The Mumbai Attacks and American Imperialism

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 8 months ago

While some speculation exists as to the possibility that the attacks in Mumbai are from home-grown terrorists, it appears that there was at least some involvement by foreign fighters, and specifically, from Karachi, Pakistan.

The terrorists who carried out multiple strikes in Mumbai yesterday landed on Indian shores on a boat that had set sail from Karachi before anchoring in one of the many barren islands in the Rann of Kutch along Gujarat’s coastline.

The 25-30 terrorists then used smaller boats to reach the Mumbai shores the same day they struck at 12 locations in the country’s financial capital. “They landed at Sasoon dock (off the Gateway of India) and reached the metropolis using rubber dinghies. We have information about their route, which we would share in time to come,” said the Special Secretary (Internal Security), Mr ML Kumawat.

The attacks have exposed India’s 7,516-km-long vulnerable coastline. It has shown that terrorists can create a Kargil-like situation along India’s coastline to harbour terror modules in the 1,200-odd barren islands and attack over 200 sensitive strategic installations spread across the country.

There is also a certain shock and dread among Indians that accompanies this attack.

India’s cities are no strangers to indiscriminate terror attacks. Such attacks have occurred regularly, and with steadily increasing frequency, in recent years. Mumbai, India’s financial capital, has been targeted before …

So what is new about Mumbai, November 2008? The obvious novelty is the use of frontal assault tactics instead of timed explosive devices.

This is new in the urban Indian context. There was one notable exception – an attack by a five-man squad armed with rifles and grenades on India’s Parliament in New Delhi in December 2001.

The attackers were narrowly prevented by alert staff from gaining access to the building, where hundreds of parliamentarians and ministers were attending a session.

They were gunned down near the entrance by security personnel after an hour-long battle. Nine guards and parliament stewards also died.

This attack led to the crisis of 2002 between India and Pakistan.

The Indian government blamed Pakistani religious radicals, and embarked on a major military build-up on the border with Pakistan, to which Pakistan responded with its own mobilisation.

The stand-off eventually wound down later in 2002 after months of tension and brinkmanship.

But frontal assaults, usually carried out by two-man teams firing semi-automatic rifles and lobbing grenades, were the favoured tactic of the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir between 1999 and 2003 …

The tactic is thus not without precedent, but the mayhem in Mumbai may nonetheless mark a new chapter in the evolution of urban terrorism in India.

Bombs planted in markets and on commuter trains kill and maim working-class and middle-class Indians.

The gunmen who attacked two luxury hotels, and a fashionable cafe frequented by visiting Westerners, have brought the “war” – as they see it – to India’s elite class, and to affluent Westerners living in or visiting India’s most cosmopolitan city.

Analysis

There might be a sense of sympathetic understanding among Americans, as if we’ve seen this before with 9/11 and understand all about the war being brought to one’s doorstep. But when thoughtfully considered, this sentiment doesn’t stand the test of reasonableness, or even magnitude, for what could have been or what could be in the future.

This analysis doesn’t minimize the suffering of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, or the magnitude of effort and commitment to respond to the initial or delayed affects of 9/11. But considered analysis forces the conclusion that there is a nontrivial chance that we haven’t seen the worst yet. The so-called Hamburg cell, at the direction of al Qaeda command, attacked symbolic targets, but left face-to-face confrontations in the streets for engagements they had hoped would come later by other jihadists.

They fundamentally left important (and remarkably soft) infrastructure unmolested. Terror would be multiplied in the future by fighters targeting women and children in shopping malls. A few hundred fighters would cause untold death among innocent and unprotected civilians, and cause terror on a heretofore unparalleled level. New York is still far away from the heartland of America. The local shopping mall is not. A few hundred fighters could cause tens of thousands of deaths.

Furthermore, the basic infrastructure still functioned after 9/11, even if the economy suffered for a period of time. Targeting the right (relatively unprotected) medium or high voltage transformers on the electrical grid of America would literally shut down industry and business in America. These are components that don’t sit on the shelves in great numbers and which must be fabricated, and upon losing the electrical grid, the power wouldn’t even be available to manufacture these components, at least for weeks or months. What is now easy to Google and purchase over the internet would become very scarce upon thousands being destroyed. Granted, this would take involvement of more fighters than were involved in the 9/11 attacks, but Mumbai is in significant trouble over much fewer fighters.

Targeting the right infrastructure could lead to economic consequences more catastrophic than 9/11 by an order of magnitude or more. And hence, it takes a special naivety to dismiss so easily the issues surrounding so-called American imperialism, as if the actions of a “meddling” armed forces must necessarily be evil because they are anticipatory rather than reactionary.

There are certainly unintended consequences to American imperialism, and the practice of fighting wars on soil other than our own is a costly affair, both monetarily and in terms of the human sacrifice. But there are also unintended consequences to isolationism too, and one such consequence might very well be that the sacrifice is even more costly when the fight is in one’s own back yard.

The ones affected by tactics described above might be constrained to reconsider just who the evil one is after such attacks: the leader who meddled in the affairs of other nations, or the leader who failed to anticipate the danger and dire consequences of failing to act before the terror came to our own shores.

Postscript: In anticipation of the charge that articles such as this give the terrorists ideas, it isn’t the terrorists who need ideas. They already know which targets are hard and which ones are soft. Before making the charge, the reader should consider the question, “why is it that I don’t want to hear this information?” The terrorists already know it.



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This article is filed under the category(s) Featured,India,Terrorism and was published November 28th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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