The paradoxes and pitfalls of the anti-drone debate.

An intelligent piece written by Myra Macdonald of Reuters that brings attention to the complexities of drone warfare in Pakistan.

She argues that by focusing only on the negative impacts of U.S. drone strikes as unilateral acts of imperialism, the broader political and historical context of the territory of FATA–Pakistan’s tribal areas where the majority of strikes take place–is dangerously sidelined. This complexity is in addition to the many civilian deaths caused by the Taliban and the Pakistani army.

In short, the violence in FATA is not ‘home grown’: either as a response to drone attacks or an outcome of ‘traditional’ Pashtun culture–the latter being a form of ‘blaming the victim’.

Macdonald lists a number of other pieces that make up a complex FATA jigsaw.

1. Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistani and U.S. interests (as well as those from Saudi Arabia), have both directly and indirectly influenced the local population, and invited foreign actors into the territory. Pakistan’s ISI in particular have used the region has a staging base for some of its own foreign policy prerogatives in Afghanistan and Kashmir by sponsoring Taliban-linked militants.

2. FATA is a semi-autonomous region that exists under colonial-era legislation called the Frontier Crimes Regulation (of 1902). The consequence is that residents of FATA do not have the same political rights as ‘mainstream’ Pakistani citizens, and it also gives the Pakistani army and ISI a space of plausible deniability for sponsoring militant activity in the region.

3. Stopping the drones won’t necessarily stop the violence mete out against ordinary civilians by the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, and affiliated militants. Both ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ drone voices tend to gravitate towards a position that marginalizes the nuanced perspectives of the civilian population.

4. While Macdonald argues that for many residents drones may be the ‘lesser evil’, the fact remains that CIA’s program sets a dangerous geopolitical precedent, and one that can be used over and over again for militant propaganda.

All told, this piece, and others like it, remind us that a technological war remains a very human war, with a very human past.

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