May 29, 2010

On Drone Strikes (Updated)


Chris: I do not care how many civilians drone strikes actually kill. And I do not care how many civilians Americans think drone strikes in Pakistan kill.

I care only about how many civilians Pakistanis think drone strikes kill. As one of the world's experts on Pakistani public opinion, you should be able to provide that number to me, right? Because all you can tell me right now is the Pakistani press is dutifully reporting whatever the Taliban tells them ... and I already know that. I don't care in the slightest about what Pakistani generals or the CIA is telling you behind closed doors. It does not matter. I care about what those Pakistani generals are telling their public. I care, in other words, less about reality as defined by verifiable facts and figures and more about reality as it is interpreted in Pakistan and within Pakistani diaspora communities.

Honestly, I have been making this point over and over again for a year now. But the only thing the CIA and other agencies and departments have done since then is to have stepped up their information operations campaign aimed at U.S. public opinion -- i.e. to have convinced Americans that drones are a good idea. But who cares, honestly, whether or not the Americans who read know how many civilians die in drone attacks or think drones are a good idea? I certainly don't. I care more about the people who stand to be most easily radicalized by the strikes.

C'mon, dude, get out there, do some polling, crunch some numbers, and then come tell me I'm wrong. Until then, stop telling me what I and everyone else in America already knows.

Update: Some good commentary on drones from Mosharraf Zaidi here and here. (h/t Abu A.)

Update II: And this is exactly why drone strikes should be carried out by the military. This is actually a good news story. Mistakes were made, mistakes were acknowledged and investigated, and people were held accountable.

Update III: Hey, here's some damn good advice from a journal article co-authored by one C. Christine Fair:

Third, there is an urgent need for focused analyses of the impacts of policy interventions on both the supply of and demand for violence. U.S., Pakistani, and international agencies are not configured to rigorously evaluate the impacts of their programming. Given the state of knowledge in this area, policy implementers should be building impact evaluation into their programming, and they ought to establish a more robust process for disseminating the lessons learned.