End of November 2008 saw a terrible drama unfold in the financial capital of India, Mumbai. 10 or so terrorists attacked several locations simultaneously and killed about 200 people and damaged hundreds of crores of Rs. worth of property.
Even before the last attacker was killed, the accusations were flying. Mumbai residents were out on the roads demanding better performance from politicians, law enforcement authorities, government and in general everyone but themselves.
Perhaps it’s time to ask questions. But not to politicians and cops, but to ourselves first.
1. Question: Every Tom, Dick and Harry is talking about what was the best strategy to fight the holed up terrorists. Is pretty much every Tom, Dick and Harry clueless?
Answer: Yes. Absolutely.
I had people mail me and talk about the following
a. Some commandos should have been stationed in Mumbai. Why there were no commandos stationed in Mumbai?
b. Cops should have layouts of all the important buildings in Mumbai. Why that did not happen?
c. Why could the commandos not travel quicker using civilian airplane? Why were they waiting for the military plane?
My questions to all these armchair generals is, “If you know all these things about fighting terrorists, why are you here writing C++ code? Why are you not there leading commandos?”
When people who are not in the field talk about what should happen in the field, the make fool of themselves, no one else.
Sitting far away, we don’t know the real constraints, the real threats, the real limitations in system. Does that mean there is no room for improvement in system? Yes surely there is. But if you want to improve the system, you jump in it, or you should strengthen the hands of those who could do it. Don’t sit on the fence and talk about whether the boxer should use jab or punch.
2. Question: Every Tom, Dick Harry is talking about intelligence failure. But what are the causes of failure? And is any cause possibly related to you and me?
Answer: Hell yeah. Here are the details.
How much contribution we have done to the systems that we are expecting will protect us? We paid taxes on time (mostly) and we voted every now and then. But beyond that? None.
In fact there were numerous times we played our role in weakening the systems. We paid money to customs agent at airport to let out our luggage quickly. We paid money to traffic cops to let us go without ticket. This way we took quick shortcuts to make sure we get to enjoy the goodies of this world. But we forgot (or chose to deny) that every time we bypass the right part of the system, we strengthen the wrong part of the system, thus weakening the system.
As a result of that we encouraged the bribes culture and used it to our advantage. Thus Anti Terrorism Squad, which has the least possibilities of corruption, saw continuous exodus of its personnel to other departments where there was good possibility of making under the table money. The squad was getting disrupted continuously, and as a result, increased the security lapses.
Do we have what it takes to say no to corruption?
Moral of the story:
90% middle class kids including myself have decided to take a safe approach towards life. We convinced ourselves that all that takes to live a happy life is a stable family and a stable job. When we got a chance, we immigrated to another country.
We have no moral right to criticize anything.