SALT LAKE CITY, January 4, 2013 — The most recent drone kill of a high-ranking Taliban leader in Pakistan remind Americans just how messy the ‘War on Terror’ has become.
Maulvi Nazir Wazir can now be crossed of Barack Obama’s kill list, along with several of Wazir’s deputies who were not specifically targeted in the Presidential Assassination Program but were killed, becomming “collateral damage.”
It seems a bit odd that a president who speaks so passionately about human rights, multi-national cooperation, and rapprochement with the Muslim world so heavily relys on a brand of warfare that is so … messy.
From afar it looks neat and tidy. An American airman, presumably, pilots the aircraft into firing range, another sites the target. The pilot pulls the trigger, and they and their leaders watch on a monitor, far away from the mayhem that ensues.
Silently, another Taliban commander is blown to bits. President Obama is notified by cable perhaps, or maybe by an aide whispering in his ear.
Known as a “militant leader” in some circles, or a “tribal warlord” in others, the target (and several of his deputies) is now just a name on a long list of once-was terrorist leaders that the U.S. has seen fit to vaporize with hellfire missiles launched from a remotely-controlled aircraft.
The apparent ease and simplicity of remote control combat, moreover, only masks some serious unpleasantness. Yes, there is collateral damage, but that happens in every war. The difference is that many individuals targeted by drones aren’t actively engaged in combat when they meet the missile that will send them to their Maker.
And the battlefield can be at a family’s place of residence, or on a road between villages.
When the dust settles, the real messiness comes into view.
For example, it’s not exactly clear how bad Wazir was. He organized attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, but was reportedly on good terms with the Pakistani government, our nominal ally. It’s probably a safe bet that Pakistan did not authorize the killing on their sovereign soil.
To be sure, even the president’s harshest critics are happy enough about an enemy of the United States being terminated, and in relatively economical fashion. But many of those on the right wonder when it will end. Is the kill list self-replenishing? How many “warlords,” or “senior Taliban commanders” will fill the void left by Wazir?
Does the military need to keep the kills coming in order to justify the resources? President Obama wants desperately to cut defense resources, much of it in the form of manpower. Will the Pentagon rely more and more on unmanned combat in the wake of personnel cuts?
Finally, what is the result of all this efficient death? More than 11 years after military operations in response to the 9-11 attacks began, the United States doesn’t seem to be much closer to any definable victory.
It has been the policy of the Obama Administration to wind down the “War on Terror,” first in Iraq, where victory could be measurably demonstrated. Now Afghanistan is dragging on interminably, and U.S. national security is arguably no better for it.
Yes, the President gets a good press statement out of a kill like this one, though for now the administration and the Pentagon aren’t commenting on it. President Obama can claim that al Qaeda is on the run, or that the Taliban is in retreat, neither of which is true.
Sounds a lot like 2001, doesn’t it? Except that in 2001 we hadn’t already spent a few hundred billion on the war and the objective was clearer.
Now, the whole affair is one big mess and getting messier. We’ll probably need some drone attacks to help clean it up.
Rich is a teacher and a soldier. In addition to writing the “Rich Like Me” political column at the Washington Times Communities, he is the author of Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic Training; Tunnel Club; and Not Another Boring Textbook: A High School Students’ Guide to their Inner Conservative.
He writes about Salt Lake City and the World in the Food and Travel section.
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