Moral Absolutes for a Proportional Response…


Aaron Sorkin, disturbed over 9/11 wrote an episode at the start of the second season of West Wing called Isaac and Ishmael, which basically was a 101 on what terrorism is all about and how it came to permeate all through the free world. It was an instant critique of the thoughts as to the reason and rhyme that people in millions who watched in horror the events that shaped the world as we see it 7yrs. But before that matured writing, in season 1 came an episode called A Proportional Response where tempers running high after innocent lives were lost in the Middle East due to fidayeen attack, the American response was to blow the perpetrators “out of the face of the earth”. Or at least that was the initial thought process.

What has unfolded in Mumbai over the last 3 days is nothing short of War. 20 terrorists entering the country from abroad & paralyzing the entire nation cannot be described in any way short of calling it a full blown attack on the sovereignty of the people. And before we get into the oft apathy riddled pseudo high ground of being spirited in regaining the calm and bouncing back with passion into our daily life, before the op-ed’s hail the spirit of Mumbai and of the Indian’s, before the international community hails praise on the swift action to decode the elements responsible but do nothing with it, before the commentators reading this hail the below response and arcane and childish, I will try to play out a few scenes from West Wing and plead for a proportional response, and atleast with regards to now, consequences be dammed.

In a handful of scenes etched in mind through years of watching AV, one of the most thought provoking is when Martin Sheen as President Bartlett argues with General Fitzwallace, the fictional Joint Chief of US Armed Forces, about what constitutes a proportional response. When the chief lays down a plan to take out 2 under-construction building in a nuclear reactor in Syria and bridge in Gaza, to avenge the death of American Civilians, President Bartlett laughs them out of the room saying that the loss of life is minimal and it’s purely symbolic. Let’s contrast this with what India’s proportional response has been from Dec 2001 to Akshardham to Mumbai Train Blasts to Srinagar crisis to Bangalore blasts. A peace process, a hot line between under-secretaries, and international appeals with a list of 20 names that have been identified as high-value targets. This is not a proportional response, the same like what the joint chief proposed. In the intellectually overdosed cocktail served rooms of opinionists and strategic thinkers, a proportional response is coming out with high head in a conference and being lauded as the keepers of balance and peace so as to not derail the investments of short term by economic super-powers. Like in the West Wing, destroying buildings and bridges, hitting power plants and big industries means indirect contracts to the major oil, construction & security companies, for India it is primevally important a to be seen as a peace loving country with not even a shadow of vengefulness on its image.

The news has just come clean from the captured terrorist that the ops was planned in a neighboring nation, with the help of groups who openly and mockingly want us to see the reason, if we are not talking about carpet bombing, about cleansing a region that we know that is causing havoc, about showering the wrath of god’s force on elements that do not believe in humanity or the just world, then I don’t know what bigger motive we need anymore. The visuals being transmitted on the airways day in and day out speak of one story – a story that we have a nation have failed to stop the harboring of sympathetic feelings of a few of our own people to the ideologies of a few fanatics. But that leaves us no choices anymore to ignore what possible could have been a mistake that has ticked to being a time bomb.

Generalizing the middle class of India is easy. We are non-violent, oft principled who believe in punishing our brethren or the good boy to taming the bully or be opportunistic for benefit. In other words, we believe in Moral Absolutes when facing a lesser evil but chicken out when it comes to laying a siege for lives – even if it’s for the better.

The time now is to talk about healing, about calming the populace, about holding hands and remembering the brave and the dead and in praying for a just tomorrow. The time is now to make some sense of everything that is falling about. The time is now to talk about hope, hope for tomorrow to be better and bright. That hope we all will have to make it right and eliminate all hatred. But at this time lets not forget that all this is not going to be achieved by passive resistance. Yes, it worked of us 60yrs back, maybe we as a nation are failing to understand that the time and situation is different. Maybe the time has come for the disproportional response. Maybe the time is here and now to be stronger in our resolve and be ready to take a few more blows but weed out the menace once and for all.

Yes, this is rage. Yes, this is delusional and yes this is wishful thinking as it is so fanciful to be restrained and sound intelligent. But if this is not a call to action, then let us be ready to face these images and sounds over and over again.

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One thought on “Moral Absolutes for a Proportional Response…”

  1. Good writing. I don’t think there can ever be something as a proportional response. This passive-aggression thing is just confusing and frustrating!

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