What Next?

Anger in India is currently focused on its own Government. The mindless bloodbath that followed some previous attacks has not happened. What we see instead is a quieter rage, one that can be channeled to something constructive. For, rage has its uses too.

Every one, the US Sec State included, seems to be counseling the Indian Government against an overreaction. Certainly, no one wants a war between two Nuclear-Armed adversaries.

But what of the dangers of under-reaction? What will be the consequence to India and to the world if they are allowed to get away with it?

There seems to be consensus that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is behind this attack:

Indian and American officials are now reporting that the Mumbai attackers seem to have connections to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based Islamist organization. Among other analytical clues, over the weekend, one anonymous American official quoted in the Washington Post noted that Lashkar has a known “maritime” capability.

Steve Coll points out that this is not a mere terrorist organization. Much like the Hezbollah or Hamas, they provide social services in a country that has no functioning Government. These `humanitarian’ activities provide them with the cover to raise money, and to operate under new names even after they were banned by the Musharraf Government (under pressure from the US).

Identifying the parties responsible is a necessary first step. What to do after that? One idea is to treat this as a crime, and seek indictments in the US against those to attacked American citizens:

The U.S. can do a few useful things here. At a minimum, it can provide transparent information about the investigation and where the facts lead, so that the Indian and Pakistani political systems are on the same footing; it can indict individuals and groups that can be established as culpable for the Mumbai murders, no matter who those individuals and groups are—even if they include officers in the Pakistan Army; and it can emphasize in public that the United States seeks the end of all Pakistani support for terrorist groups, no matter whether they are operating in Afghanistan, Kashmir, or Mumbai.

That looks to me to be a clumsy approach. Even against Columbian drug lords, extradition and incarceration have not really worked.

Another is to declare parts of Pakistan as ungovernable and to organize a `coaling of the willing’ to occupy and administer it, as Robert Kagan suggests.

Would such an action violate Pakistan’s sovereignty? Yes, but nations should not be able to claim sovereign rights when they cannot control territory from which terrorist attacks are launched. If there is such a thing as a “responsibility to protect,” which justifies international intervention to prevent humanitarian catastrophe either caused or allowed by a nation’s government, there must also be a responsibility to protect one’s neighbors from attacks from one’s own territory, even when the attacks are carried out by “non-state actors.”

True, but this approach has not worked in Iraq or Afghanistan. Who is willing to join the US in a third occupation when the first two have gone so miserably? Not even India wants to occupy any part of Pakistan, especially not the hills of Hindukush, the famed graveyard of empires.

Functioning societies have a chain of authority. Pakistan, instead, has a chain of deniability. According to Steve Coll, the LeT allows its cadre to go on a `sabbattical’ while they are conducting terrorist attacks. So they can deny involvement if they get caught. The LeT itself does not exist officially, and operates behind some other front organizations. The Pakistani Secret Service, ISI created the LeT and used to direct it. Now the claim is that the ISI has been purged of the Generals who did that. Then the Pakistani Army which claims to be a professional outfit with a reliable chain of command (so they can be trusted with Nuclear Weapons) also denies that the ISI is under its control. And finally the Civilian Government seems to have no control over the Army at all. So where does one place the blame?

In this situation the one actor which is rational and can control events in the Pakistani Army. The bloody trail leads back to them, every time. They should be held responsible for what the ISI and the alphabet soup of terrorist organizations which operate within their territory do. It would be a mistake to attack Pakistan and disband its army, even if it were possible to do so. But it is reasonable to cut their funding, take away their source of power inside the country and transfer that power to the elected Government. The Nuclear Trigger and the ISI are the twin controls of power that must be transfered to the Civilian Government. This transfer of power should be the primary goal of US policy. The Generals would continue to be paid, but their masters will be the President and Parliament of Pakistan. Is this too idealistic a goal?

A year ago it would have seemed idealistic to ask that Musharraf step down, that a Parliamentary election be held, and a Civilian politician be elected President. Yet all those things have happened. Certainly, the politicians are corrupt and currently, rather powerless. But the semblance of Government has to exist before its reality. There is at least the seed of a civil government, which needs to be nurtured.

Taking away the Army’s external funding may not be enough. It might be necessary to humiliate them in battle. The Generals of Pakistan are not the masterminds of strategy they pretend to be. They have lost every war they fought except those against their own unarmed civilian people. They have lost even more in the aftermath of each war. They can be defeated yet again. The Civilian Government of Pakistan will survive, even thrive, after the Military is cut down to size.

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