Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Terrorism and politics

After the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, it has become fashionable to suggest that we should banish -- or, at least, rise above -- politics and seek ways of preventing terrorist attacks, and of minimizing the damage and loss of life if a terrorist attack does get underway.

But it seems to me that any suggestion about what needs to be done is inherently political. Consider the following suggestions/demands/ideas:

  1. the ritual resignation of some minister or the other.

  2. different kinds of internal security measures -- POTA, for example -- which imply different levels of loss of personal freedom

  3. going to war with a nuclear armed neighbour -- "There is only one way to deal with [international terrorism] - the Dubya way!"

  4. getting Ratan Tata to be our Prime Minister with NSG commandos running the state's affairs.

Which of these ideas is not political? Even if one couches them in non-partisan rhetoric -- "I don't care who's in power, NDA or UPA.I want action!" -- each of the ideas depends on a certain view of the state, who should run it, what it should do, and at what cost. When each of them comes into conflict with others -- your POTA is my draconian law, after all -- what you have is politics. Gnani puts it even more strongly:

... [T]errorism is not above politics. It is politics by other means.

To come to grips with it and to eventually eliminate it, the practice of politics by proper means needs constant fine tuning and improvement. Decrying all politics and politicians, only helps terrorists and dictators who are the two sides of the same coin. [...]

Let me leave you with some links. And, yes, they are all intensely political:

  1. Gnani Sankaran's class-based take on how our media -- especially the TV channels -- are spinning the terrorist attacks. [Update: See also Mukul Kesavan's column.]

  2. Biju Mathew asks us to be skeptical about what the media tells us about the attacks. A lot of their stories are based on selective leaks from the police, intelligence agencies and the armed forces; when the leaks are selective, they are likely to be self-serving and/or ass-covering. [See this, this and this]

  3. Why did we end up losing top police officials and NSG commandos? Mad Momma wants to know, because "because tomorrow my son might want to join these forces."

* * *

Let me end this post on a not-so-political note with the following links:

  1. WSJ has a detailed -- and chilling -- account of how the terrorists did what they did. Here's an equally chilling account from an NSG commando of the fight to liberate the Taj.

  2. A daughter recounts the hours and days when her father -- a police official -- was inside one of the hotels fighting the terrorists.


  1. Anonymous said...

    It is interesting how the people in India reacted, though I cant say i am surprised. Politicians are dogs etc etc ... who voted them in ? Dont you think that if Indians cared for their country they would be alarmed by now (based on at least the last few years)? Why have politicians dared to ignore - because they in a sense have a pulse on the peoples feelings. They in general know what is important and what is not. Lets admit that we dont care much as long as things dont happen in our own backyard.

    The interesting point in human behavior is our absolute quest in not wanting to pay taxes. If we really want the govt to implement all the security measures that we want, where is the money going to come from ? Let alone extra taxes, are we prepared to pay the income tax that we should ?

    My final two comments - only idiots who have not seen war or stand not to lose anything can comment that we carpet bomb pakistan etc etc. That does not mean that we sit in fear. I know this sounds horrible and idiotic in many ways, but I am glad that the tragedy has been equitable. In other words I doubt if we would have seen the response (and I am hoping that there will be a real response) if the hoi polloi were to be attacked and not the residents of the five star hotels.

  2. Animesh said...

    Good job pointing out that all solutions are political. My personal way-to-solution is to make politics resemble [idealized] scientific publication. When a politician promises something, he/she must define failure criteria -- a clear, numerical way to measure whether he/she was successful or not.

    Can we academics start demanding that?

    I know the people of India do not vote, but it is also because they do not know what to vote for. Even this time, they need to differentiate between those who will promise to remove/eradicate/obliterate terror and those who will give a calm, calculated PoA and clear means for the public to measure their performance.

    Yes, I know the latter type of pol. does not exist today. But we can hope [and we academics can push for this thinking], can't we?

    My letter to the PM on this is here.
    /shameless plug :)