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December 2, 2008

The Rationale of Terror


by Patrick J. Buchanan

Arguably the most successful act of revolutionary terror was the June 1914 assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

Believing his mission to murder the heir to the Austrian throne had failed, Gavrilo Princip suddenly found himself standing a few feet away from the royal car. He fired twice, mortally wounding the archduke and his wife.

Tactically, that act of terror eliminated the reformist Ferdinand, who meant to address the grievances of his Slav subjects by granting them greater autonomy and equality with Austrians and Hungarians inside the empire.

Strategically, the assassination succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its Black Hand plotters.

Hard-liners in Austria demanded an ultimatum to Serbia. When her demands were not met in full, Vienna declared war. Czar Nicholas mobilized in support of Russia's little Slav brothers. The Kaiser ordered mobilization. When the French refused to declare neutrality, Germany declared war. In hours, the British Cabinet had reversed itself to back war with Germany on behalf of Belgium and France.

Princip had lit the fuse that set off in six weeks the greatest war in history. While Serbia suffered per capita losses as great as any other nation, she ended the Great War as the lead nation in a Kingdom of the South Slavs embracing Slovenes, Croats, Bosnians, Albanians, Montenegrins, Macedonians, and Hungarians. The Habsburg Empire at which Princip had struck had vanished.

Last week's Mumbai massacre seems a similar triumph of terror.

Tactically, by sending a platoon of suicide warriors into India's financial capital, terrorizing a train station, two five-star hotels, and a Jewish center, and killing nearly 200 in over 60 hours, the plotters assured themselves of round-the-clock worldwide television coverage.

In so riveting the world's attention for four days, this terrorist atrocity was a success.

And by using Pakistanis to perpetrate the massacres and Karachi as port of embarkation, the plotters focused India's rage exactly where they want it, against Pakistan. By this slaughter in India's commercial capital, the Islamists have destroyed the détente Pakistan was seeking with India and pushed both toward war. Out to murder moderation and stoke militancy, the terrorists succeeded.

Years ago, this writer observed:

"Terrorism is a tactic, a technique, a weapon that fanatics, dictators, and warriors have resorted to through history. If, as Clausewitz wrote, war is the continuation of politics by other means, terrorism is the continuation of war by other means."

Yet terrorism the killing of innocents for political ends can only triumph if the aggrieved play the role the terror masters have scripted for them in their bloody drama. What, then, may we surmise are the tactical and strategic goals of the terror masters of Mumbai?

To humiliate, wound, and outrage India in her pride as a great new democratic and economic power in Asia. To imperil Mumbai's future as a safe and secure financial capital in which to live, work, and invest. To awe the world and inspire Islam's young by their audacity. To attain immortality.

But the strategic target of the militants is the Pakistani government.

Pakistan's offenses? Cooperating with America in Afghanistan and the border region, battling al-Qaeda and the Taliban, withdrawing from the fight for Kashmir, seeking peace with a Hindu nation where 170 million Muslims are denied their place in the sun.

President Bush should pray New Delhi does not adopt his Bush Doctrine of preventive war or the Cheney Doctrine: "Even if there's just a 1 percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty." For war in the subcontinent between India and Pakistan would be a calamity and a triumph for the terrorists across what Zbigniew Brzezinski has called the "Global Balkans."

War would pit two nuclear powers against each other for the first time since the Sino-Soviet border clash of 1969. It would spawn bloodshed between Muslim and Hindu in India. It would see the collapse of Pakistan, its possible dissolution, and a military dictator in a nation already divided against itself over whether to continue resisting al-Qaeda and the Taliban, or cut ties to the unpopular Americans.

Wounded and enraged by the atrocities of 9/11, America lashed out, first at Afghanistan and the al-Qaeda source of the conspiracy, then at Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attacks. Thus did the Bush administration disunite its nation and forfeit its mandate.

For India to lash out at a Pakistan that was not complicit in the Mumbai crimes against humanity, but harbors elements within that are guilty and are celebrating, would be as great a mistake.

India and Pakistan both have a vital interest in no new war.

But a new war is exactly what the terrorists killed for and died for.

Should it come, they win and enter history as revolutionary terrorists alongside Princip and the perpetrators of 9/11.

COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.


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  • Patrick J. Buchanan was twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the Reform Party’s candidate in 2000. He is also a founder and editor of the new magazine, The American Conservative. Now a commentator and columnist, he served three presidents in the White House, was a founding panelist of three national television shows, and is the author of seven books.

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