Thursday, May 23, 2013

What is Between Drones and Nothing

So the president gave a national security speech. He said a lot of good things, some things had been said before, some were new.  But it is impossible at this point to take much of it seriously, it just seems too little too late.  From my twitter feed it would seem that base of the liberal support behind drone strikes is 1) that it is better then an invasion/war, and 2) we have to do something.

It should be said that it is true that drone strikes, as imperfect as they may be, are less damaging then war.  A few months ago during the 10 year anniversary of the Iraq war there was a certain amount of hang-ringing over the failure, through protests, to stop the war.  It is unlikely any protest has ever stopped any war. This does not mean to protest has no use-it serves as an important reminder to the elites of the limit of support. Noam Chomsky has often cited studies that emphasize the importance of wars which are short and which the US is certain to dominate, because support in the population is recognized to be "thin and weak". There is no question that between Iraq and Afghanistan the general population's patience with perpetual war is very weak. It could be argued that drone strikes are a response to this lack of war support, and compared to war, yes, better.

But, still really bad, this killing of people without trial or jury.  If we are not going to do drone strikes-which by some reports have killed over 1000 civillians to 400 some "combatants" -what is the alternative to "nothing"?This is especially important as many of the same people, such as myself, who do not want to see drone strikes do not want to see military interventions either, no matter how dressed up as humanitarian missions they may be. And it needs to be said that the idea that we could do "nation-building" through NGOs is a bit far-fetched as well, historical record suggests that such experiences tend to be fronts for the US government/corporate interests in some form or another.

How about we stop killing people? How about we just end drone strikes, is it possible at least some military aid could go to humanitarian aid on the ground--this could be towards education in Pakistan, refugee camps in Turkey (for people fleeing Syria), established community groups in Yemen. How about we state publicly we will not bomb Iran, and ease off on sanctions just a little. Iran, just like us, has hardliners who are simply strengthened by US and Israeli threats. If it was clear the military option was off the table that could be key to moving things forward. It would not really be giving up anything, as no rational military commander thinks bombing Iran, especially to hit nuclear targets, is really feasible.

We don't have much sway in Syria or Egypt, but we do have allies, in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Both these countries have repressive governments that are fully backed by the US. Bahrain, an early "Arab spring" country has been without mercy in cracking down on its dissenters- not a word from the US. To push for at least a little mercy for those who protested, to push for more equality for women and the Shia populations in these particular countries, would not take much "political capital" and could go farther toward winning hearts and minds then any drone strike. 

Of course the ultimate peace-making move would be settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which could easy be pushed forward by the US by simply holding on to some aid money, until say, settlements are permanently halted. The current administration has shown no will in this conflict so it's hard to see anything like this happening. There is no question that the US continues to face terrorist threats but they do not "hate" us for our "freedoms" they hate us because of our policies. There are many activities between drones and "nothing" if we have the will to try.

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