The “war” on terror

In light of the terrorist attack in London this morning, when 29 people were hospitalised following an explosion in a peak hour District Line train on a massively crowded route, I nearly re-wrote this old blogpost of mine. I even thought of the very same examples before I figured I should once check.

Recently, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi declared “victory over Islamic State“, and announced that the organisation had been defeated. In this statement, Al-Abadi conveyed his ignorance of the kind of conflict his government was involved in, for Islamic State is not a “normal country” and the so-called “war” the Iraq and others are fighting it is not a war – since it will never end the way normal wars do.

As I’d mentioned in the other post on wars, wars end in a political decision – a surrender, usually. Sometimes, it takes extreme measures to induce surrender, as it happened with Japan in World War 2. At other times, a slight advantage to one side might lead the other to concede, and strike a treaty. Either ways, in a conventional war, few sides are likely to fight on until last man standing.

The so-called “war on terror” (especially aimed at the Islamic State) is not a war for several reasons. Firstly, Islamic State is not a conventional organisation – it has transcended that to become a concept, to unite radical Islamists worldwide. Irrespective of how many layers of the top management of the Islamic State are eliminated (either by killing or by incarceration), the remainder of the organisation will regroup and continue to thrive. And the organisation continues to grow – with ordinary members constantly seeking to enroll new members.

This feature of the Islamic State not being a conventional organisation also means that there is no central leadership that has the power to concede defeat and declare the war to an end. Even if a nominal leader of the organisation were to take such a decision, the fact that the organisation is an extremist on might imply that this decision might be decried as “selling out” by the more extreme factions of the organisation, who will fight on.

Then, the Islamic State is a distributed organisation – even in terms of geography. The use of the internet for recruitment has meant that they have operatives in most countries, and after some initial training, these operatives operate independently. So even if a nominal “top management” of the organisation were to be eliminated, these independent operatives will continue to thrive. And they need to be taken down – to the last man.

In that sense, the “war” against Islamic State is hardly a war. There is no political objective since the Islamic State lacks a political leadership capable of taking decisions. The organisation is rather distributed and even killing the “main organisation” will not eliminate the branches (reminds me of this demon in Hindu myth who had the property that each drop of his blood that would touch the ground would result in a clone of the demon).

The fight is going to be a long one, and we’ll need measures both conventional and unconventional to defeat the organisation. Declaring victory, like the Iraqi PM did, can only prove counterproductive.

Madman theory redux?

Madman Theory refers to the policy employed by the US in the 1970s during Nixon’s reign. They convinced the Russians that Nixon was mad, and that he was liable to act irrationally if provoked. And this led to the US getttig an upper hand in the Cold War.

It seems like Pakistan is unwittingly doing the same nowadays. Given the general chaotic nature of the political “leadership” in that country, and also the fact that they have access to nuclear weapons, India dare not launch a full-scale offensive against Pakistan, irrespective of what the terrorists do.

So what this means is that Pakistani terrorists can come here and continue to have fun, and even if we know that they have been backed by Pakistan, we can’t do a thing because we are afraid that some madcap in Pakistan has control over the nuclear button and might end up nuking us.

And given that the democrats are in power in the US (irrespective of Biden’s pro-India leanings) you never know how relations between India and Pakistan shape out in the next few years.

If you have a bright idea as to how one can combat this Madman technique (I’m not sure if Pakistan is playing this deliberately), let me know. Actually, letting me know is of no use. I can’t do a thing. So do what you think is the best, but also let me know.