The World Is Flat and Full of Killing

Doesn’t this read like a Thomas Friedman parable ? If Thomas Friedman were in the business of giving tours of hell—or reality?

WASHINGTON — Drone aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency killed several militants with German citizenship in the mountains of Pakistan on Monday, according to Pakistani and American officials. 

Before everybody moves on to the news of tomorrow, I want to pause for a moment and admire the amount of information bundled up in that news lead, published inside the Tuesday New York Times. Nearly every clause of that sentence could be expanded into its own book, if anyone wanted to read it.

Set aside the anthropological, sociological, and epistemological wonders of the “several militants with German citizenship” part, which is the part that is in the foreground, as the news. Consider what is not even news. Background. 

The Central Intelligence Agency—not the United States military—is using remote-controlled weapons to kill people on the territory of Pakistan, a country where we are not even officially at war. 

You know this. Everyone knows this. It is a baseline fact: the Central Intelligence Agency is killing people, openly, in Pakistan.

And in some sense this is the better, more logical part of our military project. Suspending any disbelief about the drone cameras’ ability to read the passports of the particular people being shot at, yes, this patch of Waziristan is closer to The Enemy (as best we understand it) than most of the places where our armed forces have been doing more orthodox warlike things over the past decade. It’s not exactly like secretly bombing Cambodia to defeat Vietnam. We were attacked by a stateless organization, and that does mean that the more directly we fight that organization, the more unlikely the engagement is to neatly fit the existing rules of diplomacy and protocol, or the War Powers Act

Even so, with all that said: the Central Intelligence Agency is killing people in Pakistan.