A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness,
a desire to kill, to torture,
to smash faces in with a sledge hammer,
seemed to flow through the whole group of people
like an electric current
--1984, George Orwell
Number nine, number nine,
number nine, number nine
--Revolution 9, The Beatles
Earlier this month we were provided the happy news that another #3 was gone:
"Amid environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and diplomatic disaster in the Mediterranean comes this piece of welcome news from western Pakistan: Al-Qaeda confirmed that its No. 3 leader, Mustafa al-Yazid (also known as Sheik Saeed al-Masri), was killed in an unmanned drone strike last month" (Drones Take Toll on al-Qaeda leaders).
But why would anybody see this as Good News, sufficient to counteract the grinding destruction of the Gulf that we euphemistically call an environmental disaster, as though another unfortunate but unpreventable happening like a hurricane? Sure, we killed another guy with a towel wrapped around his head and the media is ecstatic -- but meanwhile, back at the ranch, we still have high unemployment, failing mortgages and myriad other serious issues supposedly eclipsed by a useless drone-induced death.
Who are we kidding: ". . .al-Yazid was, by some counts, the 10th third-ranking al-Qaeda leader killed since Sept. 11, 2001, while Osama bin Laden (No. 1) and Ayman a'-Zawahri (No. 2) Ayman al-Zawahri remain at large. Individual deaths do not summate to victory; there must be identifiable goals associated with the carnage. The purpose of war is not to kill, but to kill with a purpose.
It is doubtful that that the al-Qaida of 2010 is the same organization that executed the 9-11 attacks, since men like al-Yazid may simply be fighting a defensive battle against foreign invaders. Ranger lacks the intel to definitively state this, but numerous indicators suggest this is a reasonable assumption.
"Since 2004, U.S. airstrikes have killed 15 senior and 15 mid-level al-Qaeda leaders, plus four senior and five mid-level Taliban leaders, according to the Long War Journal, which tracks the war on terror."
"The death of al-Yazid, who acted as al-Qaeda's chief operating officer, also is the latest proof of the value of the controversial but effective CIA program that has become the centerpiece of that strategy."
These figures may be correct, but so what? The replacement pool is adequate fill leadership voids, and nowhere do we see a cost/benefit analysis of this U.S. application of violence. It is premature to believe this program is effective; races and wars are gauged by the final outcome.
The editorial continues, "Drone attacks convey unmistakable messages: U.S. forces are always watching, and someone close to the leaders might be betraying them. With luck, this distracts and destabilizes al-Qaeda." Luck is not a military concept, and if the U.S. is hanging it's hat on that "hopey-changey thing" -- as the inimitable Ms. Palin calls it -- we are in dire straits.
In the Vietnam War, the Phoenix Program killed 20,000+ hardcore Vietnamese Communists, yet they achieved victory. If killing the VC infrastructure did not work then, why should it work now just because we are using drones? The final outcome on the ground is the yardstick, and all the salutary Op-Eds won't change that fact.
"The strike on al-Yazid, for example, is reported to have killed his wife and at least one of his three children. The drone strikes enrage many ordinary Pakistanis, both there and in the U.S. ..." Forget Pakistan's reaction to the killing of al-Yazid's wife, kids and (unmentioned in this piece) grandkids, MY reaction is one of revulsion. Why aren't other Americans similarly affected?
The drone program is justified as "[the enemy has] no compunction about hiding among civilians." This is not a justification for accepting collateral deaths. Collateral civilian deaths are only acceptable IF the targeted al-Qaeda assets are in the execution phase of an operation and the civilian deaths are essential to kill or capture the active terrorist elements.
Killing is killing, whether done by terrorists or U.S. agents. We can only control our side of the equation, and our failure to do so will ultimately lead to our unsuccessful campaign in Afghanistan. Killing must lead to a greater good; if we do not believe this, then we are not a Christian nation (as so many of the die-hards believe), and are as criminal as the al-Qaida leadership.
The editorial falsely concludes: "[T]he drones deliver the essential message of the war on terror: Attack the United States, and you'll regret it. If al-Qaeda is neutered and its leaders are killed or captured, others won't be eager to repeat its mistake."
Others will always be ready to assume leadership in a struggle in which they see themselves as justified in opposing foreign invaders. Ask yourself how you'd react if the shoe were on the other foot?