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India has a long history of communal violence, but events rarely manage to attract the attention of the world’s press. The attacks in Mumbai, however, have been prominent because Americans, Europeans, Indonesians and others see them as part of a larger pattern of terrorism. The raid obviously resulted from careful planning, and its implementation, however chaotic it appeared, almost certainly serves a larger strategic purpose.
The epicenter of religiously-themed terrorism in the world today is in Pakistan, specifically along a corridor stretching from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, through the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), and down to Boluchistan. The new government in Pakistan, along with the United States, is intent upon suppressing terrorist organizations that operate there, but far from an agreement as to tactics. The attack on Mumbai appears to have been designed to derail that cooperation and lower the pressure on terrorists. At a minimum, the raid’s authors likely suspect, they will dampen cooperation between India and Pakistan. More likely they will get leaders in both countries to focus on each other–and draw troops away from the NWFP and to the Indian frontier. Perhaps they will even inspire an Indian riposte.
Conflict between India and Pakistan would be a major accomplishment for the terrorists and a significant setback for the plans to crack down in the festering frontier zone, which is why the raid calls for attention and action in order to avoid heating up the tensions between Delhi and Islamabad. Much has appeared in print about these developments; most of it is predictable and not terribly useful. Steve Coll—one of the two or three keenest observers of the region in the United States—has a post that helps us understand the actors involved and the strategic dilemma. What can America do about it? Plenty.
The U.S. can do a few useful things here. At a minimum, it can provide transparent information about the investigation and where the facts lead, so that the Indian and Pakistani political systems are on the same footing; it can indict individuals and groups that can be established as culpable for the Mumbai murders, no matter who those individuals and groups are—even if they include officers in the Pakistan Army; and it can emphasize in public that the United States seeks the end of all Pakistani support for terrorist groups, no matter whether they are operating in Afghanistan, Kashmir, or Mumbai.
Sensible, imperative advice. Let’s see if the Bush Administration in its ineffectual dotage is capable of demonstrating any measure of responsible leadership–Condoleezza Rice recently entertained Queen Elizabeth with her performances of Brahms at the keyboard, but this situation calls for different skills. Rice isn’t neglecting the situation, but there is so far little evidence that it is getting the level of attention that it deserves.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”