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Leadership in the War on Terrorism

Leadership in the War on Terrorism
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First Published: Fri, May 04 2007. 08 57 AM IST
Updated: Fri, Aug 17 2007. 02 02 PM IST
New Delhi: Like all criminals, terrorists have a pre-emptive advantage, hence their leadership at all levels is more likely to be pro-active, while leadership of the forces ranged against terrorism is consequently handicapped by reactionism. Ideologically, this translates into a sort of force multiplier of vast magnitude to counter, where political and other allied leadership have to move in double quick time, while being handicapped into an essentially reactionary mode. At the strategic level, things are somewhat similar, though it is at the tactical level that this handicap gets starkly illuminated.
Motivation is hardly a problem for the terrorist leadership, fed as it is by an almost completely voluntary army on a self induced high reinforced by religious, ethnic and/ or nationalistic fervour. In contrast, the countering forces are assailed by self doubts as to the need for and scale of retaliation, prevention and control. Liberalist philosophy which is the essence of advanced civilizations and of democracy, is in itself an obstacle to focused and concentrated response. The word response encapsulates the essence of counter terrorist effort. Rarely does the anti terrorist effort escape the stigma of being primarily responsive.
Finance is another aspect of counter terrorist operations, which is under constant scrutiny of people, organizations, media and governments. At almost all levels, counter terrorist efforts have to be justified as being cost effective. Bin Laden and his ilk on the other hand, do not have a firm of New York auditors who can tally their accounts. Huge sums are invested, with the full understanding of their being a total write-off in case the linked operation fails. For every success, they are willing to write off numerous failures.
Similarly terrorists and their organizations have the advantage of discipline (they can shoot the recalcitrant), training (no problems with training related casualties or use of live ammunition and explosives), and logistics (no need for a structured system, living off the land is de rigueur), making international borders issues no problem in any way. False passports, forged visas and fake identities are par for the course. Also international covenants are not binding and there are hardly any political restrictions.
Leadership that provides credible resistance
Which brings us to the point of leadership at various levels and the need for it to understand all the handicaps enumerated. Leadership has to be able to function despite all this and more and yet be able to offer credible resistance. Again the word is ‘resistance’ and not ‘offence’. The anti-terrorist conglomerate suffers from this innate defensive and reactionary mindset.
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First Published: Fri, May 04 2007. 08 57 AM IST