Kashmeri: Drone Diplomacy
08/31/11 7:55AM By Sarwar Kashmeri
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(HOST) 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 today.
(KASHMERI) 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 find a drone buzzing in to settle scores.
Drones 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.
A 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 Afghanistan.
That 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.
Pakistan 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.
But, 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.
Just 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.
Drone-diplomacy is no substitute for a cogent foreign policy.