The Mumbai attacks are, I think, illustrative of the difficulty that any society or set of security forces experience in a surprise transition to war from relative peace. The Pearl Harbor attack was an example of this experience. Confusion is always the prime characteristic of the initial reaction. This is often followed by a ferocious and sustained reaction. In such cases it never seems to matter that the general situation may have portended the possibility of attack. Surprise need only be tactical and local to be effective. The average human mind seeks pattern in events and sees it whether or not it truly exists. The gifted mind sees patterns that have not yet occurred, sees them against the backdrop of far reaching context.
These attacks are likely to have been made by Kashmiri fighters influenced by the example of takfiri jihadis throughout the ‘umma. They are without meaning unless you are a takfiri jihadi or a victim of this violence. Kashmir should be partitioned. India and Pakistan should move on.
Iraq and Afghanistan
The US and its friends appear to have outstayed whatever welcome they once enjoyed in these countries. I was wrong about the willingness of the Maliki government to accommodate the US in the matter of the two agreements. I thought that, in the end, the Iraqis would decide to "humor" us in this until we grew weary and left of our own volition with our own timing, but I see now that the internal dynamic of a desire to be rid of the foreign "other" has been too strong to let that happen. We will or should have our combat units out of there by the US mid-term elections. That would have happened even if McCain had been elected. In spite of his Vietnam driven angst, he would have had to yield to the demands of the Iraqis and the plain fact that the US is broken financially and likely to remain that way for a while. In Obama’s case, this is a gift from on high. In Afghanistan, Karzai now laughs at us for not being able to defeat "a small force like the Taliban." He says he will negotiate his own end to the war if we do not wind this up soon.
To some extent wars like these are always messy in their ending. It took the US military, handicapped by the Bush Administration, a long time to recognize these situations for the insurgent conflicts that they always were. Adequate forces and a proper strategic approach could have led to an effective if "temporary" pacification of Afghanistan. The time and opportunity for that are nearly gone. Once again, we are "broke" and that reality will govern the outcome. Iraq will not be Iowa in the Middle East, but it will also not be Saddam’s Iraq, nor will it be the takfiris’ dream of Iraq. Perhaps that is victory enough.
The armed forces are weary and need to "reset." Even the SOF counter-terrorist people would be secretly happy for a chance to absorb the impact of high casualties and an unrelenting operational tempo. Their war against the takfiris will go on whether or not the US occupies Iraq and Afghanistan. Good.
Among those who have bled in these wars, there will be cries of "stab in the back," and "nous sommes trahis." Get used to these kinds of outcomes, boys and girls. This is how the game is played. pl