Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We won! We won!

As a nation, we seem to harbour the impression that we had emerged victorious after the recent terror incidents at Mumbai.

Many TV channels had showered encomiums on our NSG commandos on winning the 3-day encounter against the terrorists. “Mumbai fights back” they said when thousands of citizens lined up at a rally a few days later, holding candles. “We won’t let the terrorist cow us down” said one banner. Another screamed, “You are just 15. We are 15 million”.

“Nation displayed tremendous courage” proclaimed the Prime Minister in Parliament, no doubt, complimenting the one billion people who tenaciously fought the war against the ten terrorists.

In the opening line of this post, I find that Dilip D’Souza uses the expression “ …..after the terror attack in Mumbai was finally defeated.”

Yesterday I saw a headline, “Triumph over terror: Taj and Trident back in operation”.

Alas, such semantics and sentiments are remnant of the era of “paleo war”, as Umberto Eco refers to it in one of his essays. ( I talked about in an earlier post). In those old-fashioned wars, conquest of territory was a key motive. So, an aggressor was considered victorious if he managed to capture a piece of territory belonging to an enemy, while the defender was considered the winner, if he managed to thwart such a move.

Conditioned as we are to this “chess board” logic, we view the eventual killing of the terrorists holed inside the Taj and Trident, as a clear sign of victory. As if the intention of the terrorists was to permanently annex and rule over the territory marked by these hotels, and by not allowing them to raise their flags and open a head office there, we have the right to claim victory..

In the neo-wars that terrorists choose to fight, the motives are completely different and varied, as are the techniques. In the case of the Mumbai attacks, it may be to prove a limited point that they could, while consuming minimal resources, cause serious economic damage, kill people without any compunctions and in one stroke destroy the reputation of India as a safe haven for foreign tourists and investors. And, of course, while doing all this, also gain sufficient mileage through the media, ever willing to reach out to them and oblige. If this was their agenda and if were to judge their performance against the objectives, they achieved 100% of what they set out to achieve. The fact that the few actors eventually succumbed to our gunfire is of no significance whatsoever. Make no mistakes, they won.

To say that they were “finally defeated” is to delude ourselves. Our act of patting ourselves on our backs for the courage could have been charitably dismissed as funny, if it were not hallucinatory.


Usha said...

How true!
And that is all it ever will be after every act of terrorism - we can only limit the damage as their aim is to destroy as much as possible before they are destroyed.
We can only claim victory for every plan of terror attack that is foiled BEFORE the event.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, the magnitude of an attack is never felt if it is thwarted before the event. It gets reported as an insignificant piece in one corner of the 6th or 7th page and probably no mention on TV.

We probably have to blame the TV reporters for all this jingoistic hype and gibberish. They are not just reporters,without bias, but are opinionated asses seeking higher ratings.

I used to admire Barkha Dutt, but not any more. They seem to me to be the worst parasites (forgive the vehemence)bcos they make financial capital during such events --'Exclusively on your channel' are expressions we hear regularly. Further they criticise the politician who I admire much more than Barkha and her ilk.

Anonymous said...

Which country does this guy belong to? A very uncommon name.

Raj said...

Usha, that's right.

Sankar, Umberto Eco is an Italian author. Written books like "Focault's Pendulam", etc,

Anonymous said...

We did win. True they caused damage, but what exactly did these terrorists achieve? Except for a minor setback in economy and a major setback for few families, 15 million people have felt united.

Raj said...

Here it is: Minor setback in economy? Tourist flow has dwindled, hotels haev reported cancellations, security costs have gone up, not to mention the major inconveniences and the impact on the collective psyche. This was the objective and this was achieved efficiently. Of course, we can continue to believe we won; we knocked out 9 guys and took one prisoner, didn't we?

Anonymous said...

I agree with you but when people say that we have won they just mean it the sense that the fight for now is over but every one knows deep in their heart that it is a a very long war on the entire nation with the terrorists having the advantage. That is the reason all the people are still worried.

Rachna said...

I think we won in one sense, the unity and unanimity in not tolerating bad governance. For once we showed the door to politicians resorting to cheap vote-bank politics. It is sad that it had to take an incident of such large magnitude for us to stand together as a nation.

KT said...

To say that they were “finally defeated” is to delude ourselves.

I agree with your argument in principle.

However to say that

Triumph over terror: Taj and Trident back in operation

is another example of our myopic understanding of terrorists' strategy and objectives would be wrong. In fact this piece points out exactly what Ratan Tata said, "we can be hurt but not knocked down"

I don't think India's reputation as a safe haven has been destroyed for long term, things will get gradually better once the recession passes on.