Pakistani Opinion on Drones

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Spencer Ackerman summarizes the findings of a new Pew survey (PDF) on Pakistani views and pulls out the surprising-seeming news that most Pakistanis say they don’t know anything about the drone strikes program:

Top of the list: “Just over one-in-three Pakistanis (35%) have heard about the drone strikes.” Apparently, Pakistanis barely know this program even exists. Forty-three percent say they’ve heard “nothing at all” about the drones. You can hear the champagne corks popping at Langley.

But it’s not exactly time for bottle service. Amongst those Pakistanis who have heard of the drones, opinion skews predictably negative. Ninety-three percent say they’re a bad or “very bad” thing. Ninety percent say they kill too many innocent people. While some researchers claim that if you limit your pool of respondents to the tribal areas, support for the drones actually goes up, 32 percent of overall respondents think they’re a necessary measure. (Although perhaps that’s a robust total of people saying a foreign government should shoot missiles at their fellow countrymen.) And almost half of Pakistanis believe the fiction that the drone strikes occur without Pakistani government approval.

This strikes me as much more terrible news than most Americans realize. There are 170 million in Pakistan. 35 percent of that is 60 million people who tell pollsters they’re aware of this initiative. So we’re talking in the end about a population of 55 million Pakistanis who know what’s happening and think what we’re doing is “bad” or “very bad.” My understanding is that what we’re doing in Pakistan—the drones, the aid, the whole deal—is largely supposed to be about bolstering the stability of a US-aligned Pakistani regime. It’s difficult for me to see how this course of action is making such a regime more sustainable over the long term.