Drone warfare

By Salina Nasir

On May 7, American media boasted of a dead terrorist in Yemen: Nasr bin Ali al-Ansi, the purported mastermind of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, was killed in a drone strike. The United States continues to celebrate its counterinsurgency tactic of using unmanned aerial vehicles to do the dirty work.

But does his death put an end to terrorism? No. In fact, ever since America’s drone campaign reached Yemen, al-Qaeda’s presence in the Arabian Peninsula has intensified, which has sparked debate concerning the counter productivity of drone warfare. The Washington Post reported a doubling of AQAP core insurgents in Yemen since the first strike in 2009. Theorists argue the reason for the amplification of terrorism in drone-affected regions stems from exacerbated anti-Americanism, which each drone strike ultimately spurs on.

It’s a vicious cycle, and there’s even an expression for it: Insurgent Math.

General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, coined the phrase as a response to such attacks. He holds that the act of killing civilians actually breeds insurgents, thus making counterinsurgency tactics counterproductive. McChrystal posed a likely scenario: If 10 operatives are targeted and two are killed, many people would assume eight terrorists remain. According to the mathematics of insurgency, however, the answer is actually unlikely.

“There are more likely to be as many as 20, because each [insurgent] you killed has a brother, father, son and friends, who do not think that they were killed because they were doing something wrong,” he said. Suddenly, then, there may be 20, making the calculus of military operations very different.”

Essentially, the tricky tradeoff of insurgent math furthers the notion that the hard power approach of drone warfare will eventually create more enemies than it had initially eliminated.

Aside from growing the terrorist movement, drones also claim far too many innocent lives. Despite the CIA’s claims, drones are far from surgical in their application and do not retain the capacity to differentiate between noncombatants and combatants.

But the topic of dead foreign civilians seldom reaches our national agenda. You won’t be hearing much of drone warfare, as it is operated by the CIA and deemed classified ” unless the media’s intent is to highlight only its success. This furthers blind patriotism, which boosts the morale of a nation that should really be questioning such a tactic.

And when an innocent victim is killed, what happens? A virtual media blackout. Their stories aren’t shared; their plight isn’t highlighted.

So is America’s lust for terrorist blood really worth it? Absolutely not ” especially if our thirst is quenched only by means of collateral damage.

Salina Nasir

Michael Torres / The Poly Post

Salina Nasir

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