Kashmeri: Drone Diplomacy

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Commentator Sarwar Kashmeri has been thinking about the similarities
of British colonial policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the
current strategy being used by The United States in the region

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 – pilotless 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
a drone buzzing in to settle scores.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

is no substitute for a cogent foreign policy.


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