- Created on Monday, 25 November 2013 14:09
- Written by Hunzala Ghaseel
- Category: ARTICLES
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In recent years we have seen an intensification of the American's reliance on drone warfare. This report examines the reasons for this new found strategy and the prospects for its future use.
After the 9/11 attacks on American soil, the American politicians embarked on a series of aggressive campaigns. They imagined that they will win a quick and successive series of campaigns in the Islamic World and thereby permanently change the geo-strategic scale in their favor. Instead, after more than a decade of waging war and committing atrocities, the US has finally come to realize that their military adventures have proved nothing short of a debacle. They US military finds itself neck deep in a quagmire and incapable of pulling themselves out of it. The aggressive wars the US has waged in Afghanistan and elsewhere has left the US militarily exhausted, financially bankrupt, and politically discredited. As a result of these wars and their financial costs, the US has lost all appetite for further military adventures and has been dislodged as the world's sole super power. It has instead been demoted to the position of a regional power that needs the cooperation of other regional powers when operating outside its own sphere of influence. In Syria for example, Obama's regime was incapable of acting when the Assad's regime used chemical weapons against their own citizens because Obama failed to secure the consent, or at least passivity, of regional powers such as Russia and China. Such examples not only illustrate American hypocrisy vis-a-vis secular and Islamist polities in the Muslim world but more importantly it shows that the US is no longer able to act unilaterally in this region. The US has openly acknowledged that for this century it will radically change its grand strategy, pivot towards the Pacific and focus on containing the rising influence of China, rather than squandering its resources in distant theatres.
However despite the need for addressing its pressing strategic necessities, the US has found it hard to divorce fully from their so-called War on Terror. For whatever reason, the US policy makers have been unable to let go of their obsession with this War waged exclusively against Muslims. The truth is that the US media, spurred on by their government counterparts, has spent so much time propagating against the Muslim world and demonizing them into a perpetual security threat that now the US government is beholden to its own propaganda and therefore must somehow continue their struggle against the Islamic world. For the past 14 years the US military has tried every trick in the book in order to defeat their self-proclaimed opponents. Nowhere has this been more true that in the case of Afghanistan. Here the US first attempted to defeat the Afghan Mujahideen, under the leadership of the Amir ul Mu'mineen Mullah Omar (HA), through conventional military methods. After a decade of futile fighting the US decided to change its tactics and instead implemented a counter-insurgency strategy formulated by their beloved commander, David Petraeus. Having failed to defeat the Afghans through this strategy as well, the Obama regime has given up all hope of every defeating the Afghan nation into submission. It has openly declared the desire to leave Afghanistan. However, conscious of maintaining at least a semblance of continuing this war, the Obama regime has instead resorted to using unmanned drones that are both inexpensive financially and non-costly in terms of human lives.
When we look at the issue in this context, it becomes quite clear why the US has intensified and expanded their drone operations. Having tried all means of defeating the proud Afghan nation the US has achieved nothing except swell the ranks of their opponents (i.e. Mujahideen), squander its own military resources, drain its finances and undermine what little support there was for these aggressive wars with their domestic audience. Acutely aware of not wasting any further military or financial resources and also to appease their domestic critics, Obama and his regime have instead started resorting to unmanned drone strikes against their enemies. To Obama and his supporters, the drones must be quite a publicity stunt. Firstly these unmanned planes are quite inexpensive compared to other strategies (such as flying thousands of soldiers into Afghanistan and not yielding any tangible benefit). Secondly these drones are hard to shoot down and even when shot down they do not result in any casualties. Thus the lack of these immediate casualties means that there is no immediate backlash at Whitehouse's own backyard. Thirdly when these drones strikes do martyr a high profile target, it provides for excellent publicity stunt for Obama as he can feign to be fighting and winning a successful counter insurgency campaign.
However Obama and his military advisors must be keenly aware that they are risking grave long term detriments in exchange for gaining these short term benefits. That this drone strategy is short-sighted is undisputable. Why Obama would continue this short-sighted policy can be explained by the nature of democracy where winning the next election is often more important than securing the long term interests of the nation. It is worth keeping in mind that these drone strikes have only been able to target those that have been very active in the public sphere and thus prone to be targeted through a number of means. The drone strikes have virtually been of no use against targeting the more important symbolic leaders of the opposition to the American aggressors. Any leaders that suspect being targeted by drone planes inevitably retract their public profile and instead delegate their operational duties to other less known associates. In other words, most of those targeted by these drone strikes are operational commanders. The targeting of these commanders cannot disrupt any of their activities because these commanders always nurture several delegates who are able to take over and resume activities in the event of the death or capture of any operational commanders.
The disadvantages of these drone strikes however stems from two fatal weaknesses. Drone strikes are inherently unreliable and indiscriminate. Drones are unreliable because they rely on either ground-fed reports or aerial surveillance for identifying potential targets. Ground fed intelligence is cumbersome, slow and prone to inaccuracies. Aerial surveillance is even more unreliable. Furthermore drones are indiscriminate because they mostly rely on missiles for shooting targets. Such weaponry naturally results in a lot of casualties all of whom might not necessarily be involved in any activity against the US. Due to these two weaknesses drone strikes cause disproportionate civilian casualties. These high proportion of civilian casualties in effect ferment a lot of hatred against the US in the affected areas. The affected local populations, traumatized by such attacks, begin to view the Americans as a discriminate and immoral force that is willing to sacrifice the lives of the locals in order to attack a small number of their enemies. This in turn drives a lot of the civilian populace, especially from amongst the young, into the arms of the Mujahideen. Not only that but more importantly, these drone strike work with a double edge because they illustrate that the host government of these areas, often allied with the US, lack full sovereignty and are unable or unwilling to protect their own citizens. Thus the drone strikes unwittingly undermine support for the very same government, whom they intended to shore up support for through these strikes.
However, fundamentally, the drone strategy betrays a far more crucial fact than mere tactical failure. What it shows is that America is no longer a military power confident of itself. It can no longer assert itself militarily. The financial and military cost of a counter-insurgency means that the US has abandoned all hope of defeating its self-proclaimed opponents militarily. It is instead satisfied with a few cosmetic operations that continue the semblance of American determination to continue this war but which in reality achieve nothing substantial on the ground and yield the entire battlefield to its opponents who roam at will and institute their programs in it. Moreover, this half-hearted and self-defeating policy means that it is undermining what little American credibility there is left in these countries. The people of the drone-affected areas have now come to see what the US truly is - a paper tiger which a superficial claim to be the greatest empire of all time. America would do far better to detach itself from emotions and to reexamine if this aggressive war against the Muslim world is a cause worth fighting.
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