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Drones: Nation-Unbuilding in Pakistan and the US

Stanford’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic and NYU’s Global Justice Clinic have joined the debate on drones with a long report presenting what it argues are the counter-productive aspects of drone strikes. It argues:

  • The US has downplayed the number of civilian casualties
  • Even short of drone deaths, those living under drone surveillance suffer other harm from them, most notably terror
  • Evidence that drone strikes have made the US safer is ambiguous
  • Drone strikes undermine rule of law

To remedy these problems and bring about a real debate, the report calls for more transparency from the Administration so we can debate the real effects of the drone war, and more discipline on the part of reporters in reporting drone strikes.

Some of what the report describes will be familiar to regular readers of this site. The report is most important, I think, for its discussion of the way drones undermine society in both Pakistan and the US.

Unbuilding Pakistan

While some of this has been discussed with regards to Pakistan (and Yemen), the report cites FATA residents (who were interviewed outside of the FATA) describing drones impacting commerce.

One college student from North Waziristan explained that “Because of these drones, people have stopped coming or going to the bazaars. . . . [I]t has affected trade to Afghanistan.”578 The owner of a shop selling toys in a North Waziristan market stated that ever since the drone strikes began, “It’s very hard for us, we just barely get by [with what we make in the shop]. . . . People are afraid of dying. They are scared of drones.”579 One man, who once owned a car that he used to transport goods to and from the rest of Pakistan, said that in the past he would agree to be hired for 200 rupees a day. 580 Now, however, because of drones and the risks associated with their presence, “nobody is even willing to work for 500 rupees.”581

And the Jirga system of problem resolution.

One of the most troubling community-wide consequences of the fear of gathering is, in several interviewees’ views, the erosion of the jirga system, a community-based conflict resolution process that is fundamental to Pashtun society.584 Khalil Khan, the son of a community leader killed in the March 17, 2011 jirga strike, explained that “everybody after the strike seems to have come to the conclusion that we cannot gather together in large numbers and we cannot hold a jirga to solve our problems.”585 Read more