Kashmeri: Drone Diplomacy

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Drone warfare has become an effective part of U.S. military strategy in
recent years, but commentator Sarwar Kashmeri has been thinking about
how the use of drones may have unintended consequences in the long run.

Shock and Awe a century ago was the gunboat that enforced Britain’s
dominance in the far corners of the world. Kill a British colonial
governor and you’d wake up one morning to see a Royal Navy gunboat
steaming in over the horizon, guns blazing, as it leveled a village in
retaliation. Today it’s the drone – pilot-less airplanes bristling with
video-cameras and weapons – that increasingly project American power and
justice in distant lands. Shoot down an American helicopter and you’ll
soon find a drone buzzing in to settle scores.

Drones have
rapidly become the weapon of choice in Afghanistan . There, they are
being touted as a way out from the quagmire of what is now America ‘s
longest war. Why keep a hundred thousand Americans in Afghanistan when
one can keep the bad guys on the run by using a few drones and a handful
of special-forces.

Some may think this is a tantalizingly easy fix to the consequences of an ill-conceived policy, but I don’t think so.

successful conclusion to America’s war in Afghanistan depends on the
goodwill and cooperation of Pakistan with which Afghanistan shares a
porous border. Taliban fighters regularly cross this border to regroup
and rearm before moving back to fight American troops in Afghanistan.

is why most of the drone-strikes take place on the Pakistani side of
the border. And that in turn fuels the growing animosity and distrust
between Pakistan and the United States.

Pakistan is not militarily strong enough to enforce a no-fly zone for American drones. But it evens the score by other means.

instance, in retaliation to the surprise American raid on its territory
to kill Bin Laden Pakistan allowed the Chinese to photograph the
top-secret American helicopter that crashed during the raid, and to
collect samples of its stealth technology.

It was an act
calculated to curry favor with China -a strategic partner of Pakistan,
and a slap in the face for the United States – which considers China a

But, a Chinese-Pakistani axis threatens the other
big regional gorilla – India . No surprise then that the last few years
have seen a marked increase in India’s involvement in Afghan affairs, a
direct challenge to Pakistan’s regional interests.

Just as
gunboats could not ultimately save an untenable British policy of
colonialism, an ill conceived drone-heavy strategy to end the Afghan war
may well result in doing just the opposite.

That is a
possibility America should keep in mind as it increasingly relies on
drones to enforce its dominance in distant lands.

Drone-diplomacy is no substitute for a cogent foreign policy.

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