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Thread: Ice-cool under terror attack

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    formerly ab041937 Akshay's Avatar
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    Ice-cool under terror attack

    Ice-cool under terror attack
    Anatole Kaletsky


    Unlike the hysterical reaction of America and Spain, India's restraint under pressure is exemplary
    PEOPLE OF GOODWILL have been unanimous in their denunciation of the Bombay terrorist outrage. For once, the whole civilised world could agree with Tony Blair, speaking yesterday in Parliament: “Our message is that we stand in solidarity with the Indian people to defeat this terrorism wherever it exists.” When we see human bodies so cruelly ripped apart, not only in such bastions of “Western imperialism” as New York, Madrid and London, but also in India, Indonesia and Kenya we can all surely agree that the War on Terror is more than just an American or British obsession. This is truly a global war, in which all civilised nations stand united.

    United and wrong. For there was one small note of dissent, or at least of nuance, in yesterday’s ringing declarations of solidarity and renewed commitment to the war against terror. Manmohan Singh, the famously cerebral Prime Minister of India, denounced the attack as “a shocking attempt to spread a feeling of fear and terror among our citizens”, but carefully refrained from blaming any specific terrorist group or threatening any particular counter-measures.

    Instead of describing this atrocity as “an act of war”, the Indian authorities were treating it essentially as a criminal act. Instead of succumbing to the populist temptation to blame Pakistan, where many anti-Indian terrorist groups enjoy safe haven, Dr Singh did exactly the opposite. “The very first statements from India stressed that dialogue and confidence-building measures with Pakistan would continue,” Professor Radha Kumar, one of India’s leading authorities on inter-communal tensions. noted yesterday.

    The people of India seemed equally calm. Bombay, instead of panicking or wallowing in self-pity, went on with its daily business. The shops and markets stayed open. The transport services went on running and passengers were not intimidated from using buses and trains. In all these respects, Bombay’s reaction was similar to London’s and a world apart from the hysteria in New York and Madrid.

    This contrast can be tritely explained by clichés about the national character — the fatalism of the Hindus, the stoicism of the British, the passion of the Spaniards and so on. There are, however, more instructive political conclusions.

    India, even more than Britain or Spain, has a history of terrorist horrors. Starting with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, moving on through the intercommunal bloodshed after partition to the shooting of Indira Gandhi, the murder of numerous local politicians and the seemingly endless bombings by Kashmiri separatists, Maoists and religious fanatics of all kinds, India probably has more experience of terror than any other nation.

    We can draw lessons from India’s cool, self-confident behaviour. The first lesson is that Indians, both politicians and ordinary people, seem to respond much more rationally than Americans to the risks of terrorism. While 170 deaths is a terrible tragedy, the Indians seem to recognise that terrorism remains a negligible risk in the greater scheme of things and need not unduly disrupt their lives.

    Even if the bombings in Bombay were repeated weekly, they would represent a smaller risk than crossing an Indian road. Seen as a one-off event, this bombing was a far less destructive tragedy than the earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis and other natural disasters that regularly afflict southern Asia. This sense of proportion should allow Indians to get on with their lives after the bombings and discourage the overreaction, the inter-communal bloodshed and the Indo- Pakistani confrontation that the terrorists obviously want.

    The need to deny terrorists their objectives leads to a second conclusion. To treat terrorist attacks as “acts of war”, as President Bush has famously done since 9/11, is the most counterproductive policy imaginable, at least if the objective is genuinely to prevent further terrorism, rather than to wage a never-ending “war on terror”. Equally wrongheaded is to try to draw every country hit by terrorism into an imaginary brotherhood of solidarity against terror, as Tony Blair did in yesterday’s parliamentary statement.

    The disastrous consequences of confusing terrorism with war are obvious enough. Observe the confusion of US objectives in Iraq, the descent into anarchy in Afghanistan and, just yesterday, the self-destructive decision of Ehud Olmert to respond to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers as if it were an act of war by the Government of Lebanon. Or note that it is now almost five years since 9/11, yet Osama bin Laden is still at large and the Taleban virus has been transmitted from Afghanistan to nuclear-armed Pakistan. But why has the War on Terror been such a failure? The most plausible explanation was presented last week by Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, at the LSE conference on George Soros’s book, The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror. Liberals such as Mr Soros have long argued that the War on Terror was “a false metaphor” because the “enemy” was not an army or a state, but an abstract concept, implying that the war, with all the attendant restrictions on open civil liberties and political debate, might continue for ever.

    But, as Ms Chakrabati pointed out, there is another “hawkish” argument against the War on Terror metaphor, which is even more powerful: the War on Terror has turned common criminals and mass murderers into soldiers and martyrs. As Ms Chakrabarti noted, the greatest aspiration of Irish terrorist groups was to be recognised as soldiers — an aspiration that British governments consistently and rightly denied them. Yet just before the 7/7 attacks in London, the lead bomber was able to write in his testament, without a hint of self-doubt: “We are at war and I am a soldier.”

    This is the glamorous image of terrorism that President Bush and Mr Blair have spent five years promoting. Luckily for India, her leaders have greater intelligence and sang-froid.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article...267631,00.html
    Last edited by Akshay; 13 Jul 06, at 07:53.
    If at first you don't succeed, call it v1.0!

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    Senior Contributor Samudra's Avatar
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    note that it is now almost five years since 9/11, yet Osama bin Laden is still at large and the Taleban virus has been transmitted from Afghanistan to nuclear-armed Pakistan
    LOL! There she blows!


    Even if the bombings in Bombay were repeated weekly, they would represent a smaller risk than crossing an Indian road.
    I thought something was missing until I read this..

    While 170 deaths is a terrible tragedy, the Indians seem to recognise that terrorism remains a negligible risk in the greater scheme of things and need not unduly disrupt their lives.
    Unduly disrupt their lives?

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