by Benjamin J. Kirby
Matt passed along a breathtaking must-read from Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic today: 'Every Person Is Afraid of the Drones': The Strikes' Effect on Life in Pakistan
"When children hear the drones, they get really scared, and they can hear them all the time so they're always fearful that the drone is going to attack them," an unidentified man reported. "Because of the noise, we're psychologically disturbed, women, men, and children. ... Twenty-four hours, a person is in stress and there is pain in his head." A journalists who photographs ydrone strike craters agreed that children are perpetually terrorized. "If you bang a door," Noor Behram said, "they'll scream and drop like something bad is going to happen." Do your kids?
The bottom line is that through this country's ongoing unmanned Predator Drone strike program which has escalated under President Obama, we are now in the full-time business of terrorizing innocent people Pakistan. There's a horrific, ugly irony in combating terror cells with what amounts to terrorism.
To be frank, I think the article, on the heels of this Bureau of Investigative Journalism study which unsurprisingly finds that the drone strikes are causing mass trauma among civilians, misses a larger, more complex point. Maybe several points.
In an attempt to be helpful, Matt also passed along the idea of the Just War Doctrine of the Catholic Church. I would regret to inform Matt he -- and anyone else wishing to employ this doctrine as a way to guide their thinking -- has engaged the wrong Kirby in a discussion of theological contexts. Indeed, a conversation on issues of war and peace between Spence, the former youth minister and practicing Catholic, and my brother the ordained Methodist Deacon would be fascinating.
I, on the other hand, lacking the depth, understanding and clarity of the faithful, am not that guy.
And to be frank, the idea of trying to apply a doctrine in order to determine whether a war is "just" after we've endured the decade or so of a war of choice in Iraq, predicated on an abject lie, is a bit more than I can tolerate.
What's more, I've covered the complexities of this last year when we were learning that drone strikes were responsible for killing an American citizen in Pakistan -- albeit one who was violently anti-American.
President Obama offered "change" in 2008. And though a lot of folks have professed some disappointment, from my view, President Obama has had to absorb a lot of change as well. The biggest may well be the way we conduct "war" -- which, let's face it, isn't really "war" at all any more. Unless some things take a pretty hard turn and the wheels come off the wagon in, say, Iran, we'll almost assuredly never go to war with a whole country again.
This idea was brought into stark relief earlier this year when we learned about the "kill list" overseen by President Obama himself. The Catholic Church's Just War Doctrine? There's a PowerPoint in the Situation Room with names and faces on it.
Our world has changed. And so has war fighting. It's not the entire 101st Airborne Division parachuting into the countryside for an invasion. It's not Normandy. It's not even Hamburger Hill. Although a scenario like Kosovo and the conflict in Bosnia could happen again, were that campaign to be conducted today (and not during the Clinton Administration in the 90s) it would almost assuredly be different.
Presidents, regardless of party affiliation, have tough decisions to make. I'm not an expert on military affairs, but I can't imagine there's a military leader today who would evaluate the situation in Pakistan and the borderlands in Afghanistan and not call it a clusterfuck. The hard truth is, there are extremists arming and training in Pakistan -- and, almost assuredly -- in other Middle East and Far East countries as well.
Unmanned Predator Drones ought to provide an easy solution to a messy problem. They're fast, they are quiet. They provide no American collateral damage should one crash or be shot down somehow. They are, compared to many other military hardware solutions, relatively cheap.
And they are supposedly pin-point accurate.
The problem is, these "terrorists" are sometimes hard to identify as "terrorists". They don't go around with a nametag that says "Hi, My Name Is Muhammed, and I'm a Terrorist!"
They live in villages, they go to schools and they walk down streets with other people -- perfectly innocent people -- nearby.
And that's why any reasonable military strategist would call it a clusterfuck -- a problem you didn't have when invading, say, Nazi Germany. Land at Normandy Beach and shoot everything in sight. Welcome to World War II, where flags and uniforms helped a lot.
These are virtually impossible decisions, almost assuredly made more complicated by levels of secret intelligence we'll never know.
For me, things get much, much easier when I think about those children in Pakistan. And then I think about my own kids. It's dramatic, I suppose, but Conor's question in the article is ultimately a fair one. No, my kids do not jump at the sound of someone knocking on the door. No, I don't live in fear that I'll be bombed out of the blue by an unseen, silent enemy.
I'm grateful every day for it. I really, really am. I live in a comfortable world, and I am truly grateful for it, and I am grateful for the life I can give my children.
What is becoming apparent is that the continued drone strike operations in Pakistan have almost nothing to do with that comfort. Indeed -- and disturbingly -- they may be contributing to just the opposite.