Diplomats Concede Drones Might Destabilize Nuclear Armed Pakistan

WSJ reveals that some folks within the Obama Administration have finally started to weigh the possibility that our drone strikes in Pakistan do more harm than good. Unfortunately, in the fight over whether the US should rein drone strikes in, those folks appear to have lost the debate … for now.

The White House National Security Council debated a slowdown in drone strikes in a meeting on Thursday, a U.S. official said. At the meeting, CIA Director Leon Panetta made the case for maintaining the current program, the official said, arguing that it remains the U.S.’s best weapon against al Qaeda and its allies.

The result of the meeting—the first high-level debate within the Obama administration over how aggressively to pursue the CIA’s targeted-killing program—was a decision to continue the program as is for now, the U.S. official said.


Yet an increasingly prominent group of State Department and military officials now argue behind closed doors that the intense pace of the strikes aggravates an already troubled alliance with Pakistan and, ultimately, risks destabilizing the nuclear-armed country, said current and former officials familiar with the discussions.

What’s fascinating about the article, though, is that for all the discussion of the political problems the drones are causing, there’s no discussion of how drones have served to radicalize potential terrorists.

These diplomats and officials say the deep vein of anti-Americanism that runs through Pakistani society forces its elected and military leaders, including army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to distance themselves from Washington to avoid a popular backlash.

“What’s worrying a lot of us is whether we’re turning people who should be our natural allies into our adversaries,” said a U.S. diplomat in Pakistan.

That is, this debate appears to still be focusing on whether drones make key Pakistani elites separate themselves from us. There’s not one mention, however, of people like Faisal Shahzad–the Times Square bomber–who blame drones for their turn to terrorism.

  1. liberalarts says:

    We’re sowing dragons’ teeth. Which may be exactly what those who profit want. David Harvey and Naomi Klein certainly think so.

  2. spidermonkey says:

    Billions of dollars in aid and yet they harbor Public Enemy Number One down the road from their West Point, and their top nuke scientist is helping the Iranians build a nuclear bomb. I say let the drones fly.

    • MadDog says:


      A perfect example of my “Nearly Infinite Reciprocity Loop” theory. That theory goes like this:

      1. You hit me.

      2. I hit you back.

      3. You hit me back.

      4. Continue nearly ad infinitum or until someone becomes truly sentient.

      The “Nearly Infinite Reciprocity Loop” seems to be tightly coupled with the “Nearly Sentient Species” theory.

      The “Nearly Sentient Species” theory states that a member of that species will only nearly think things through before responding to negative stimuli. That is, a negative stimuli must always be responded to with a negative response.

      Or shorter put, never turn the other cheek.

      The “Nearly Sentient Species” theory is distantly related to the “Mostly Sentient Species” whereby a member of that species mostly thinks things through and doesn’t always respond to negative stimuli with a negative response.

      The “Mostly Sentient Species” theory is distantly related to, and hopefully, a forerunner to the “Entirely Sentient Species” theory whereby a member of that species fully thinks things through and responds to negative stimuli by producing a positive response.

  3. ThingsComeUndone says:

    “What’s worrying a lot of us is whether we’re turning people who should be our natural allies into our adversaries,” said a U.S. diplomat in Pakistan.”

    Just who are our Natural allies the poor civilians in Mountains we have no problem killing just because they might look like terrorists?
    You can’t buy friends and allies Cripes nobody in ther State Dept or CIA reads MAchiavelli!
    Giving billions of dollars to a Elite Pakistani ruling class that is as corrupt as our own and does not share the wealth with the poorer class is destabilizing.
    Giving cash to an Elite class that is friends with Ossama is destabilizing? ( Pakistani intelligence was friends with and trained the Taliban and helped introduce Ossama to them)
    Nobody gets into the spy business unless they either are members of their countries elite and are loyal to their countries elite if Pakistan’s intelligence agency protected Ossama as seems likely then the ruling class likes Ossama.
    Ask yourself this FDL has been great at predicting we would lose both wars and why, we predicted the housing boom would bust, that tax cuts for the rich would not create jobs etc, etc….so then why have we not been put on the CIA payroll since we are pretty good at telling the future?
    Any bets the CIA is spending its money instead on training the sons of the Elite to stare at Goats?

  4. ThingsComeUndone says:

    “What’s worrying a lot of us is whether we’re turning people who should be our natural allies into our adversaries,” said a U.S. diplomat in Pakistan.

    Natural Allies? we shoot missiles at unarmed civilians for looking like Al Quieda lets put this in ways Obama can understand given how much the police in America mistreat African Americans and all dark people well….as much as I have been mistreated I have never had them fire Missiles at me for looking a certain way or being in the wrong neighborhood.

    • RevBev says:

      I heard Dennis Miller on radio the other day say “Obama is a killing machine.” He added something like he is not passing judgement, I think.
      What a nice thoughtful image for our US Pres…..what has happened to us?
      Where are the Peaceniks?

      • ThingsComeUndone says:

        Did Dennis Miller ever say that about Bush? Where are the Peaceniks? well like Cassandra before Troy fell we are to busy being Right about everything as the Very Serious People lose the war. Empires fall when the Proud refuse to listen to the Prophets of the age.

    • Kathryn in MA says:

      Don’t worry, that will come to pass as the War on Terror is redeployed to the War on Drugs. Fight them over there segues into; Hey, why not fight at home!

  5. soleprop says:

    I was struck recently by the parallel between the use of “body counts” to tout signs of success in the Vietnam war with the current “we’re making progress because we’re killing oh so many al-Qaeda leaders” refrain.

    At least when you’re using robots to kill at a distance you can’t get into the business of cutting off ears (I don’t remember if it was the left ear or the right ear that counted – you didn’t want anybody to cheat and get credit for two when they only killed one). There really is very little that’s new under the sun.

    • donbacon says:

      The reported possible killing of senior al Qaeda figures, as we have notably seen with OBL, has no important effect at all even if it is true, which often it isn’t.

      Did the US repeated dismissal of top generals in Iraq and Afghanistan change anything? Usually not, but least once it did. The war tempo picked up when Petraeus replaced Casey in Iraq. So it is with the Taliban — the leadership is now younger and more aggressive.

    • ThingsComeUndone says:

      This just broke: “A U.S. drone has killed a senior al Qaeda figure in Pakistan after a tipoff from local intelligence, a Pakistani intelligence official said on Saturday.” http://t.co/wPFH5Aq

      How many decades worth of senior al Qaeda have been killed by drones? I am starting to think al Qaeda has more senior officials than GM and Wallmart has senior executives.:)

    • PJEvans says:

      How many ‘senior Al Qaeda officials’ have we killed so far?

      Do they even realize how stupid that kind of press release makes them look?

  6. SaltinWound says:

    If you were doing a Pakistan timeline, would the death of Richard Holbrooke be included? It seems like our relationships in that part of the world have become more unstable since he died.

  7. ThingsComeUndone says:

    I think the debate is more about who has the contract on drones and hellfire missiles who are their big investors?
    We think the CIA, State Dept and WH matter they don’t they are all Corporate Puppets these weapons suck after a decade of failure Obama sent the Navy Seals instead of a drone attack to get Ossama arguably his smartest move as President.
    Why bother sending in more drone attacks just what have they accomplished 10 years of Drone attacks and Pakistan if anything in even more unsafe, Afghanistan is more unsafe if this trend keeps up history will say American general’s use of drone attacks that often hit civilians and the armies we just don’t care policy aside from leading to some very interesting war crime trials 2 decades later must also be credited for American losses in Afghanistan.
    Yes many factors contributed to American losses in Afghanistan stupid General’s, 2 weak President’s, but nothing lost American support in Afghanistan and Pakistan like drone attacks.

  8. donbacon says:

    Recruiting enemies is a natural component of the GWOT, which requires the production of new ‘terrorists’ just as the War on Drugs requires new drug users.

    The ‘liberation’ of Iraq was transformed into a remunerative ‘insurgency’ because the US military conducted a brutal occupation including random killing, night-time house raids, and imprisonment and torture of MAM’s (military age males).

  9. seaglass says:

    “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning. Its the smell….. of VICTORY!”

    Col.KIlgore ( Robert Duvall) – Apocalypse Now 1979

  10. donbacon says:

    “What’s worrying a lot of us is whether we’re turning people who should be our natural allies into our adversaries,” said a U.S. diplomat in Pakistan.

    The U.S. has done this with its poor diplomacy as well as its drones. The U.S. has allied with India, including the promotion India’s interests in Afghanistan much to Pakistan’s displeasure. Pakistan does not want an Indian client state on its western flank which is why it supports the Taliban’s killing of U.S. troops.

    Does that sound like something a “natural ally” would do?

    • PJEvans says:

      Explain why India is a country we should not be allied with, and why Pakistan is so much more valuable.
      Please try doing it without using talking points from the GOP and the Blue Dogs.

      • donbacon says:

        I think that the U.S. should be allied with every country in the world.
        And don’t lecture to me PJEvans.

  11. donbacon says:

    the deep vein of anti-Americanism

    Got that right.

    January 4, 2008

    The survey also found that Pakistani attitudes toward the United States are negative and that there is a growing perception that the United States is hostile toward Islam.

    JULY 29, 2010

    The image of the United States remains overwhelmingly negative in Pakistan, and few Pakistanis express confidence in U.S. President Barack Obama to do the right thing in world affairs.

    Fewer than one-in-five Pakistanis (17%) have a favorable opinion of the U.S., a rating virtually unchanged from recent years.

    Roughly six-in-ten Pakistanis describe the U.S. as an enemy, while a paltry 11 percent accept the U.S. as a partner.

  12. bluewombat says:

    It seems that our government has either lost the ability to rationally assess our true national security interests, or, worse, is actively and deliberately pursuing a course of action contrary to them. Our gratuitous baiting of Russia is another example.

  13. donbacon says:

    Drones destabilize Pakistan, and conversely they also help unite Pakistanis against the U.S. — an enmity that already existed and is being exacerbated by increasingly bad U.S. diplomacy.

    General McChrystal assessed in 2009: “Afghanistan’s insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan. . .and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan’s ISI [Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence ].”

    General McChrystal again: “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely bemnefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India.”

    Holbrooke was no help:
    “US Ambassador Holbrooke assured [India FM] Rao that he is in favor of Indian assistance programs in Afghanistan and is not influenced by what he hears in Islamabad.” — wikileaks

    The India-Pakistan enmity is currently about Kashmir and also Afghanistan. On the latter, India is continuing to invest in Afghanistan. PM Singh recently made a visit to Kabul where he shmoozed with Karzai. India has been a major contributor to reconstruction, with more than $1.3 billion in assistance so far, including the construction of highways, transmission lines, and the parliament building. India has built a highway in southwestern Afghanistan that connects with an Iran port on the Gulf of Oman, which would give it a transport link to Afghanistan not involving Pakistan, where its commerce is forbidden.

    The India influence in Afghanistan, which threatens to place an India client state on Pakistan’s western flank, has been endorsed by the U.S. State Department. Assistant Secretary Blake, in January: “As a sign of our close partnership in the region, the President announced during his landmark visit to India in November that we would work with India on women’s empowerment and capacity building in Afghanistan. . .These projects with India in Afghanistan mark a small but important part of a significant new global development – the emergence of a global strategic partnership between India and the United States.”

    That threat not particularly of aggression so much as encirclement scares the hell out of Pakistan, as it should.

    • rugger9 says:

      Encirclement without perceived options leads to antisocial behavior by nations. Germany in both World Wars responded to this very issue. If one believes the backstory on Pearl Harbor, one reason the Japanese attacked was that the USA orchestrated restrictions on resources (oil, etc) giving the Tojo regime an excuse to do something about it.

      Do not underestimate the possibility for serious trouble out of Pakistan, they are balkanized, with serious enemies around them [India and Shia Iran], and are very prone to lash out if a faction thinks it will help them. They’ve murdered prime ministers, so I would say nothing is “off the table” for anyone.

  14. Synoia says:

    “What’s worrying a lot of us is whether we’re turning people who should be our natural allies into our adversaries,” said a U.S. diplomat in Pakistan.

    Not a bug

    Is a feature. Builds careers and makes people rich.

  15. Jason Leopold says:

    PJEvans @21: I’m wondering how many AQ figures we created through the drone program and other war efforts, which Marcy touched upon. I’ve seen another report that said Kashmiri was someone who was seen as taking over for OBL. So this also appears to be a public relations effort.

    • geoshmoe says:

      Quite a few! Especially when you add them to the ones created out of… whole cloth, and the original number made up by rebranding the… Mu haj a deen… if you go back that far, the ones that were putting up a resistance to Russian adventuring there.

      Rebranded, for the purpose of… to gain an enemy, (flowery) is to have a new purpose again, and be able to fight another day… since the “cold war” fizziled…

      Multitask the fuckers… So what the hell! Turn em loose in the other direction, who the hell knows the diff? Raggety mfrs, runnin around in dirty bathrobes, who’s to bother.

      Melodramatically: “Ah please, just one more little, Pearl Harbor incident…(911) give us a chance.
      Musicly: So we can get it on… one more time ” For all time, this time, state of emergency, kind of end game for the Constiltution, that pc o paper.

      Those scroungey guys with their flying machines stinger missiles. Wonder where they got them things? Probably not India, Probably not China…

      Some kind of cutting edge here, bull shitting this stuff? Heh, I wonder who Al Keida really was, probly some unpopular Gomer Pyle type doofus.

  16. kbskiff says:

    When do the drone strikes begin in the USA?

    Now that torture and murder of American citizens without due process is US policy I imagine it is just a matter of time.

  17. Oval12345678akaJamesKSayre says:

    Obama is a bigger terrorist than Bush.

    The US military has been terrorizing residents of the third world for one hundred and thirteen years: since 1898, over nine million people murdered by the USA in support of American corporate greed…

  18. workingclass says:

    The drone technology is advancing. It is helpful to have a population of remote throw away people to practice on.