Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ban it to get rid of it

Governments around the world have a quick solution to major problems, ban it!! Is there a case of avian flu? Ban sale of the birds, better still, ban imports from the suspect country. Is there a terrorist organization in your country? Ban it! Is there a problem with drugs? Ban it! Here's something every teenager knows. If daddy says to not do something, I have to know why, so I will go ahead and do it, if nothing else just to be the rebel. Has banning any militant organization worked in India or Pakistan or anywhere else in the world for that matter? The Al Qaeda is a banned outfit, have they stopped their attacks. Here is the Pakistani Foreign Minister admitting, at least a month before the recent Mumbai attacks, that banned groups had resurfaced. 
The RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and such Hindu groups have been banned at several times since Independence in India. Has that stopped them from being active both socially and politically in India? No! If the RSS is banned, the individuals that make up the RSS are still around, all they need to do is regroup under a different name. Same thing with any Militant or Terrorist group. If they are banned, they either go underground and become professional in being hidden terror machines or stay on the surface under a different name. Just like the Jamat-ud-dawa is a front for the LeT. 
Prof.Boettke always gives a wonderful analogy about the primacy of institutions and people. It applies here as well. If something were to happen to Microsoft headquarters (such as earth quake etc) that destroys the building completely, does that mean MS will go bust? No! The people of MS will get together in a different building and continue doing what they do best. It is people who drive these organizations, not buildings or names. As long as you have the people the organizations remain albeit under a different name or building. 
Here's another real life example about how banning is not effective. The US war on drugs is at least two decades old if not longer. Has that stopped illegal drugs in this country? No! The war on drugs is an ongoing battle into which millions of dollars have been spent, but without as much as a dent in the machine. So does banning have any effect? The sad truth is no. We need to start accepting that terrorists are also intelligent beings, and banning them will not stop them from attacking innocent people.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mumbai Continued

Terrorists of the world, shake in your boots, the Indian interrogators will make you spill your beans even though the Intelligence Bureau is so incompetent as to not figure out in advance about planned attacks. Isn't it amazing that the lone captured terrorist (who has not been seen or or heard live by the media since he was captured live on Saturday) tells Indian authorities that he is from Pakistan and that he and others were trained by ex-Pakistani military men. Is it surprising just to me that the group leadership goes to such great lengths to maintain secrecy about the planned attacks, but lets the ground operatives (who are likely to be caught) know everything about their group including who the trainers are? Am I the only one to think that the questions asked and answers are exactly what the Indian politician and Hindu fundamentalist need to frame Pakistan. These highly trained professionals just walk around with GPS systems with details of the origin of their operation? They also walk around with Pakistani passports. C'mon Indian bureaucrats, the 80s movie style is old, Hollywood has moved on to newer technology with terrorists and interrogation techniques. You should move on to more believable stuff and provide hard evidence rather than your ideas and opinions to make me believe who the true culprits are besides yourself. 

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mumbai Blame game

The political and bureaucratic drama has started even before the dust has settled in Mumbai. Politicians will now make a big show of resignations. As if they really care. It is part of the image they want to create, similar to hollywood actresses who get pregnant when their image takes a beating because of their stupid antics. Before long, people start talking about their kid and what not and the arrest record is history. Likewise with Indian politicians, make a big resignation drama and everything else takes a back seat. Especially now, since elections are coming up, its going to be fun watching them play it out. Hey! People respond to incentives right!!
The other drama is the bureaucratic one between the different agencies (intelligence, law and order blah blah). They will each start pointing fingers at each other about how the other paid no heed to warnings. The ultimate blame will be on Pakistan, cause Pakistan based militants are an easy scape goat for anything that happens in India. After all the Indian officials do not have to provide any hard evidence. Just point a finger, condemn the attacks, and the militants start shaking in their boots right!! Politicians, and bureaucrats know (and rightly so) that once the Pakistan angle is splattered in the media, people will forget the incompetence of their own government agencies. It is easy to stir emotions at a time like this. People are angry, get them angry at the other guy who is our enemy, and voila just like that attention is shifted away from the fact that such a massive incident occurred due to sheer negligence.  Its easy to do that than to have the people angry at the government and its incompetence. The deep seated hatred that some fundamentalist groups have in both countries will be sufficient to destabilize both nations for a long time to come. 
I do not care if it was the LeT or RSS that carried out these attacks. I know from what my teachers taught me that ultimately it is a problem of bureaucratic inefficiency. Indian bureaucrats do not have any incentives to do their jobs. They do not get fired because of something as simple as Intelligence failure. They do not get charged for criminal negligence leading to the loss of 200 lives. Their tenure is secure. They maybe highly intelligent men and women, but there is nothing in the rules governing bureaucracy that holds them accountable. They can and are getting away with murder. 
Its easy to say that the Indian police were not willing to engage, but the root cause of the problem is that they are do not have the incentives to engage. Lets say they did engage and at the first hint of terrorist shooting, the Indian police started shooting back. I am sure the media would have condemned them then for it saying they should have assessed the situation before they started firing back. Even now Israeli officials are blaming the Indian operation at Nariman House. Damned if you do and damned if you do not. Its no wonder then that no one wants to take responsibility. They are all afraid of the reaction. After all, the beat cop , the guy lowest on the totem pole is the one that has the most to lose. When push comes to shove, the blame game will finally end with the beat cop, cause he is not high profile. Politicians have nothing to lose, bureaucrats have nothing to lose either. The final blame will be on the poor constable who decided to shoot back. He is the one who will lose his job and his pension. The media is not interested in him, so with no media attention the matter will be put to rest. Just like in this case
No I am not outraged. I just have no expectations. May be it is my fatalist attitude or just the fact that I trust economics more than Indian politicians and bureaucrats. This is a never ending cycle. As long as people put their faith in the benevolence of the politician and bureaucrat such incidents will keep happening. Indian citizens are not going to ask for less bureaucracy. In fact, they are already demanding more bureaucracy and the government is only very happy to open up a new agency and appoint officials with fancy titles who will vacation abroad on tax payers money and allow more such security lapses. Western nations are taking a keen interest in this when about 20 of their citizens have been killed. We have scores of people being killed (both in India and Pakistan) every day and our own governments care more about the foreigners than about our citizens. Shame on us for putting up with such imbeciles!!