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To claim that the Dubai assassination was similar to a predator drone strike is absurd. The targets in each case may be "morally indistinguishable," but the tactics are clearly not.


Max Boot writes:

Funny how no one seriously objects when U.S. Predators carry out similar hits on al-Qaeda operatives but the whole world is in uproar when the Israelis target members of Hamas â?? an organization that is morally indistinguishable from al-Qaeda. The Dubai uproar only highlights once again the double standard to which Israel is constantly subjected. But Israel cannot and should not use that double standard as an excuse to avoid taking vital action in its self-defense. The leaders of terrorist organizations are legitimate military targets, and Israel should spare itself the agonizing and hand-wringing over this targeted killing.

Daniel Larison pounces:

As atrocious and appalling as their past and present conduct is, Hamas still retains in much of the non-American West some minimal legitimacy as a major faction in Palestinian politics. Hamas and Al Qaeda may be morally indistinguishable, but politically they have very different standings in the eyes of many other states. Israelâ??s major regional ally Turkey has a ruling party that is somewhat sympathetic to Hamas, while it is resolutely hostile to Al Qaeda and its affiliates. These are rather obvious political distinctions that Boot ought to understand, and the Israeli government must also understand these things. It is pointless to pretend that these distinctions donâ??t exist and to complain that the different reactions to drone strikes and the Dubai assassination prove a double standard. Whether or not there should be a double standard, Israelâ??s government has to take for granted that there is one. If Israelâ??s patron and the global superpower can get away with something, however misguided it may be, it does not always follow that it can act with the same impunity.

Well put, but let me take it a step further and dismiss the notion that any double standard exists at all in this case. It's a convenient rhetorical crutch I suppose to scream hypocrisy every time a critique is made of Israeli behavior, but this time around it just doesn't pass muster.

Since he doesn't say, I'm left to assume Mr. Boot means predator strikes in Pakistan, and not Afghanistan. These strikes are the product of U.S.-Pakistani coordination spanning two administrations and two regimes in both Washington and Islamabad, respectively. The predators are likely based inside Pakistan, and the strikes are carried out with approval - albeit quiet and reluctant - from Islamabad.

Larison disapproves of the drone strikes, and I certainly won't deny him that right. Personally, I consider them the least bad alternative to a bad policy of prolonged regional occupation. If we're going to maintain a military presence in the region, then we should be targeting specific al-Qaeda-Taliban operatives and taking them out with limited civilian casualties. The drones accomplish this, which is why Pakistani concerns have been less about the civilian casualties involved and more about who gets to pull the trigger.

And there certainly has been debate in the West over these attacks, both public and private ones within the administration itself. Moreover, I cannot think of one pro-drone argument in the last two years that didn't involve a kind of resigned acceptance of the program's relative effectiveness. Who are these predator pom-pom wavers Boot alludes to? Name names, please.

One could go on at length about the differences between drones and Dubai, but let me try to sum it up in one word: sovereignty. What actually makes the drones controversial is the political backlash they create for our allies in Pakistan. Our presence in the country is a shadowy one, and the cost/benefit balance is rather sensitive. Washington views Pakistan as an important ally in an important war, and thus can't do too much to create domestic tensions for said ally. But these are considerations made in conjunction with that government, just as the strikes are ultimately approved and enabled by that government. Just imagine how much harder it would be if Western operatives went into Pakistan, unapproved, and carried out such strikes. The backlash would be both tremendous and justified. Now imagine how the UAE must feel.

The targets in each case may be "morally indistinguishable," but the tactics are not, and that's why Israel - if responsible - is in the wrong here.

(AP Photo)