"modern terrorism is.. the latest refinement of state power"

In “The dangerous illusion of independent terrorists” Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor of the Australian, writes:

WHEN US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in India this week, all the talk was about “non-state actors” and the challenge they throw up to the international system. The assumption was that the Pakistan-based terrorists responsible for the murders of about 175 people in Mumbai, and the injuries to hundreds more, were non-state actors.

Yet it may be that since the 9/11 attacks in New York, the world has completely misconceived the age of terror.

The radical increase in the lethality, range, political consequence and strategic influence of terrorists comes not from their being non-state actors at all. Instead it comes from their being sponsored by states…

..Terrorists have to operate from somewhere. There are three alternatives. They can operate in what is truly ungoverned space, such as much of contemporary Somalia. Or they can operate clandestinely, against the wishes of a governing authority, as say the terrorist groups that have gathered in London. But of necessity such operations tend to be small and furtive. It is the third option that allows terrorists to grow to their full potential: where they are operating as either allies or agents of a sympathetic government.

Which brings us to Mumbai….

…Even if the impotent Pakistani civilian Government was not directly involved in the Mumbai massacres, it makes sense to see the long campaign of terror against India as sponsored by at least part of the Pakistani state. Given the Pakistani state also pioneered the idea of the Islamic nuclear bomb, this should sound the gravest alerts.

Thus it may be that modern terrorism is not so much the emergence of non-state actors on to the strategic field but, rather, the latest refinement of state power, giving the option of state military and terrorist action with plausible, or at least politically useful, deniability. If anything, therefore, we have tended to underestimate the strategic importance of terrorism.

Alan Sullivan notes that the same thing can be said of the al Qaeda/Saudi Arabia connection

Al Qaeda makes no secret of its ambition to supplant the Saudi monarchy. Nevertheless it is supported by a Wahhabi power-base in the desert kingdom.

Most Westerners seem incapable — or afraid — of comprehending these links. Bill Roggio and Thomas Jocelyn, however, make a very compelling case against Pakistan. It’s a start. But they close by posing the situation as a dilemma: “Pakistan is both an ally and an enemy.” No, Pakistan is simply an enemy; and so is Saudi Arabia, which has been the financial and ideological corrupter of Pakistan..

Most media and government types are still doing their level best to ignore Saudi involvement in terrorism, but they are starting to pay attention to Pakistan. Pakistani intelligence has been openly been sponsoring terrorism for years, but very few made the connection as openly as they’re doing now.

Before the Mumbai attacks, the media, government officials and UN types were willing to look the other way, to tolerate the use of terrorist proxies to fight dirty little wars against nations like India and Israel. The use of terrorist proxies was always seen as a safer alternative than open war between nation-states.

The attacks in Mumbai may be more frightening to many than 9/11 because the Mumbai attacks do have the possibility of leading to a confrontation between two nuclear-armed states. This possibility may force everyone to question alliances with (and tolerance of) states that use terrorist militias to gain power and lebensraum.

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About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
This entry was posted in South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

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