You don’t mind if I borrow that Predator Drone for a second, do you?

The BBC questions the efficacy of the US government’s use of unmanned aircraft to kill “militants” in the tribal regions of Pakistan (by the way, in case you didn’t know, this is a secret war)—essentially, Are the drones effective in hitting their “targets,” or do they kill too many “civilians” (thereby undermining the policy by providing a free recruiting tool for the Taliban)?  This is accompanied by some dubious figures and claims by US govt spokesdrones about, respectively, the number of non-militants killed and the accuracy of these weapons.  Nowhere, though, does the article question the legitimacy of the policy itself.  Nowhere does it ask: Why is the US shooting missiles from remote control airplanes at people who couldn’t possibly be any threat to the United States?  About as close as it comes to asking that question is when it quotes an “expert on militancy in northwest Pakistan”:

“How many people do you want to kill to get Osama Bin Laden?” he asks.

“How many common militants who may not have done much harm to the US or its allies do you want to kill to get Dr [Ayman] al-Zawahiri [Bin Laden’s deputy]? That is the question.”

Of course, he hedges a bit with that “may not have done much harm” and by granting that all of this has anything to do with killing Bin Laden or his “deputies.”  Add to that a little grousing by Pakistani officials about violations of their sovereignty, and what you have, all in all, is a tepid and largely unnoteworthy “critique” of the GWOT, South Asia edition.

Except for this little nugget tucked in at the end:

What Pakistan says it wants is for the drone strikes to continue, but under its ownership, not that of the US.

“The US should just give us the technology,” says Rehman Malik. “If we do it ourselves, Pakistanis won’t mind.”

Ah, yes: Let us have a turn playing with the big shiny toy.  The Pakistani people won’t mind so much if we’re the ones killing them.

This is a pretty good illustration of the idea that when it comes to disputes between rival governments, or even negotiations between supposed allies, you can rest assured that, no matter the outcome, the people on both sides (or in the middle) are going to get the shaft.

George W. Obama

Our Nobel peace laureate comedian-in-chief delivered this knee-slapper, among other no doubt hilarious jokes, at the recent White House Correspondents’ dinner:

The Jonas Brothers are here; they’re out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans; but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?

As Roderick Long points out, this bears some resemblance to Obama’s chimplike predecessor’s attempt at humor when he pretended to look for the missing WMDs under the furniture in the Oval Office.

This reminds me of the scene in the movie Hearts and Minds in which footage of Richard Nixon doing schtick at some kind of formal affair is juxtaposed with a clip of a Vietnamese man anguishing over the deaths of his two young children who were killed by an American bomb.  The man says, “What have I done to Richard Nixon?”  Indeed.  To Nixon’s credit, at least he didn’t make any jokes about indiscriminately bombing villagers in Vietnam—instead he tried to rationalize [a particular bombing raid apparently] with the “it was the hardest decision I had to make as president” line.

We’ve come a long way.  Apparently there used to be some shame attached, at least publicly, to the practice of killing foreigners for no reason.  Now we just laugh at it.  Is this some of that change we can believe in?