It has been over a week since 200 were killed in cold blood at the hands of angry young terrorists in Mumbai, India. Many questions are asked, but fewer answers are given. It is quiet right now in the Asian cultural and economic epicenter, and the U.S. media has turned its full attention back to the United States' Post Modern Economic Depression.
Besides getting a little more than a basic handle on who probably did these attacks and the knowledge that India's intelligence capability is more than pretty weak, we have also learned because of a prankster pretending to be India's foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee calling Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari and threatening Islamabad with dire consequences following the Mumbai attacks, we could have been or perhaps could still be on the verge of a nuclear show down between two nations that are historically siblings. Beyond the Mumbai attacks, the larger issue looms like a black mushroom cloud on what to do and how the U.S.; particularly President Elect Barack Obama's new Administration is going to deal with global terrorism.
Speaking with Alejandro J. Beutel, a counter terrorism and foreign policy analyst based in the Washington DC area, he talks about Mumbai, Deepak Chopra and the Arab and Muslim world's response to terrorism, the oxymoronicness of the phrase, "War on Terrorism," and what the U.S. needs to do to creatively begin to stop terrorism from its continuous spread.
It has been just over a week since the terrorist incident in Mumbai. The city appears to be "back to normal," and things are relatively quiet, what should really happen next?
"At this point we could look at it from a couple of different perspectives. Firstly from the U.S. perspective we must put more sustained pressure on Pakistan to see if the country will bring these men involved in these terrorist attacks to justice.
Secondly, India has to do a lot of soul searching. The country really needs to tighten its security. There are certain parallels to 9-11 that led up to the horrific attack. They had the intelligence, but did not act on the intelligence. This was a matter of gross incompetence that led to the deaths of hundreds of people. India has had a huge problem with insurgency and domestic terrorism from the Indian Muhjahideen, the United Liberation Front of Assam in Northeast India and the Naxalites, a Marxist insurgency operating out of India's Eastern parts that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Indians. Terrorism is nothing new to India. Outside of Iraq, they are the country that has been most affected by terrorism in terms of body count.
The bottom line is that all three countries, Pakistan, United States and India have to find an agreement over the issue of Kashmir. As for Pakistan, it really needs to rethink its quest for regional influence. It has a history of using militant religious extremists such as the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba to advance its strategic goals in Afghanistan and Kashmir. However, after training these groups for many years, it seems clear to me that the government has lost control of them. Their support for violent extremists has come back to haunt them."
Are you basically saying that the "Chickens are coming home to roost" on Pakistan's government for playing with these extremist groups to advance their political agenda. But what about the arrest Pakistan did in Kashmir of one of the terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks? Is this not Pakistan beginning to turn things around?
"While the arrests are certainly a welcome development, I don't know if this signals a turn around, as in a major policy shift. Pakistan has been using local religious militant groups like LeT for a while and may continue to see them as useful for their regional strategy. Even if they don't want them around anymore, which is not clear, they still have to tread carefully because LeT enjoys significant popular support and this could create a political backlash. Furthermore, there is the security risk that LeT fighters could start pointing their guns internally at Pakistan and begin waging a domestic terrorism campaign, similar to what the Taliban did after Pakistani military forces stormed the Red Mosque in Islambad in July 2007."
Why was India's government so lax?
"India has a country of over 1-billion people and it is a federalist state. A lot of the policies made are decentralized with certain powers given to the local governments and it is very difficult to get a lot of these things enacted. These terrorist measures have been going on for decades and these bureaucracies have been very incompetent. The Prime Minister and Highest Members of India's elite knew of the attacks in 10-minutes, but it took 10-hours for their most elite Commando Unit to respond. It should not have taken that long to respond."
When the attacks took place, observers called what happened India's 9-11. Is this true?
"I do not know if it would necessary be characterized as India's 9-11 because there has been so many terrorist attacks that have been nearly as bloody. What makes it so shocking is rather than killing Indians, this was targeted at foreigners [Westerns and more specifically Americans and the British], and the attack was in one of India's economic and cultural centers. In terms of a similarity to 9-11, the target and who was actually killed sparked international outrage."
Spiritual leader Deepak Chopra, on Larry King Live asked the following, "Why is global terrorism a predominantly Muslim phenomenon? What causes the radicalization of fairly middle class youth to go into terrorism?" He says without addressing these questions, the terrorism will continue? How do you respond to this?
"The number one thing I can pin it as is the sense of humiliation that a lot of Muslims around the world feel driven by a negative attitude toward Western Foreign Policy that you can perhaps trace back whether it was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the general support for dictators such as the Shah of Iran in 1953 by the CIA, the support for Saddam Hussein as far back as 1959 and then the later change in relationship that led to two wars with Iraq and an economic embargo in between that led to the starvation, mal-nutrition and death of an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children. On a small side note, there is ample empirical research proving international economic embargoes don't work. They are counterproductive and harm ordinary people while doing little to nothing to the governments they are trying to affect. The current occupation of Chechnya by the Russians is another factor. Young Muslims are extremely informed about what is going on in the world. They are angry about what is going on about this foreign policy and a tiny minority will go out and feed into an extremist ideology and fewer will wage violence. Foreign policy is the main factor. Many international polls of Muslims show they don't like Al-Qaeda, but they also show they don't like US foreign policies either.
"I conducted a preliminary analysis with Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad entitled, 'U.S. Foreign Policy and Not Islamic Teachings Account for Al Qaeda's Draw.' I carefully reviewed Osama Bin Laden's statements from 2001-2006, and in that study, I found that he spoke about Foreign Policy about 45.4% of the time and used religious justification 9.9% of the time. The other things he spoke about were history lessons, different religious events, taunting sometimes or a wide variety of different things i.e. military tactics, but that did not rally the troops. Bear in mind, Osama Bin Laden is no idiot. He has a degree in Economics and Public Administration. He sent out a marketing message that pandered to the issue of Western foreign policies; this attracted the youth. By far this is more of a political issue than anything else. Religion is used as an ideological vehicle to draw support, but nothing more than that."
Chopra feels there is not an honest dialogue about dealing with terrorism. He feels the Saudis, the Pakistanis and the entire Muslim World has to take more responsibility in ending terrorism. After all, Muslims are 25% of the world's population. Do you agree?
"I do think there is a moral evasion by some Muslims at times. However, if he [Chopra] is saying that Muslim leaders have failed to denounced terrorism, he is completely wrong. There have been Muslims of all stripes and leadership levels that have denounced terrorism and it has been very consistent. Despite that fact, terrorism continues to take place. Why? Terrorism has less to do with religion at its core than with politics. If we want to look at individual international terrorists themselves, most are not well educated in their religion. They tend to be fairly well educated academically, and most start off pretty secular. Muslims who join these organizations are drawn into a need for a social network. They then become indoctrinated into extremist ideologies. Also, one should note that these recruits have very little education in Islam and tend to be very, very ignorant of the morals and ethic nature of the religion's beliefs. The biggest myth about what fosters terrorism is the Madrassa Argument -- that the religious schools are factories for international terrorists. Empirical studies have debunked this claim. The fact is you can never denounce terrorism enough. The media does not show when Muslims decry these acts of violence. A month before the Mumbai attacks religious scholars from 6,000 Indian Muslim schools convened a conference and officially denounced terrorism."
Is the War on Terrorism an Oxymoron?
"Yes it is. You can't declare a war on a tactic. You can say the fight against terrorist networks, the fight against Al Qaeda organization, but you cannot declare war against a tactic. You can't declare a war on a violent action itself. The other problem with the phrase 'War on Terrorism' is it mainly implies a military solution to the problem. Terrorism is rarely ended by military solutions. It is generally done through law enforcement work and political negotiations. Those are the two main ways terrorism can end. In addition to General David Petraeus' innovative military strategy pursued in Iraq, a significant amount of his success with the surge was due to political negotiation with Sunni nationalists to successfully oust Al-Qaeda from many areas. However, as other Iraq and counterinsurgency experts point out, the surge's security gains can be reversed if important political issues such as oil wealth distribution and de-baathification remain unresolved.
"Do we declare war against an ideal or against terrorist networks? When fighting against terrorism, you are putting the individual to the forefront rather than an ideal. One of the biggest failures on this 'War on Terror,' is it has lumped people together and alienated potential allies to help bring Al Qaeda to justice and put the Muslim World to better governance and democratization.
"An example of an organization that could be helpful to the fight against Al Qaeda is the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. They hate Al Qaeda. The Brotherhood has worked to try to be a part of the political process and have tried to be a part of the Democratic system. They are viewed by Al Qaeda as sellouts and committing heresy by supporting Democracy. This does not mean that the U.S. should whole-heartedly embrace them. They are against U.S. foreign policy, but a dialogue should take place at a certain level. They have officially renounced terrorism since the early 1980's.
"Another organization that could be helpful is the Justice and Development Party out of Morocco. Both organizations believe in establishing good governance through the ballot instead of a gun., If the U.S. did a lot more to engage organizations like these in the Muslim world, we have a better chance of advancing religious freedom, free speech, and democratic voting in addition to weakening Al Qaeda's appeal among Muslims."
Why was the Phrase "War on Terrorism" Used?
"The 'War on Terrorism,' is more of an ideological view on how to approach the problem of terrorism."
The New York Times reported last week that President Elect Barack Obama plans a major National Policy speech from an Islamic capital during his first 100-days in office. What do you make of this and how do you think it will help with fighting against terrorism, building strong relationships with the Arab/Muslim world or will it do anything?
"What President Elect Obama is doing is a good symbolic first step. However, with any symbolism, it must be followed up with action. With this future speech, he may be suggesting that we are breaking from the past. He wants the Muslim world to know that we [U.S.] are willing to pursue more diplomatic engagement than the Bush Administration did; more diplomacy rather than shooting first and then asking questions later. However, many Muslims are waiting to see what kind of policies will came after a speech. To many Muslims, the last eight years have shown them that talk is cheap; they want positive action."
What are the three most critical issues that must be addressed by President Elect Obama when dealing with the Muslim World and the Middle East?
"Number one, the Muslim world needs good governance, democracy and human rights for everyone. Secondly, the [U.S.] takes a fair and just approach and solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Third, stamping out the terrorist networks with allies not considered in the past."