Saturday, August 01, 2015

The mismatch between expectations and reality is extremely large

After Gurdaspur, there is a great sense of anger among Indians. The fidayeen crossed the international border and attacked civilians. Indians appear to be convinced this was backed by the ISI. It is one thing to interfere with the LoC, and it something completely different to violate the international border.

This kind of thing has happened before and over the decades, public frustration with the Govt. of India (GoI) inability to put an end to this has grown significantly. There is a line of thought that has taken hold, and it goes something like this -

Pakistanis do this sort of thing because they think they can get away with it - and the GoI by not rectifying that - effectively rewards Pakistan for being bad. If GoI stuck it to the Pakistanis hard - just once - they would understand not to do this.  

This line of thinking has found a larger and larger constituency among younger Indians who are not familiar with the intricacies of strategic study. Lay persons are easily drawn to the apparent simplicity of this way of thinking.

The reason why this kind of thinking never catches on in the GoI is that the government is run by bureaucrats (in and out of uniform). And the bureaucrats understand a few things about India. Briefly here is what the bureaucrats know to be absolutely true

1) Indians have never seen a conflict on the scale of  WWI or WWII *on their own soil*. Indians for all the roadside deaths and rioting they see everyday - have never faced a situation where entire cities are ground to dust by artillery shells and aerial bombing and tens of thousands of people die in seconds. There is no mental model in the population for that.If they were forced to confront something like that - Indian society will fall apart in much the same way Japanese(German) society fell apart after the USAAF city bombings of Tokyo(Dresden).

2) Indians in the freedom struggle era saw famine. They knew what happens to a society when food and water become unavailable. Modern Indians have no concept of those things. Like the young populations of post-industrial Europe, many Indians crave for things that will only result in unbearable pain and suffering.

3) The Indian economy as it currently is barely enough to provide basic human needs for its citizens. It has been a huge struggle to get things this far. Expensive things like WWII level conflicts would turn the economic clock back decades at the very least.

This knowledge forces a certain conservative  framework into bureaucratic thinking. And the core principles of bureaucratic thinking in India (in and out of uniform) become the following

1) When you have information kill people, otherwise kill time.
2) Do as much as you can without actually getting off your chair. 
3) Don't get obsessed with death - everyone dies - don't get into the habit of killing. 
4) Whatever you do - don't do anything that leads to the loss of your own privileges. 
5) Turn unscheduled risks into schedule-able risks. 
6) Politicians and political fashions are like the weather - they come and go.Never worry too much about them because without you they can't really do anything. 

India is not unique in this sense, but the Indian bureaucracy traces its lineage back to the feared Maha Amatya Rakshas (Grand Official Demon) a.k.a Amatya Katyayan - who even the great Vishnugupta Chanakya had to make an agreement with in order to establish the Maurya dynasty. This historical sense of purpose greatly strengthens the bureaucratic hand in India.

Bureaucrats are minimalists - and that is the problem right now.

Public expectations have tilted towards maximal responses.

There are a very large number of proponents of the maximal view. Most of them know in the heart of their hearts what they are asking for is not actually viable, but they continue to ask for it because the public distaste level is so high.

This ofcourse is not helped by the fact that the Modivadis pushed him image as being the ultimate Hindu-tough guy that was going to put Pakistan (and by induction Muslims) in their place. To the sensible folk, this was just PR. To the young and restless, this was reality.

It is difficult to see how the bureaucratic minimalism and the public expectation are going to co-exist.

From the Modivadi PR perspective - the dissonance between the public expectation (admittedly fueled by their own efforts) and the reality of viable response options is very politically expensive. That being said if the Modivadis interfere with the manner in which option viability is determined inside the bureaucracy they will be setting themselves up for an even bigger failure in the near future.


At 9:26 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

I not only want the Pakistanis to stop their terrorist attacks on India, I want them to stop their terrorist attacks on their own facilities, military, school girls, etc. Will Modi bomb them to pieces and make them do that?

At 7:26 PM, Blogger maverick said...

I doubt it.

There is no real interest in getting into it with Pakistan in any part of New Delhi. Everyone makes the right noises after a terrorist incident, but no one really wants to go through the trouble of wasting resources to go into Pakistan and sort everything out.

After every major attack, people like to bounce around ideas of basically sending SF into the Pakistan like the movie D-Day. The problem with approach is that even if Indian Army kills lots of Pakistanis, it is drop in the ocean compared to the number of Pakistanis that kill each other. And for doing all that work - what does the SF have to look forward to? ah.. that's right dying - like those fidayeen do in India? ignominiously denied and disavowed? no heroes funeral - but rather be remembered as someone who kills women and children.. yeah I can totally see people just lining up at their COs office to do that!!!! (:rolleyes) ... (sarc) cause like India totally never screens for run-of-the-mill psychos when they put SF operators through the paces. (/sarc)

It is one thing to send SF after an HVT or to exfiltate a major Jihadi figure or slip them into the Deosai plateau to keep an eye on things satellites can't see. I don't even have a problem sending the wolfpacks across the eastern border to put questions directly to the PLA senior staff - those guys have a lot to answer for. That is a good use of resources.

But who in their right minds will want to waste SF on shooting up a soft-target? Even if one says that the loss of deep penetration assets is acceptable, and that the SF men will take great care to ensure complete deniability. Who in their right mind will ask SF to commit such an egregious breach of their professional conduct? and which SF officer will agree to that when alternatives are visible in plain sight?

Living next Pakistan is like living with a developmentally challenged child in the neighborhood. Every once in a while the kid gets on your nerves and you want to reach out smack the child, but mostly you just feel sorry for the kid and the parents.

At 7:41 PM, Blogger maverick said...

I feel like people who suggest this kind of stuff have no clue how much effort goes into supporting something like that.

Usually nations deploy deep cover assets into a enemy state and there is a huge machinery of lower tier agents to protect the deep penetrations. For example, there is probably some S-directory dude in the nuclear football custody chain, to protect him - I bet you there is at least one S-directorate plant inside Counter Intel and then there is probably a supporting cast of a dozen or more S-directorate guys to handle the penetration inside the counter-intelligence setup. Every setup like that probably costs Putin a billions bucks a year. He can probably run 2 or 3 of these illegals before he bankrupts the FCD.

I also bet a months pay the agency has a similar setup deep inside Russia's nuclear command chain. If they don't - that is unbelievably stupid. I don't think the agency is stupid.

Setups like that - I feel are legit and IMO totally worth the cost. This whole idea to commit deep penetration assets to random mass murder is simply a disgusting waste.

I can't bring myself to approve this regardless of who does.

Nothing will ever make that shit look okay in my eyes.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger maverick said...

I have been working on an analogy.

I think it has foundations in structural realism.

Let me see if I can flesh it out.

Political fashions come and go, the structure of government remains and evolves to suit the time in which it exists.

If the government is assumed to be a giant computer then the politicians and people that are governed are its users, the state machinery and organizations are its hardware and the bureaucracy (and its attitudes) are its software.

The consistent pattern of thoughts that the drive the bureaucracy are the "structure" that remains (i.e. is never discarded regardless of the political shifts) and evolves as times change.

As things stand in India, the users' desires are completely distant from what the software can make the hardware do. A user can hack the software, possibly even strap on some extra hardware, but the result can only be a vulnerability. Other users might exploit this vulnerability in unanticipated ways that cause harm.

At 4:24 AM, Blogger maverick said...

The testimony of the LeT Fidayeen captured alive in J&k should strengthen India's position at the NSA level talks.


Post a Comment

<< Home