The terror in Mumbai angers me, but it doesn’t surprise. Any shock that this sort of thing can be planned and executed with such vicious intent went away long ago, on 9/11. Perhaps even before that.
We don’t have many details on exactly who is doing this and/or why, but it seems to involve Islamic terrorists. That’s always a good bet, of course. There’s also a long history of attacks in India from such groups, including a newer outfit that appears to be homegrown. Here’s a timeline.
In addition to the targeting of Americans, British, and Jews (one would imagine the latter are not so easy to find in India, but the terrorists have a will and so there’s a way), another difference between this attack and previous ones is the scope and scale of the present one. It is well-coordinated and involves multiple sites, and includes hostage-taking in addition to outright killings.
This underscores the tendency of terrorists to feel the need and the desire to escalate in order to get more and more attention. My guess is that these increasingly outrageous and deadly attacks also feed the terrorists in a personal and emotional way, making them feel bigger and badder and giving them a certain nihilistic glow.
If the aim was to capture the attention of the world, the Mumbai attack has already succeeded. It also promises the added potential benefit for the terrorists of striking a psychological and symbolic blow against India’s strong economy, seeking to discourage the boom in investment from overseas. The specificity of the targets indicate this goal, a resemblance to the apparent motivation for the attacks on the World Trade Center.
The Mumbai carnage also contains an extra message for President-elect Obama: don’t think there’s anything special about you or your election. For us, it’s business as usual—which is to disrupt your business, and that of your allies such as India.
The following photo seemed particularly touching to me, even though there is nothing overtly violent in it. The carnage is implied rather than shown:
There’s something about those bags just lying around, abandoned by the people they belonged to, whose ordinary day was disrupted by a nihilim that seems to love violence for its own sake as well as whatever strategic aims were in mind. But in the middle of the photo, there is the image of kindness and the hoped-for restoration of civic law and order: the elderly man (slightly reminiscent of Gandhi) being helped to safety by a soldier.