No Comment — December 2, 2008, 5:26 pm

Making Sense of Mumbai

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.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2016

Fighting Chance

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Front Runner

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Habits of Highly Cynical People

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Unhackable

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

American Imperium

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Elisabeth Zerofsky on Marine Le Pen, Paul Wachter on the quest for an unhackable email, Rebecca Solnit on cynical people, Andrew J. Bacevich on truth and fiction in the age of war, Samuel James photographs E.P.L. soccer, a story by Vince Passaro, and more

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Front Runner·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The F.N. asked to be sent to an institution whose legitimacy it did not accept, and French voters rewarded the party with first place in the election."
Illustration (detail) by Matthew Richardson
Memoir
I Am Your Conscious, I Am Love·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A paean 2 Prince
"And one thinks, Looking into Prince's eyes must be like looking at the world."
Photo ©© PeterTea
Article
Stop Hillary!·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As wacky as it sometimes appears on the surface, American politics has an amazing stability and continuity about it."
Article
Plexiglass·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Photograph (detail) by Karine Laval

Amount a Russian man was fined last October for delivering a pizza by drone:

$1,092

In Argentina, chalk-browed mockingbirds had stopped trying to rid their nests of shiny cowbirds’ parasitic eggs.

In Damascus, Islamic State militants abducted more than 300 cement-factory workers.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today