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Taliban Vs. Predator

The other day I wished aloud for a smart analysis of the costs and benefits of Predator drone attacks in Pakistan. The question is relevant given recent musings that perhaps we can largely manage Afghanistan and Pakistan this way, saving us tens of thousands of boots on the ground. Now Daniel Byman zooms in on the question at Foreign Affairs:

The Israeli example suggests that the current U.S. campaign of using Predator attacks to go after its enemies is fraught with risks and can neither defeat al Qaeda nor remove it from its stronghold within Pakistan. That said, continued U.S. strikes should help tamp down the threat al Qaeda poses -- at least temporarily -- making them Washington’s least bad policy choice for the moment.

Byman notes the many shortcomings of Predator attacks, including the degree to which they rely on excellent intelligence--something in short supply in the tribal areas. He also notes that, while rapid-fire attacks like those Israel has conducted in the West Bank and Gaza can substantially weaken terrorist networks, sporadic killings "are usually a mistake" because they give the enemy time to reorganize and regroup.

One last point that Byman doesn't raise was made to me by a friend during a recent conversation about closing Guantanamo. America is agonizing about how to deal with suspected terrorists in our custody who haven't had a fair trial. At the same time, we're now routinely blasting suspected terrorists from the skies--men who are certain never to get a fair trial. I don't have a big problem with it, but it is interesting that the detainee-rights debate never led to a real conversation about targeted assasinations. 

[P.S. Excellent headline ripped from original article]

--Michael Crowley