Lessons from Mumbai

Arthur Herman, the distinguished historian, argues that two illusions (along with scores of innocent people) died as a result of the 60-hour terrorist rampage in Mumbai, India. The first illusion is that “formal agreements between peoples and governments — whether between India and Pakistan or Israel and the Palestinian Authority — can somehow defuse the terrorist problem.” In reality, “terrorists see it the other way around: the relaxation of tensions is a problem requiring bloodshed.”

In this case, as Herman notes, relations between India and Pakistan have never been better. In fact, the two nations were on the verge of trade talks pertaining to Kashmir, the long-time source of hostility between them. In sum, “Islamic terrorists don’t want justice or respect for their beliefs, or restoration of some imaginary homeland; they want violence and death.”

The second illusion is that “democratic nations can somehow opt out of the war on terror.” Herman shows that this is what India has tried to do since 2001:

The government in New Delhi steadfastly maintains a wall of separation between law-enforcement agencies like the one that used to separate the FBI and CIA before the Patriot Act, and keeps counterterrorist units underfunded and undermanned. It has repeatedly given way to the demands of Islamic radical groups and fundamentalist lobbyists in the name of “cultural sensitivity.” India was the first non-Islamic country to ban Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses back in 1988.

India has no preventive detention laws; no laws to protect the identity of anti-terrorist witnesses; and no laws to allow domestic wiretapping without court order. In 2004, the new Congress Party government revoked India’s version of the Patriot Act. . .

In short, the Indian government has waged the war on terror in much the same way that liberals and many Democrats have been urging the U.S. to carry it out. The result is that more than 4,000 Indians have died in attacks since 2004 — more than any other nation in the war on terror besides Iraq.

I doubt that Obama ever intended to emulate India’s approach to terrorism once he came to power. It’s very difficult to believe he would now.

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