Sunday, July 4, 2010
The Wonder that is Terror: Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani
Pakpotpourri2 will be publishing a series of three articles by Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani on the War on Terror. This is the first.
"The Wonder that is Terror*
By:Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani
(This is a cross post from The Nation).
I wish we had not declared a war on terror. Against ills of society, or of ideology, one may start a movement, a crusade, even a jihad, but should not wage a war. War is an instrument of policy, and can therefore be used to pursue political objectives. Movements, crusades and jihads, are ends unto themselves, and thus above politics. No wonder, this war, the one on terror, has been used to achieve ends of policy.
Regimes outside the global mainstream have comeback, simply by signing up as crucial allies. Oppressive states have won the right to oppress some more, because they were being terrorised by their subjects. The oppressed have lost the right to resist, lest they were branded as terrorists. And any state could now pass any law and enforce any measure since it was in a state of war. Is it any wonder that some of us like to perpetuate this useful war?
Before the War, we insisted that the terrorism be precisely defined and states committing terror are also held culpable. Those were the days that “removal of root-causes” was the all prevailing mantra to uproot terrorism. When the battle was joined, after 9/11, the semantics, the histrionics, and the polemics could indeed not hold us back. It was time to get on with the task at hand: rooting out terrorists. Small wonder; we are frustrated to see our nemesis well on the march. But then whoever won a war while violating all its norms and forms!
Exploiting this War to attain questionable objectives was bad enough. Chasing shadows with dubious intelligence was worse. The worst indeed was: targeting the illusive enemy with weapons of mass destruction when it was all mixed up with the masses. Looking for a needle, if we set the haystack on fire, we were more likely to burn down the barn. Is it any wonder that the burnt-outs blow up our planes and trains? The only thing worse than misunderstanding the nature of war is; the failure to understand the nature of the enemy.
Make no mistakes: we are up against a formidable enemy. Not only that the terrorists can derail trains but also peace processes. They can change regimes and make them fight amongst themselves. Most importantly, they know us better than we know them. They know for example that the state system is the root-cause of terror. Its oligarchic character often creates an underclass, which when desperate becomes violent. The state characteristically responds with force, playing right into the hands of those who have the pack of war stacked in their favour.
I have often wondered; why does the state incessantly rave and rant about the iniquities of terror! Indeed people loose their lives, some business is affected, and many are inconvenienced by its perpetrators. It is still not the terrorists who get all the blame all the time. Overtime, it is the state that becomes the main target of people’s ire for its inability to cope with the enemy. The problem is that the terrorists are innovative, and the state is not.
Underrating the enemy is a cardinal sin. If anyone thought that the surge in suicide bombings was a sign that our adversary was getting desperate, one should think again. The terrorists have not only been inventing new means, but also working on their cost and effect. While we were wondering what drove a human being to make the ultimate sacrifice, the other side had already worked it out. A naive Muslim for example, would blow himself up for a reward in the hereafter. An aeronaut on the other hand, wants it here. Now that ever more Madrassas are being hooked to the web (under an anti-terror project of course), there are more chances of finding cyber-terrorists there, than human bombers.
When a war goes so horribly wrong as the one on terror has, persisting with a flawed strategy is ‘reinforcing failure’. Correcting the course, however, was best done when the battle lines had been contained. Whether it was done by unilaterally declaring a ‘ceasefire’ or through mutual arrangement, would depend primarily on the degree of contact the security forces have established with the terrorists. I have no doubt that such contacts exist if the two sides know how to conduct a war. It is time to bring the dialogue out in the open.
Refusing to talk to the terrorists is a stratagem that serves its purpose only to a point- till they have fought us to a stalemate. Thereafter, we have always talked; from Northern Ireland to Palestine to Kashmir and Sri Lanka. Once on the table, it is the terrorists, who have been more accommodative. Lately, another objection to this approach is doing the rounds (and since it is Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas specific, I suspect it is has American roots): “one cannot negotiate with the Taliban”. It just so happens that the Taliban or their ilk acquired this right in the first place because of us. When we go all guns blazing; only the militants who resist us with any success, are left to talk.
And just in case we did not change the course, there is a good chance that most of us would change sides. After all, only these “terrorists” have been able to stem the unilateral rot.
(Lt. General (Retd.) Asad Durrani,is the former Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence).