DEFEATING TERRORISM

Guest post from T.R.Ramaswami

Let me start by saying that you will never defeat terrorism. Nation states appear to be unable to win this war. In fact it has been acknowledged by military strategists and experts that the 19th. century definition and structure of war given by probably the greatest of military strategists/thinkers – Karl von Clausewitz – has broken down. The definition that war is an extension of politics by other means and essentially waged by nation states appears to have developed several cracks in it. The definition underwent some major changes during the Cold War nuclear era – namely that a military establishment is for averting or deterring wars rather than engage in them. In fact many countries have done away with regular standing armies and even outsourced their defence to a large extent – namely Japan and Canada.

What the world is now witnessing is a more insidious form of war – borderless events with geographical limitations at that point in time, but with global impact, waged by organisations that are not nation-states and with no territorial identity. A terrorist outfit has no area, capital, strategic assets.

Hence the terrorists cannot be engaged or even annihilated in the conventional manner. It is almost like fighting maya.
The reason is that there is no theory that marries the fundamental thought principles of war to the on the ground structure of war now being waged. You are only reacting. Hence all the world’s state owned regular armed forces would continue to fail put down the guerillas, insurgents and terrorists till a viable theory is formulated so that the state is first clear in its mind as to what it wants to do before it moves on the ground. Today the anti-terrorism war resembles the Marxist theory of searching for a non-existent black cat in a dark room. Only when the roots of terrorism are identified will we have a coherent strategy. Till then eternal vigilance is the only antidote. Sadly, in India, even when we have intelligence, we do not act. A month of vigilance, even on a wrong lead, is worth more than a day of terror.