The American press is all over the story of the successful drone attack on Taliban commander, Mullah Mansoor, whose car was reduced to scrap metal by a missile fired from a stalking drone.
Why do these "we whacked their leader" stories so closely resemble "world's oldest person dies" stories? Both seem to happen with an almost boring regularity.
Yes, you're the new Taliban commander? Thanks, I'll write down your name and do remember to have somebody tell me when you're dead.
There's always another "world's oldest person" and there's always another Taliban or al Qaeda or ISIS commander.
It seems that Georgetown University law prof, Rosa Brooks, also sees the futility in this whack-a-mole warfare and says it demonstrates magical thinking:
The “important milestones” come and go; we keep on killing bad guys, and the bad guys just keep on keeping on. In the three years since the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the group appears to have gotten stronger, not weaker: Afghanistan experts say the Taliban now control more territory in the country than at any time since before the 2001 U.S. invasion. The Islamic State, the target of intense U.S. attacks since 2014, has lost some of the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq, but the group still managed to pull off mass-casualty attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Kuwait, Pakistan, and Afghanistan — not to mention ongoing brutalities in Syria and Iraq. Al-Shabab and Nigeria’s Boko Haram continue to leave a trail of bloodshed across Africa, and even al Qaeda, which has surely had more “senior leaders” killed than any other terrorist group, continues to stage a zombie-like comeback around the globe, with recent mass attacks in Yemen, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.
So what’s the point of all these killings?
...Maybe, rather than viewing those counterterrorism efforts as policy and budget choices to which we can reasonably apply economic cost-benefit analysis, we should view them instead through the lens of anthropology.
After all, human societies throughout history have developed magical rituals designed to ward off real or imagined evil. Anthropologists call these apotropaic rituals. From ancient Greece to early Britain, numerous cultures sacrificed animals — and sometimes humans — to propitiate the gods and prevent misfortune. In medieval Europe, ancient China, and pre-European Native American settlements, groups developed elaborate dances and other rituals to prevent drought and dangerous storms. In Europe, medieval pilgrims displayed badges with bawdy images to ward off the plague; in colonial New England, women placed coins once held by corpses under their pillows to prevent male demons from impregnating them while they slept.
We modern Americans don’t believe in demons, rain dances, or the efficacy of sacrificing children or goats. We’ve developed our very own 21st-century magic rituals — and we call them “counterterrorism programs.”