waxed poetic over the secret targeted assassinations program.
So whom do you trust? Probably noone for the next four years, but if Obama were reelected, he would almost certainly take it as a mandate for what he has been doing.
Better to vote him out, even if the change could be “worse”, especially if he continues not to “get it”.

The killing must stop and a policy of peace and diplomacy pursued. Obviously, his Administration has lost trust not only with the electorate but also with any of his diplomatic partners, unless it doesn’t matter to them that we have stabbed so many others in the back.