Friday, July 15, 2011

Preventing future terrorist attacks

US has successfully prevented all terror attacks after Sept 11th. Why are we failing?

Implication of a terror incident

1. Shows that it is an ongoing tussle
  • The tussle between the civil society and the barbaric society has not ended. Terrorists are still making their determined attempt to dominate and control the civic system.
  • A terror attack is a tactical move towards a strategic goal - Tactical wins strengthen their position and take terrorists near to their strategic goals.
  • It reminds us that the final outcome is still uncertain. It is possible that civic society may be miscalculating the dynamics of the tussle. And terrorists are know better what they are doing

2. Underlines the need for policy changes
  • The incident is a definite pointer to the need of changes in legal and administrative measures and implementation of newer laws are needed to effectively contain future terrorist attacks.
  • Hints inadequacy of the contribution of intellectuals, opinion makers in the fight against terrorism
  • Exhibits lack of political will in containing the continuing menace

3. Demands review of fundamental concepts of internal security

  • Policy options are generated typically based on a certain widely accepted axioms, conjectures and thumb rules. Continued terror incidents highlight the necessity of revisiting these concepts
  • Specifically, it is time to analyze our perceptions about tolerance, peace, secularism, religion, politics and freedom and to debate them in the context of terrorism.

4. Calls for redefining / Calibrating our social attitudes
  • Basic rules of engagement among different players in the society determines the way we implement our policies and programmes. They need to be reviewed.
  • Specific aspects of our social interactions are to be changed, modified or calibrated in the light of the above points


Lull between two consecutive terror attacks is misleading the public to perceive it as something different than the war. Terrorist modules are, in fact, engaged in unconventional war against civic society. Each successfully launched terror act is similar to a battle with specific objective. It is like running over a post. It may be true that the number of attacks foiled by the security agencies may be more than the number of terror incidents, it is not an indication that civic society is advancing in the battlefield of terror war. Assessment of the war on terror can be done in an relatively more abstract framework.

Recurring terror attacks is an indication of inadequacy of existing policies - legal and administrative measures apart from the well understood intelligence aspect. Policy change management starts in democracy from opinion makers. Policy options are generated by intellectuals and media. Politicians respond to the need and adopt suitably policy changes. Focus on fine-tuning the policies is an important activity till the strategic superiority of civic society over the terrorist modules is achieved.

When a solution is offered for a problem, it is built upon observations, assumptions and conjectures. When the proposed solution does not end the problem, it is an indication that the offered solution is not working. Then it is evident that at least some of the assumptions and conjectures are not in tune with the reality. First thing that has to be done is to revisit these things thoroughly and reformulate our solution.

In US, after the Sept 11 attack, the conjecture that internal terrorist attack as a near impossibility based on which the Homeland security was built up, was given up. Many fundamental security concepts were modified as a measure to tackle the new terrorist threat. To dismantle state support to the terrorists, two wars - Iraq and Afghanistan - were waged at an enormous cost. Although US was the most powerful country in the world, it had to deal with the duplicity of Pakistan cautiously with utmost patience.

In Europe, before the Sept 11, multiculturalism was promoted by many countries. After the emergence of global Jihadi meanace by Al-Queda, multiculturalism was givenup as a failed concept. Israel, in order to continue its existence and to protect its people from terrorism, is constantly finding ingenuous ways to preserve its tactical / strategic interests.

In all these instances, adaptability of the society and its institutions to the newer situation is clearly seen. None of the axioms, conjectures or conclusions are considered as more sacred than the objective of preventing anti national elements from gaining tactical advantage.

In India, the debate after every terrorist attack does not go beyond superficial level. Except for a series of investigations around the incident of terrorist act, none of additional measures are taken either in legal or judicial systems. Social systems and political discourse are not being affected by shocks created by the terrorist attacks.

Who should do what?

Should enforce existing laws and create newer laws to effectively tackle the problem. Pressure from civic society should not influence the political class in delaying the necessary measures

Media and Intellectuals
Should initiate discussion about the change that needs to be brought in the government /social institutions in a focused way. Generating effective policy options is a an important activity to manage change for solving national problems.

Elected representatives
Elected representatives, especially local body representatives, find minimal role in the fight against terrorism. They can play an important role in establishing basic rules dictating interactions among various entities of society. They need to give prominence to the security angle while discharging their duties as elected representatives.

Common people
Awareness about the issues of current affairs, discharging their duties, observing the performance of the government, elected representatives and media is an important duty of the common people. At the same time, supporting security agencies, government and elected representatives towards the smooth functioning of the system is the duty of all citizens of this country. More basically, it is important to have a clear understanding of the true nature of the individuals and organizations who are are involved in promoting and sustaining terrorism.