What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Drone strikes and militant attacks: two takes


This is the kind of discourse you're facing in Pakistan where a recent survey found that six out of ten think the U.S. is their enemy. On the left above you see stats from the BBC, and on the right you see what hardly qualifies as real stats from a Pakistani source. They are telling different stories: the BBC's data show how the U.S. drone campaign followed in intensity the intensity of the campaign of militant attacks in Pakistan. Going beyond the "correlation/co-variation is not causation" problematique, the BBC points out how the Pakistan Army's South Waziristan offensive drew retaliation in the form of peak-points in the militant campaign's intensity.

The Pakistani source, on the other hand, was eager to highlight how U.S. drone strikes are the chief problem for Pakistan. So he (yes, I presume "he") did the following. He marked "drone strikes" in red, as that is the colour that generally attracts attention more. He drew the curve for drone strikes above the blue curve of militant attacks by using some kind of indecent incident-counting method that is not revealed - thus he made sure drone attacks seem more destructive and omnipresent whereas in reality the militants killed random civilians in a number several times higher than the number of people targeted or accidentally killed in drone strikes (note: this is not to sell you the idea that civilian casualties in drone strikes are no concern). Plus the Pakistani source drew the curves so that militant attacks show a lag to drone strikes.

Given this, you have problems when you are trying to tell people in a country like Pakistan that, well, we don't really want extremists that you wouldn't harm to get the chance to go where they please, to kill people and blow up stuff. Which is what they seem to have been preparing to do relatively intensively lately, with Ilyas Kashmiri (the commander of AQ's paramilitary wing these days, it seems) and a certain Yunis al-Mauretani involved, along with militants resident in Germany and Britain (converts, first and second generation immigrants, dual citizens, i.e. militants from these countries, of all kinds).

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