Foreign Policy India National Security Politics The Opinionsphere The War on Terrorism

Like Small Children

In my piece yesterday about the New York Times coverage of the Indian response to the Mumbai massacre, I was struck by the comparison to America’s response to 9/11. I didn’t realize that the person cited in the column, Vir Sanghvi, had actually written a column on this subject:

[In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, Indians believed that the] real heroes of 26/11 were the men in uniform, the navy commandos, the Army, the Mumbai police and the ATS. Therefore, we should put our faith in these people not in politicians.

Others simply say that democracy has failed India and that we need a strong leader. Some talk openly about a benign dictator (a commodity on par with virgin prostitutes) and some demand an abridgement of the universal franchise that, they say, has led us to this mess…

I’m not saying that any of this is dangerous—no dictator is going to seize power because of discontent in Malabar Hill or Cuffe Parade—but it is certainly silly. Not only does it demonstrate that we have forgotten the lessons of the Emergency but it also shames the Indian middle class and shows up the cowards that are some of its most vocal members.

Like small children we crave the security offered by men in uniform every time we sense danger. We lose our nerve, abandon the only real functioning democracy in the populous states of the Third World and long for a leader who will fight the terrorists in the manner of Superman. Like frightened rabbits scurrying for cover, we lose all perspective and all common sense.

Contrast our responses to those from America after 9/11. The President was a dimwit, a man who had just stolen the election, and who reacted bizarrely to the news of the strikes and then took to his plane. But Americans did not abandon faith in their democracy. They came together and resolved to fight terrorism as one nation.