Summary: This is the third in a series about a special kind of person, people who just want to see the world burn. It’s not about India, or specific religions. These people find homes on all sides of every 4GW conflict. These are our enemies. The practitioners of real-politics who ally with them betray our civilisation and do us no good. See part one here. Part two is the first part of this interview, here.
What is condition of India as a nation-state? To use a metaphor, what is the condition of its soul?
Giving us one perspective on this is Arundhati Roy’s essay, “9 Is Not 11 (And November Isn’t September)“, Outlook India, 22 December 2008 — Hat tip to Tom Engelhardt’s TomDispatch. I strongly recommend reading this powerful essay in full, a valuable perspective on our world.
This is the second excerpt from this essay, the first being 4GW in India – more people who want to watch the world burn (19 January 2009).
The monster in the mirror
How should those of us whose hearts have been sickened by the knowledge of all of this view the Mumbai attacks, and what are we to do about them?
There are those who point out that US strategy has been successful inasmuch as the United States has not suffered a major attack on its home ground since 9/11. However, some would say that what America is suffering now is far worse.
If the idea behind the 9/11 terror attacks was to goad America into showing its true colours, what greater success could the terrorists have asked for? The US army is bogged down in two unwinnable wars, which have made the United States the most hated country in the world. Those wars have contributed greatly to the unravelling of the American economy and, who knows, perhaps eventually the American empire. (Could it be that battered, bombed Afghanistan, the graveyard of the Soviet Union, will be the undoing of this one too?)
Hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of American soldiers, have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The frequency of terrorist strikes on US allies/agents (including India) and US interests in the rest of the world has increased dramatically since 9/11. George Bush, the man who led the US response to 9/11, is a despised figure not just internationally but also by his own people. Who can possibly claim that the United States is winning the war on terror?
Homeland security has cost the US government billions of dollars. Few countries, certainly not India, can afford that sort of price tag. But even if we could, the fact is that this vast homeland of ours cannot be secured or policed in the way the United States has been. It’s not that kind of homeland.
We have a hostile nuclear weapons state that is slowly spinning out of control as a neighbour, we have a military occupation in Kashmir, and a shamefully persecuted, impoverished minority of more than a hundred and fifty million Muslims who are being targeted as a community and pushed to the wall, whose young see no justice on the horizon, and who, were they to totally lose hope and radicalise, end up as a threat not just to India, but to the whole world. If 10 men can hold off the NSG commandos and the police for three days, and if it takes half-a-million soldiers to hold down the Kashmir Valley, do the math. What kind of Homeland Security can secure India?
Nor for that matter will any other quick fix. Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for terrorists; they’re for people that governments don’t like. That’s why they have a conviction rate of less than 2%. They’re just a means of putting inconvenient people away without bail for a long time and eventually letting them go. Terrorists like those who attacked Mumbai are hardly likely to be deterred by the prospect of being refused bail or being sentenced to death. It’s what they want.
What we’re experiencing now is blowback, the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes and dirty deeds. The carpet’s squelching under our feet.
The only way to contain (it would be naive to say end) terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror. We’re standing at a fork in the road. One sign says ‘Justice’, the other ‘Civil War’.
There’s no third sign and there’s no going back. Choose.
If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below. You may find answers to your questions in these.
Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
For more information from the FM site
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest these days:
Other posts on the FM site about India and Pakistan:
- Is Pakistan’s Musharraf like the Shah of Iran? (if so, bad news for us), 8 November 2007
- Terrorism in India, a roster of incidents, 16 May 2008
- NPR tells us more about America’s newest war, in Pakistan, 14 September 2008
- Pakistan warns America about their borders, and their sovereignty, 14 September 2008
- Weekend reading about … foreign affairs, 19 October 2008
- To good a story to die: eliminate legitimate grievances to eliminate terrorism, 9 December 2008
- About the 4GW between India and Pakistan, 6 January 2009
Posts on the FM site about military theory:
- The 2 most devastating 4GW attacks on America, and the roots of FM 3-24, 19 March 2008
- A key to the power of FM 3-24, the new COIN manual, 20 March 2008
- Dark origins of the new COIN manual, FM 3-24, 23 March 2008
- Insights about modern war from the NIC’s 2020 Project, 11 April 2008
- How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?, 28 May 2008
- COIN – a perspective from 23rd century textbooks, 10 June 2008
- A lesson in war-mongering: “Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief”, 8 July 2008
- Is COIN the graduate level of military hubris?, 30 July 2008
13 thoughts on “India looks at the monster in the mirror”
“The practitioners of real-politics who ally with them betray our civilisation and do us no good.”
Like the Carter, Reagan and elder Bush administrations who supported the Khmer Rouge from 1979 to 1989.
The United States backed plan is to build a new oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to an Arabian Sea port , going through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Russian resistance to this, driven by the desire to have Caspian oil flowing into Russia and exported thence, is the genesis of the Afghanistan oil wars.
Pakistan’s Asif Zardari regime is negotiating for the accession of Kashmir with the Milliband and Rice/Clinton secretariats, in return for co-operation with this plan, and for abandoning a
proposed pipeline from Iran to Pakistan.
My analysis is that Pakistan will soon run out of forex reserves. That will change the power equations, hopefully. The terrorists in the region are highly paid mercenaries of the Islamic States,including the Taliban, the Lashkar e Taiba, The Uighur militants in China’s Xingjiang Province,etc.
Actually I think the War Nerd got it right, for a terrorist organisation this was very expensive (setting bombs and running are are far cheaper on personnel, which for this crowd are hard to come by).
Ok, we the ‘West’ have conspired to destroy Pakistan .. and turn it into a failed state (yes I am a Lind supporter) so what do you expect? I mean duh? You want to reduce this, support a Pakistan Govt (and not a ‘Strong Man’ they have had enough of this).
So we in the West have a clear choice keep fighting in Afghanistan or save Pakistan. Easy equation for me, we cannot win in Afghanistan anyway (no one ever has) so why destroy a NUCLEAR ARMED country? And let loose all the 4GW ‘dogs of war’.
Oh god, thinking for a moment, yes we are really that stupid. And that means Bin Ladin (or his replicants or successors) will get his bomb. And you know what he will do, he won’t explode it, he will make us grovel and crawl .. and the other saddest thing is .. we will.
We after all are all .. at the end of the day … cowards.
Fabius Maximus replies: Sad but probably true, about the sub-continent. And we really are that stupid, it appears.
As for cowards, we shall see.
“for a terrorist organisation this was very expensive (setting bombs and running are are far cheaper on personnel, which for this crowd are hard to come by).”
This misses the point of my series. You assume these killers are rationally motivated, goal directed. Perhaps they like to kill up close, and consider “bomb and run” to be boring?
So let’s really move past the India example and apply this in a rigorous manner. If I work for Pres. Obama’s NSA, who am I more afraid of? People who want the world to burn, or people who believe the world would be saved by the condign extirpation of the US of A?
Which should future generation worry more about? People who simply find the killin’ fulfillin’, or people who rigorously reach a moral conclusion, perhaps with a twinge of regret, that America has to die for the world to become a more moral place?
Fabius Maximus replies: It’s a good question. Like most important questions these days, we have little data (“the elephant is great and powerful, but prefers to be blind”). I suspect the numbers of the former (killers) type far far far exceed the latter (ideologically or religiously motivated to destroy the USA, ignoring their fans).
Does it really matter whether the “killers” are of the first type — “those who want to see the world burn”, or of the second type — the disciplined forces of revolution? They both are products of alienation from the world they are sentenced to live in.
The US routinely blurs the distinction anyway, ignoring, for example, Bin Laden’s specific political complaints about Western policies, and portraying him as a sadistic maniac. For that matter (to veer off topic) we routinely label state rulers with whom we disagree, like Milosevich or Saddam Hussein, maniacal tyrants in the image of Hitler.
Fabius Maximus replies: That is a powerful question. I discuss the Western-Islamic conflict in “How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I“. Perhaps an existential “war”, but I believe it is the natural killers (enjoy destruction, whatever the cause) that do the killing. Recognition of this might take some of the heat off 4GW’s, as both sides recognize a common enemy in out midst.
We might a glimmer of that in the reaction to al Qaeda in the wider Islamic world, where the enthusiasm was far less than in the Middle East.
The Roy article is a wonderful introduction for the uninformed of the exceptionally complex history and politics of India, a country which has seen TWO Prime Ministers murdered in the last 20 years and not responded by murdering anyone. On the other hand India has colluded in some murky way in a horrible terror war in Sri Lanka which introduced suicide bombing to our lexicon and lives. And this conflict has nothing to do with Muslims.
It is noteworthy that India is one of the few countries where George Bush was popular. The US is creating a strategic relationship with India led by Congress which was historically hostile to the U.S. Clearly that is changing and that change is related to China and the disintegration of nuclear-armed Pakistan. India/Pakistan/Afghanistan/Kashmir are one problem,comprised of many parts. Since three of the parts are not really states it is the perfect model for those seeing new models of politics emerging. Not really my view but the larger point is this: how can Pakistan have a nuclear program given its economy? Who paid for it? Is there any doubt it was the Saudis, an old fashioned state of the first order. Yes, there are many factions operating for various motives but they are all financed and armed by STATES or proxies for them. That has not changed. India has many internal problems relating to governance, religious division, rural poverty — an understatement of the first order. I believe that the latest Mumbai slaughter marks an end to India’s passive engagement. We are going to see real war and possibly nuclear within a decade that will engulf South Asia unless there is an agreement between China, India, and Pakistan. The US has little real influence on India and our silly engagement in A. only exacerbates the situation. Either Pakistan liquidates the terror groups it has sponsored or it will end being exploded. The US has real influence on Saudi and we have done nothing in decades to inhibit its sponsorship of Jihad? This is disastrous behavior. Endless discussions of these groups may have some relevance locally, I cannot know nor can most of the people who write endlessly about this, but we can affect their lifelines and we should. We are still living with the vague ideas of justice in guerilla activity in overthrowing western imperialism which is “bad”. Yes and no but how is this less bad than the other kinds of imperialism spawned and supported all about us. Is Hamas good? Is Iran’s spouting endless drivel about spreading Islam o.k. My point is we can in a heartbeat get caught up in passionate arguments which defy logic whatever that might be, and clarity. As a distant outsider who will be profoundly impacted along with everyone else if India and Pakistan engage in nuclear war, my selfish interest is to seek ways to limit this possibility. I do not even care if unjust methods are needed to accomplish this. This is the perspective I bring to this. And none of the so-called Great Powers are being constructive, especially the Chinese. Pakistan is born of civil war but it was a religious civil war and it has been going on for more than 800 years! The situation in your wonderful complext post can be either complex or simple. We need to focus on the bottom line. There is bloodthirstiness of both sides but let us focus on the bloodlust itself and determine ways to minimize its impact overall since we are NOT going to make it go away.
And then, since it’s the burning world that’s desired, the bombs will be exploded anyway. Much as Neville Chamberlain achieved first ignominy and then war.
Simon De Montfort would have truly cared less how you binned killers, or for that matter, people in general in some motivational histogram. God would eventually find his own.
As for “killers” doing the killing, I’d offer the counter-example of Sgt. York. He struggled long and hard with his pacifist religious doctrines prior to enlisting in Sam’s Army during WWI. In other words, a killer will kill, but in a disipated manner designed primarily to slake a bloodlust.
An enemy with a specific strategic and ideological goal in mind will work tirelessly on behalf of a cause. That, to me, is the enemy to truly fear the most.
A killer loose in our neck of the woods will have to be put down like a rabid dog, but a determined enemy, the type that specifically chooses to attack on Sept 11 to avenge events that originally took place in the early 17th Century after the unsucessfuly siege of Vienna by the Turks, that’s a frightening enemy indeed.
Entering pedantic mode…
There seems to be some historical confusion here, or perhaps you should be clearer about the events
you mention. There were two sieges of Vienna by the Turks, one in 1529 and one in 1683.
FM replies: “Pendant mode” is always welcomed here! From Wikipedia:
One more comment: which is more threatening, the grandiose fantasy of an enraged individual, or the deliberate policy of a nation state? We Americans happen to live in the nation state that does most of the bombing and burning, so we may not feel threatened by it as much as someone living in, say, Afghanistan, Iran or Iraq. In my reckoning, the enlightened, developed nations of the West have done incalculably more harm to people around the globe than any fanatical “terrorist” individuals.
Seneca is more right than wrong however, the Soviet Union and Germany largely confined themselves to the western world or were confined and constrained, while Japan remains unequalled in its ferocity based solely on body count of fellow Asians. If we had not done them in the Chinese dead would have numbered in the 000s rather than 00s of millions as I am sure you know. We certainly — the US contributed our share in Vietnam and environs, a criminal enterprise so far beyond what Bush and Co, have done, yet LBJ, Nixon and Kissinger are hailed, and one got a Nobel for his crimes. Noneof this exculpates the lesser criminals we are discussing, lesser only in means than intentions. Those who planned and executed 9/11 would have killed 300,000 not 3300 if they could have. The question before us is how to damp this killing down since all it gets is more killing.
“the reaction to al Qaeda in the wider Islamic world, where the enthusiasm was far less than in the Middle East.”
A few years ago Al Quaeda attempted to establish themselves in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border. They were unable to do so. Hezbollah ran them out.
what greater success could the terrorists have asked for? The US army is bogged down in two unwinnable wars, which have made the United States the most hated country in the world. Those wars have contributed greatly to the unravelling of the American economy and, who knows, perhaps eventually the American empire.
Well, the greater terrorist success could have been Iraq splitting into 3 warring states, like ex-Yugoslavia (3 to 6; Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & H., Macadonia, Serbia, Monte Negro; not all thru war). It also could have been the US withdrawing by March, 2008 (Obama’s 16 month plan from 2007), followed by more Iraqi civil war without the US surge troops.
In fact, Op Iraqi Freedom is essentially won. (Even more so than S. Vietnam thru the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, which got Henry the K his Nobel.) Thus, to premise an arguement on the unwinnability of Iraq is a weak foundation.
On the costliness of the Iraq war, more US soldiers died under Clinton (over 7 000) than have been killed in Iraq. And I think it wouldn’t be too hard to find lots more pro-Americans in Iraq now than in 2002, so ‘hated’ is not accurate, either.
Yet despite NOT agreeing with the premises, I think that India’s choices are mostly ‘towards Justice’ or ‘towards more Terrorism’. The problem is, exactly, that Justice requires force. Even, against Saddam, war. And in the use of violence in order to enforce justice, if the unjust resist, there will be casualties.
Those are also Pakistan’s choices, and Sri Lanka’s. I notice the killing of many in the anti-Tamil Tiger operations in Sri Lanka has received little or no media attention. What happens when the enforcement of justice is done in an ‘unjust’ manner, so as to minimize death to the enforcers?