• Books Won’t Save School Children’s Lives; Drones, Just Might

    I have written before about my respect for Malala Yusufzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the face by the Taliban for simply wishing to have an education. I have also said that courage and vision, of which she has plenty, do not translate into infallibility, and Malala’s campaign for education and against violence, which has won her a Nobel Peace Prize, is based on extremely shaky views. The sad news from her own country today only shows how misguided the pacifist mindset is when it comes to Islamist militants.

    Let’s first go over Malala’s views as she sums them up, shared no doubt by many (at least among Western liberals, if not Pakistanis):

    1. If the money the United States spends on weapons went toward global education change would come. “The best way to fight terrorism,” she said emphatically, “is through education.”
    2. A drone attack may kill two or three terrorists but it will not kill terrorism. If the drones continue terrorism will spread.

    Facts, on the other hand, draw a very different picture. Point 1 is self-contradictory, and point 2 is dead wrong (excuse the pun).
    Here is how we know the first point is bullocks:
    We can invest all we want in education. But as long as we do not face up to those who made education unsafe for Malala and continue to do so today, it will be all for naught. The evidence, sad as it is, is also conclusive.

    Militants from the Pakistani Taliban have attacked an army-run school in Peshawar, killing 141 people, 132 of them children, the military say.


    As for the second point “two or three” terrorists killed by drones (in Malala’s words) should be called the understatement of the century. There is ample evidence that the strikes do a good deal more than that:

    Over the past year, the al-Qaeda leader fielded e-mails from followers lamenting the toll being taken by CIA drone “explosions” as well as the network’s financial plight, according to U.S. officials who have completed an exhaustive review of the trove of bin Laden files collected at his compound after the May 2 U.S. raid that killed him.

    One of bin Laden’s principal correspondents was Atiyah abd al-Rahman, who served as No. 3 in al-Qaeda before bin Laden’s death. A 2010 message from Rahman expressed frustration with the CIA drone campaign, a source of particular concern because many of his predecessors in the third-ranking slot had been killed in strikes by the unmanned aircraft.

    “He was saying in the letter that their guys were getting killed faster than they could be replaced,” the U.S. counterterrorism official said.


    All told, the 307 drone strikes launched by the United States in Pakistan between June 2004 and June 2012 have killed an estimated 1,562 to 2,377 suspected militants, according to news accounts.

    Of those strikes, 70% have struck North Waziristan, home to factions of the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani Network, which has often launched operations in Kabul against civilian targets. Over a third of these strikes have reportedly targeted members of the Taliban, with at least 10 of the strikes killing senior Taliban commanders, as well as hundreds of lower-level fighters.

    Evidence of the drone strikes’ impact can be found in the description provided by David Rohde, the former New York Times reporter held by the Taliban Haqqani Network for months in 2009, who called the drones “a terrifying presence” in South Waziristan.

    Key militant commanders reportedly started sleeping outside under trees to avoid being targeted, while Taliban militants regularly executed suspected “spies” in Waziristan accused of providing information to the United States, suggesting they feared betrayal from within. There were 41 suicide attacks in Pakistan in 2011, down from 49 in 2010 and a record high of 87 in 2009. The 118 drone strikes carried out in 2010 coincided with an almost 50% drop in suicide attacks across Pakistan, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, which monitors Pakistani militant groups. [Emphasis added]

    But, of course, Malala and her liberal sympathizers, while downplaying the above facts, focus their attention on the following:

    During the summer of 2010 the New America Foundation sponsored one of the few public opinion polls ever to be conducted in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and found that almost 90% of the respondents opposed U.S. military operations in the region. The wider Pakistani public shares this sentiment: A June 2012 Pew Research Center poll found that about three quarters of Pakistanis consider the drone campaign to be unnecessary.

    On the other hand, if these figures are taken to mean that the drone war will backfire and ultimately only foment even more terrorism, there is no reason to think that ground operations against militants will be any different. At least, not as of today:

    “The TTP [Pakistani Taliban] is ready for a long, long war against the U.S. puppet state of Pakistan,” a TTP commander told me when I reached him on his Afghan cellphone. “We are just displaced, but we are still in positions to attack wherever we want,” said Jihad Yar Wazir.

    Yar Wazir justified the killings as fitting retribution. “The parents of the army school are army soldiers and they are behind the massive killing of our kids and indiscriminate bombing in North and South Waziristan,” which are the TTP strongholds. “To hurt them at their safe haven and homes—such an attack is perfect revenge.”

    But the children are innocents, I said. What about them, I asked?

    “What about our kids and children,” he said. “These are the kids of the U.S.-backed Pakistani army and they should stop their parents from bombing our families and children.”

    Yar Wazir says the TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban) has a long list of attacks that it will carry out in Pakistan against the security forces, whose efforts to crush the group are supported by the United States. The regions where it is strong have served as a refuge for al Qaeda, which is the main American target.A Peshawar-based journalist, author, and terrorism expert, Aqeel Yousafzai, says today’s attack is a big blow for Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy and policies. “The army public school was not only for army kids. Most of the kids are civilians’ kids, and what is worse is that the media reached the school before the rapid response force” of the police or military.With Pakistani armed forced as incompetent as they are, and with their operations provoking exactly the kind of response long feared to be brought on by the drone strikes, the demand to stop the drone attacks is tantamount to leaving the militants to carry out their operations undisturbed. Well. We’ve already tried that, and we know where that gets us.


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    • ronmurp

      Some fair points, but one you didn’t address that was specifically supposed to be bollocks in Malala’s 1: “If the money the United States spends on weapons…” How does the US budget on drone technology and manpower spent in Pakistan/Afghanistan compare to that provided for education in the region? Just look at defence v education at home: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/defense_budget_2012_3.html.

      So I don’t think you’ve addressed a significant point she was making.

      Without education we perpetuate a cycle of conflict because uneducated people believe superstition and propaganda, and every drone strike provides more propaganda ammunition for the uneducated that are lead by local religious-political control, leading to more outraged terrorists. And your evidence, the school bombing? That has probably done more for anti-terrorism and anti-extremism in Pakistan that all the drone strikes in that region.

      I’m not opposed to the use of technology for military purposes, and support it where it can be used to good effect that protects our own troops, or even avoids having to put them in harms way. I support the principle of drone strikes, while not satisfied everything politically and militarily about much of their use in practice.

      But education has a far more potent long term effect. Evidence? Wherever education frees minds to think it has generally been a force for democracy and stability. Look at changes in the west, parts of the east, Africa, South America.

      Evidence of were a failure of education leads to poor politics?

      US politicians
      US public

      • NoCrossNoCrescent

        I wouldn’t object if all she said was that the US needs to invest in education in the 3rd world. But when she makes it an education/drone binary, in light of what just happened in Pakistan, it amounts to exposing more children to risk of death at the hands of TTP.

        • guerillasurgeon

          ” But when she makes it an education/drone binary…”

          FFS she’s a kid rather than an expert in geopolitics. I would also be wary of what is released by the army and intelligence community. Remember Vietnam body counts – you’re probably too young, but it’s not good to rely on them. Or for that matter military statistics.

          • NoCrossNoCrescent

            Well not only does SHE think she is an expert in geopolitics-apparently so do many political left-leaners who seek her opinion. As for not trusting military (ie government) sources, I’ll tell you what I tell tea partiers: come up with some contradictory evidence, until then the government data remain unchallenged.

            • guerillasurgeon

              You obviously have very little experience with teenagers. I repeat she’s a kid. She’s given a lot of attention. Sometimes by left-wingers, but there you go that’s them mainstream press for you. They ask questions, they hang on her answers. I think she’s naive enough to answer as honestly as she can. As far as government data goes, I think there is probably enough evidence that they lie, and try to control information. Where are the WMD’s for instance? The problem for them was that in Vietnam, journalists were independent rather than controlled. But stuff still comes out. You’re the one making the claim, you’re the one that should provide the evidence. I’m just doubting your data.

            • NoCrossNoCrescent

              Look. I am the first to admit I have learned from you in the past. That said. I have no interest in another endless back and forth. As I said in the post, her views are shared by many in the western world (while in Pakistan paradoxically she is resented). I wouldn’t be writing any of this if those were her views ONLY. As for the data, you are absolutely right not to trust everything supplied by the government. On the other hand, it is not “my” data we’re talking about. I have named the source, it is an independent organization. And collecting info cited here (number of drone strikes versus suicide attacks longitudinally) is not beyond the power of the government (not any longer anyways). You don’t trust the data, collect your own and publish them. Barring that, this conversation is over.

            • guerillasurgeon

              I wasn’t actually attacking your position on drones so much as your simply hanging the article on some kid. Your position on drone strikes may well be correct but again I suspect it’s not quite as simple as you think. It’s certainly not a long-term strategy, as the Taliban will simply adapt – just as the Vietcong did to massive American air superiority. Read this maybe?


    • kraut2


      “Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29
      adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not”

      . “For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the US
      killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm.”

      “Even for the 33 named targets whom the drones eventually killed –
      successes, by the logic of the drone strikes – another 947 people died
      in the process.’


      “The missile slammed into a hamlet hitting
      one of the poorest tribes in Yemen. Shrapnel and fire left at least 41
      civilians dead, including at least 21 children and 12 women – five of
      them were pregnant”

      “The U.S. intelligence documents also describe a lack of precision when it comes to identifying targets.”

      I think you are either completely cynical, regarding the death of children, or you just do not know better.