Monday, December 01, 2008

Now what?

Further news, speculation, and disinformation from Mumbai seem to change the details but not the big picture.

Perhaps most surprising, the story is now that the killers may have been as few as a dozen. Hard to believe such a small number could have taken over two large hotels, held captives at the Jewish Center, caused havoc at the train station, and held off police and security forces for most of three days. I suppose with automatic rifles, grenades, and lots of ammunition, and a well-planned operation, it's possible. Equally possible, the official low body count is because some of the perps got away.

If the inventory of operatives is correct, it's more ominous than reassuring. It shows just how effective asymmetrical or "fourth generation" warfare can be. The insurgents don't have to tackle the state head-on; with a few strikes at key pressure points, designed as much for psychological
as tactical effect, they can cause both chaos and fear that conventional security and military defenses aren't equal to.

As to "who were the villains?" the preliminary analysis suggests the answer is nowhere near as simple as the alternatives I'd presented in the last posting. Islamic terrorist groups apparently exist in a fantastically complex, constantly changing kaleidoscope of splinter groups, ad hoc organizations, criminal networks, and sponsorship by cadres within states and military forces. Richard Fernandez's latest post at Belmont Club offers a picture.

His closing thought seems bang on target: "Perhaps the Mumbai operation is an intersection of several organizations. If so the specific name of the perpetrator may matter less than we think. Terrorism, crime and religious fanaticism have become a way of life in parts of the subcontinent. Maybe the real question is not who … but what now?"

Terrorism is morphing into new and dangerous forms, but counterterrorism strategy is also developing. We should worry. We should not despair.


1 comment:

John Sobieski said...

As you are probably aware, India has some of the strictest gun ownership laws around. That of course means that the jihadists have weapons and the naive and innocent population they attack do not. Likewise, most Indian policemen do not have guns, they do have a stick (I can't remember what it is called but I don't believe it is called a baton)! It's a piece of cake for jihadists to attack. No one shoots back!