"For every 10 Al Qaeda members killed by drones, 100 new are recruited!"

I've recently come across two interesting articles that indicate that the policies and politics currently being carried out by the West in the Middle East is counter productive. One is on the use of drones in Yemen (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/when-us-drones-kill...) and the other states that at this point in time it would be wise for the international community to intervene in Syria and back up the National Coalition army. (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138509/michael-broening/time...

These two articles are just an example of a growing demand for a change of perspectives on the war against terror. They are interesting to read for all who are following events after the Arab spring  and how it is effecting geopolitics. There are indicators that the policy currently endorsed and acted on by Washington and the West in general (that more or less follows the US, reluctantly though in many cases) with it's focus on hard power (such as the use of drones and direct military invention - or not as in the case of Syria) is fueling conflicts and hostility towards the West and the idea of a secular, liberal, Western style democracy. The liberal/democratic ideal is increasingly perceived as imperial and patronizing.

The most dangerous thing here is what many see as hypocrisy on behalf of the Western powers who have shown great inconsistency in their approach to the region. Interests trump ideals!  This weakens the liberal/democratic cause and makes it easier for terrorist organisations (such as Al Qaeda) to recruit new followers and strengthen the Islamic narrative among the public who are developing a need to fight the perceived invaders and traitors to the Islamic cause. In the former article I mentioned it is stated that for every 10 Al Qaeda members that are killed by drones, 100 new are  recruited! 

This doesn't make sense! The harder "we" fight - the bigger the problem becomes. Even so much so that the people start to distrust their own new and fragile governments and fellow citizens who want to give a more secular regime a change, with the risk of renewed and/or increased unrest and dissatisfaction. During the uprising in the Middle East different groups with different demands protested side by side.The dream was to usher the dictators who had controlled peoples lives for decades. Those who lived the Arab spring and directly participated in it tell me that the reason for the uprising was not first and foremost the demand for jobs and material prosperity (as some have insisted) but for autonomy, dignity and the right to decide ones own life - to choose ones own identity. Today the same people, who last year fought together for dignity and freedom, are in a state of escalating conflict and the main issue is directly linked to identity - the very thing they fought for in the very beginning.The conflict in a nutshell is this: shall I embrace Islam as the foundation of society or follow the West and endorse more liberal values against Islam? Those who stand in between and want their societies to be given time and space to develop a new path on their own terms, grounded on both liberal values and respect for cultural -and Islamic values, are marginalized or even pin-pointed as traitors to the cause (Islam or Liberalism) and affiliated with the enemy (the liberal West or the Islamists). The moderates on both ends are in a loose/loose situation, really. 

And the international community is not helping in combining these two perspectives or facilitating diversity and peaceful co-existence - not in the Middle East or anywhere else for that matter. On the contrary, both the world and individual societies seem even more polarized now then when the Arab spring began and the hopes it brought are slowly fading into ice cold winter. The risk that one dictatorship regime will be replaced with another just as oppressive, even if the powers have shifted and different groups are now oppressed, is very real.We - as a world - have failed. We are not addressing the humanity and autonomy of the people involved - the root cause! The gap between groups of peoples is widening. It is  happening in Egypt and Syria right now and other countries are at the risk of becoming other examples if nothing changes. 

I find this very disappointing.  Devastating I would even say, because the opportunity to really change something for the better was there, and now its slipping away.  And we are all responsible. The policy currently endorsed by the West is a vicious circle - not a solution. Isn't it time that we realize that the Arab spring is a global project and has both - to some extent - global causes and global solutions? We need genuine collaboration and justice to fulfill it's potentials. 

The wisest thing to do would be to focus on the development of a world where all people in all societies were enabled to enjoy their humanity and dignity and exercise the freedom and autonomy that is supposed to be universally and equally accessible to all -  according to international declarations of human rights. And use drones and other hard power techniques as a possibility in extreme cases on the site?

You may say I'm a dreamer  - but I'm sure we could do a lot better in  facilitating friendship and dialogue and mutual respect and thus help develop healthier societies where anger and fear and frustration does not make a terrorist or extremist narrative of any kind appealing and just?


Anna Lára

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Comment by Anna Lára Steindal on December 28, 2012 at 9:01am

Thank you, both of you,  for  your posts. It takes two to tango and it is indeed important to explore arguments on both ends. But, I do think that the articles you posted highlight the complexity of the matter and affirms the deep gap between the two extreme views and how those in the middle tend to be silenced and/or marginalized - just as the articles you post point out. The truth has ceased to matter - and the debate become a matter of drawing people to your cause, even with dubious arguments. What ever it takes! The issue of drones is a good example of how extreme the debate has become and my point is that we should fight this. It's dangerous if we leave the debate to extremist on opposite ends - as the articles you posted indicate. I am not suggesting that drones are never used, but that they be used with care (which they mostly are according to you posts) and in collaboration with authorities and the people  - if possible. There needs to be a closer collaboration and consensus on what we are doing and how we fight extremism because otherwise it will turn into a fight where we don't really know who is fighting whom - which sadly seem to me to be the case at this point in time.  Is it a war of the US military against reluctant Pakistani government concealing terrorist leaders? Is it a war of the Pakistani people against the Talibans?  Is it a war of South and Middle Europe against growing Al Queda presence in North Africa? Is it a struggle between Salafists and Liberals in the Middle East? Is it a war between Islam and Christianity? Is it a fight between Muslims immigrants and skinheads in Europe? Yes, all these fights are taking place and they are a part of the jigsaw but we are not addressing the root causes. And we are certainly not joined in the collaboration I see as a pre-condition for success - and a better and more just world which is what we are striving for after all. 

Comment by Bashir Ahmad Gwakh on December 27, 2012 at 9:20pm

I do agree with Jahan Zeb and Farhat Taj. Civilian deaths are not as high as Pakistani media, religious leaders, politicians, and some analysts have been claiming. The analysts question the claims of high civilian casualties but no media outlet or organization has ever published the names of those killed, their villages, dates, and the locations of the drone attacks. According to experts, in a bid to minimize their losses, the insurgents try to conceal the identities of their associates killed in the attacks. They collect their comrades’ bodies and, after burying them, issue statements that all of the victims were innocent residents.

Here is my analysis about Drone War. http://www.rferl.org/content/pakistan_commentary_drone_strikes/2433...

Comment by Jahan Zeb on December 27, 2012 at 6:23pm

AfPak: According to author, Farhat Taj, (a Pashtun and a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo and a member of AIRRA ), the drones have only killed a handful of civilians as compared to the militants who were struck down by the strikes.


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