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What If the Drones Really Did Kill Beitullah Mehsud?

I truly hope that CIA drones actually did kill Beitullah Mehsud. As leader of the Pakistani Taliban, he has a massive amount of blood on his hands. But I think my friend Annie Lowery is wrong about this:

If Mehsud is dead (and keep in mind, it’s been falsely reported before), it counts most as a major victory for U.S. proponents of drone strikes. The argument against drone strikes is that they are too bloody, too ineffective, and too divisive among local populations and governments.

What we’ve learned, at painful cost, over years and years and years, is that the issue isn’t the leader of an extremist movement. It’s the network that supports it, and the conditions that allow it to take root among a population. Groups like the Taliban are very good at replacing leaders. It seems like every time the United States knocks off one or other big name extremist, there’s a rush to forget these lessons in a fit of euphoria. And then the movement replaces him, survives, and adapts, and we’re left wondering what happened.

Remember: al-Qaeda in Iraq killed a lot of people after the United States killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June 2006. It was only when Sunni Iraqis turned against AQI and denied it a base of support that the organization — which is still killing people! — saw its capabilities decimated.

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