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Insurgency / Naxalism / Terrorism – Response to,


Book-3: War, Conflicts, Security, and The Military -1.0


Counter Insurgency needs a Population centric approach – staying power – “clear and hold” beats “search and destroy” – Provide security to locals to live their lives – fire power is no substitute for patience and ‘boots on ground’. Counter Terrorism, especially when sponsored from outside is war and needs effective military action.

Quotations for consideration:

  • “The guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win.” – Anon
  •  “Fighting Terrorism is not unlike fighting a deadly cancer. It can’t be treated just where it is visible… every diseased cell… must be excised wherever it exists, which will take years, and which can’t happen without the total commitment and every day involvement of the… people.” – David Hackworth .
  • “Terror is a tactic. We cannot wage ‘War’ against a tactic.” – Ron Paul .
  • “The impulse… to devote resources to predicting the next (terror incident) makes (one) more vulnerable to those not predicted. It is better to invest in preparedness, not in prediction. Remember that infinite vigilance is not possible and therefore it is better to try to predict its consequences… and then base one’s decisions to mitigate the consequences.” – Nicholas N. Taleb
  • “The dangerous patriot… drifts in to chauvinism and exhibits blind enthusiasm for military actions.” – Col. James A. Donovan.
  • “What is objectionable, what is dangerous, about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.” – Robert F. Kennedy .

Key Concepts:

  • Insurgency is the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify or challenge political control of a region. Therefore it is actually a political struggle in which both sides use armed force to create space for their respective political, economic views and influence activities to be effective.
  • Terrorism is an extension of true war and consists essentially of small scale offensive strikes as sneak attacks on unsuspecting targets that seek to tie-up the adversary’s resources and yet not trigger large scale response.
  • The Response to Naxal / Insurgent / Terrorist acts must be measured, and clear to all.

“Courage takes two forms in War. Courage in the face of personal danger, whose effects are felt in the tactical sphere, and Courage to take responsibility, a requirement for strategic success” – Hew Strachan.

Such courage to understand the situation and take responsibility is what we should demand of our leaders in government. Calls for ‘knee-jerk’ responses to acts arising from long festering dissatisfaction are not the answer. Be prepared to deal with the circumstances comprehensively and understand that this may take more time and call for greater commitment than as it would seem at first sight.

Dealing with Domestic Insurgency:

The government must understand the worst case scenario of not acting appropriately and recognize that we need to have a proper and comprehensive military, political / social and economic

strategy to defeat insurgency. Then the government must decide what it is going to do – is it willing and going to do what it takes, or is it going to just react to incidents and get out. It should be clear on what it is that it is trying to accomplish and what resources it needs to commit to do it?

It is clearly the responsibility of the Police and the State/local law and order administration, coming under the Home Ministry, to deal with any domestic insurgency. The Military should only be called in to take command and act when it is deemed beyond the capability of the police and local administration to do so. It is thus in response to such a final call – when failure is not an option, and what needs to be done must be done as expeditiously as possible, that the Military steps in.

You need to have a good feel and understanding of the operational patterns of the insurgents. As Professor Eliot Cohen puts it – “Generals disagree, sometimes profoundly. Civilian leaders need to discover these disagreements, force them to the surface and probe them.” We need not only good Generals but the right ones, who are actually effective in counter insurgency.

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