After Bin laden was eliminated, I heard a US media person (sorry, I didn’t note his name, but trust me, I heard him) say that it was a clear message sent to terrorists that you can’t mess around with America. “We’ll come after you wherever you are and get you’.
This is the classic response of those still living in a world of the past and conditioned by fairy tales, where victory in the last page of the story was what mattered. The villain may have led a jolly life for 70 years. But if you manage to score over him in the end, you are the real victor, even if you have been knocked around your entire life.
By executing the operations clinically and flawlessly and bringing down the WTC towers like a pack of cards – which should rank as one of the greatest engineering achievements ever, if you ignore the wrongness of the purpose- Osama had achieved what he wanted to. There was no more ‘victory’ that was left to be grabbed by the US. It was all over on 9/11.
Similarly, when Kasab was handed the death sentence by the Court, P.Chidambaram had come out with a statement: “The verdict (against) was a clear message to Pakistan. “If they do (export terrorism) and we apprehend the terrorists, then we will bring them to justice.”. This was just idle boasting. 26/11 was a plot planned meticulously and carried out efficiently. The intended purpose was achieved on that day, and victory was theirs. Catching one Kasab and hanging him is not going to send any message to the terrorists who are holed out in Pakistan. He was sent here to die and he came here mentally prepared to die on 26/11. He is now on extended time. A bonus period, so to say.
Just as rules of conventional warfare don’t apply in the case of war against terrorism, certain beliefs and honour codes that held sway in the era of conventional warfare need to be abandoned when dealing with terrorism. Victory is when you foil an attempt to blow up a building or when you nab the planners in their den based on intelligence tip-offs. It is when you manage to close in on the institutions that are operating as terror factories. Any post-facto action after the disaster cannot be claimed as a victory. It is too late by then.