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.

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2 thoughts on “DEFEATING TERRORISM

  1. This is the first in the series of guest posts from T.R.Ramaswami.

    My views:
    You would be surprised to know that terrorism as a threat is a new phenomenon… and before the gunpowder age it was never heard/talked about. Although for the past 3000 years we have heard about skirmish raids (esp romans and chineese wrote wonderful and detailed account of the lifestyle of these raiders, their impact and the cost to control them) but they were usually confined to the border regions or difficult terrain. Only now when humans possess the power to blend into the mob, and use fertilizers as a bomb with deadly results has the word terrorism gained momentum.

    a few years ago I had raised a question https://enagar.com/2005/06/28/khalistan-movement/ what happened to the sikh’s extremist moment? at one time it was so strong that it took life of the ruling Dictator (without staging a coup) and killed several thousands of lifes in the capital itself and next decade it disappeared?

    Empty mind is a devil’s workshop. Naxal movement is high in the regions where unemployment is high.. and naxal movement does not have a religious agenda. Even the muslims belonging to the regions of poverty (in india and abroad) tend to become extremist who blow themselves and people around them.

    I guess in today’s world with less than a $100 in commonly available supplies and anarchist e-books and basic chemistry knowledge it is possible to build a bomb… what am I saying… take an LPG/Propane cylinder and heat it over an electric stove…. maybe cover the entire thing with some nails, marbles to act as sharpnels… and you are good to go…….. there is no way to completely eliminate terrorism.. but i guess if economic development is brought to all parts of the country, it can atleast be limited.

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  2. @Ankur – I believe terrorism as a term is relatively new. The earlier times saw it as a failed uprising against the monarch, although, I believe that was not always the case.

    Also, I believe that the best way to keep a person / group / country from attacking you is by aligning their economic interest with yours. Simply put, a person who is mutually involved in an activity which gives you both money / sustenance as buyer-supplier is less likely to hurt you since it will adversely affect him too.

    Since you talked of Naxals, I can give you a very good and recent example. The government of Jharkhand has now been able to reach the most Naxal infested areas of the state via a mutual economic activity for the people there. The tribals of these areas are being offered good compensation in lieu of their workmanship under the Handicrafts division. I took a personal interview of the Head of the Division, who very proudly stated that no Naxal movement has disrupted their work, which has been in progress since 2007 December.

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