Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Some Things Never Change

Many Americans, including myself, feel more optimistic about the future of the nation and prospects for a more rational and ethical foreign policy now that the administration of George W. Bush has been supplanted with an exceedingly more intelligent and compassionate national leadership. Obama’s decision to close the infamous Guantanamo prison and proclaim an end to the practices of torture and “extraordinary rendition” are, of course, meaningful steps in that direction.

However, we still see before us the prospects of perpetual war. The intended withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and their redeployment to Afghanistan will merely transplant the violence to a different location. It is still not assured that the alleged stability in Iraq will be maintained following the transition, since millions of Iraqis remain displaced and the national infrastructure is still in shambles after nearly twenty years since the wholesale destruction of the nation following the First Gulf War.

What has made the present situation particularly troubling is the accelerated use of “robot warfare” especially the use of pilotless drones equipped with weapons of mass destruction. The current strategy, that obviously has the approval of the Obama Administration, is that these malevolent devices are and will continue to be used against individual targets such as houses in remote areas, where suspected militants are presumed to reside. The missiles that are used do not discriminate between actual enemies and innocent men, women and children whose only guilt is one of association.

It is particularly disheartening that there is no public outcry or expression of outrage by the American people in regard to this reality, for it heralds a new and frightening age where aseptic and sanitized killing will become the norm. The military is very engaged in developing all manner of robot killing devices. Will the expansion of this method of warfare be acceptable to the American public as long as no Americans die as a consequence?

It is unwise to ignore the magnitude of this change in policy, for those who are the victims of these devices are exceedingly outraged. These kind of killings will not be forgotten nor the terror that is invoked in those who are powerless against such technology.

Warfare of this kind, in which we feel justified in killing our suspected adversaries along with any others who may be in the vicinity, indicates that the concept of fighting terror with terror remains as an accepted strategy. In the long run this will only bring us grief, for it does not address the real issues that propel our adversaries in the first place. Furthermore, the implication is that this kind of warfare has no end, since we will continue to have such opponents determined to do us harm as long as the current relationship between the powerful nations and much of world’s poor remains unchanged. Furthermore, this policy of perpetual aggression ensures that much of the nation’s precious resources will continue to be diverted to war and the machinery that sustains it.

We can do better than this.

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