Image Hosted by  

Post-Brunch Intelligencer

Midmorning ramblings on the state of the species

Lest We Remember

Posted by Nath at 6:37 AM
When news of last week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai first came to my attention, I could not help but wonder whether this was the proverbial 'Big One'. A Big One is a terrorist attack of the sort you find in Tom Clancy novels. It's the nightmare scenario in the back of society's collective mind. It's what happens if certain kinds of weapons get into the hands of certain kinds of people. Big Ones are rare, except in fiction. 9/11 is the only successful Big One I can think of off the top of my head.

Around 200 people died in the Mumbai bombings. That's by no means a small number, but thankfully this isn't our Big One. Mumbai has seen worse. These attacks will not have any real consequences. The peace process will take another kick in the pants. Various officials from both sides of the border will issue (or rather have issued) the sternly worded but ultimately meaningless statements expected of them. People will froth at the mouth for a couple of days, and then go back to whatever's on TV.

It is fortunate that we are so quick to forget. That's a strange thing to say, but bear with me: I'll explain. The bulk of the damage done by a terrorist attack – particularly a Big One – does not involve the people who actually died. The damage occurs when the victim nation decides that things have gone too far, and starts doing things without really thinking about what's best in the long run. Take 9/11. Three thousand lives were lost in the attack – tragic, certainly, but in itself not a large enough number to have a noticeable effect on a country that loses 40,000 lives a year to road accidents.

Yet it's hard to deny that the US is in a tougher position today than it was on 10 September, 2001. Why? The US could have healed, recovered, and moved on. Instead, it fell into the carefully laid trap that had been laid out by its enemies. Yes, Al Quaeda was ultimately beaten back into the woodwork for a few years, but at great cost (and I'm not just talking about money here). A large democratic country will take a lot more time to heal and rebuild than a bunch of thugs with Kalashnikovs.

Okay, back to Mumbai. Let us, for a moment, get into the head of a Lashkar-e-Toiba strategist and try to understand his motivations. I will resist the urge to make a joke about how cramped it would be in a jihadi's head, because we would do ourselves a disservice by assuming that our enemy is a brainless protohuman who knows only how to eat, sleep and explode. I have written in the past about how these attacks bring the extremists no closer to their goals (see Festival of Explosions). I wrote that post under the assumption that what they wanted, ultimately, was Kashmir. I have begun to suspect that this is not entirely accurate. Kashmir is one of the root causes of the conflict, but you can't cure burns by putting out the fire. I have a feeling that these attacks are intended more to weaken India than to reorganise Kashmir.

And how are 200 deaths meant to weaken a country of 1,103,371,000 people? Well, push people hard enough and they'll do the damage themselves. The equilibrium between liberty and security will shift a couple of notches to the right. Words like 'revenge' and 'retribution' suddenly become fashionable even among those who ought to know better. The consequences would be disastrous if people stayed in this frame of mind for any length of time.

As I said, it is fortunate that we are so quick to forget.


Posted by Blogger unforgiven at 07 August, 2006 03:02:
It is unfortunate that we forget.
Of course, it's more unfortunate that when we don't, we do the worst possible to cope up with it but that doesn't change the former fact.

If the second cannot be remedied, which I don't see an earthly way at the moment to do so, then yes, the lesser of the two evils is to forget.

Sad. Reaffirms my faith in how fucked up this entire race is.

Posted by Blogger Nath at 07 August, 2006 19:33:
Well, yes, but I don't know if I'd go that far. Human behaviour is far from ideal, true, but we have nothing to compare it to. After all, humanity is the only sentient species we are aware of. Perhaps this sort of behaviour goes hand-in-hand with sentience. It doesn't make sense to consider humanity inherently good or bad, because those words are relative.

Posted by Blogger unforgiven at 08 August, 2006 09:14:
I wouldn't venture to pronounce judgement on the entire race as such. It is safe to assume that they are "fucked" up though, since by the colloquial definition of the word, things need to be in a state that doesn't make any sense.

Which we can safely claim about the way the human race behaves as a whole.

For argument sake, one could also claim that "making sense" is relative but at one point one needs to put his/her foot down and agree to a common baseline definition of the word.

Which is why I feel secure in making that statement :)

Posted by Blogger Nath at 09 August, 2006 06:14:
Then again, one could make the argument that "making sense" is relative, and therefore... oh, you've covered that. Fair enough, then, I guess I'll have to give you this one.


Powered by 


Something broken? Let us know.