Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where's the dilemma?

Newsweek ran a short article today about our efforts to use airstrikes to kill top Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan called, "The Drone Dilemma." I don't see where the dilemma is.
A clandestine CIA search-and-destroy program, which launches missile strikes from remotely piloted drone aircraft, has killed more than a dozen senior leaders of Al Qaeda during the last two years. Among the dead: Abu Khabab al-Masri, reputed to be Al Qaeda's top expert on weapons of mass destruction, and Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban and reputed mastermind of the murder of Benazir Bhutto.

Sounds like a desirable outcome to me.
U.S. government spokesmen won't even confirm the program's existence, but a U.S. national-security official—who, like others cited in this article, declined to be named talking about sensitive information—says the program has been so successful that some counterterrorism officials want to expand it. They say the drones have been effective not just in killing terrorists but also in keeping them on the run and disrupting their ability to plan new attacks.

Sounds like I'm not alone in thinking the outcome is desirable.
Obama is concerned that firing missiles into urban areas like Quetta, where intelligence reports suggest that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and other high-level militants have sometimes taken shelter, would greatly increase the risk of civilian casualties.

Killing innocent civilians is one of the risks of war. Killing a lot of innocents is not a good outcome. It generates opposition and can motivate an enemy. However, this seems more like a risk-reward question than "a choice between equally undesirable alternatives." The definition of a dilemma is one in which you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Also, it's likely that a lot of the civilians surrounding Al Qaeda's warlords are not actually so innocent. They are the people who have been sheltering, feeding and transporting our targets.

As long as we are going to fight Al Qaeda in that theater -- I have serious questions as to whether the fight itself makes any sense -- we have to go after their leaders. If attacking them with bombs launched by drones works, then do it.

No comments: