US drone attacks and Pakistani Statehood

Published date01 June 2011
Date01 June 2011
DOI10.1177/0973598411110002
Subject MatterArticle
US drone attacks and Pakistani Statehood
Joachim von Wedel*
The United States drone attacks, which have been taking place in North-
western Pakistan for some years now, have recently been subjected to more
detailed international media coverage. This phenomenon may be explained
by the continuity and rising intensity of the attacks, recent personal charges
against the US put forward by relatives of some of the victims (Kazim
2011) and possibly by the fact, that the killed civilians include citizens
from the European states. The attacks are a part of a coherent historical-
military development starting with the terrorist attacks in New York and
Washington in September 2001. According to this fact there is a general
apprehension which merges the US-American activities in Pakistan and
Afghanistan under one single title and regards them as parts of a larger,
overwhelming "war on terror". This perception is furthered by the recent
adoption of an "Af-Pak-Strategy" by the United States.
In contradiction to this perception, the following text defends the thesis,
that, in spite of all historical budget planning or technology related
closeness of both cases (Kazim 2011),1 the drone attacks in Pakistan, at
least from a certain perspective, are police rather than military activities.
On the one hand, the thesis concretizes the impression, that the notion " Af-
Pak-Strategy" blurs the difference between an occupied country
(Afghanistan) and a sovereign state (Pakistan). It underlines the fact, that
the US activities in both countries are qualitatively different. On the other
hand, the thesis does not say, that the drone attacks in Pakistan should
altogether be considered as police acts. Rather they can legitimately be
considered so from the perspective of civilians, especially the civil
population of North Western Pakistan. The arguments in favour of the
thesis would hint, firstly, at the difficulties of subsuming the drone attacks
under the legal justification pretended by the United States, i.e. the right to
self defence (Art. 51 of the United Nations Charter). These legal
difficulties illustrate the fact that at present the Pakistan case differs
* European Academy Kuelz - Kulice, Poland.
1. Cf. e.g. Alston: "Missiles fired from drones are not categorically different from other
weapons like missiles fired from gunships or bullets from a soldier's gun".
Alston 2010.

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