As we contemplated our Thanksgiving celebrations, radical Islamists attacked two classic hotels, a Jewish center, and other sites in Mumbai, the financial center of India. After three days, as I write this, the attacks have still not been resolved. Local residents have been shown celebrating outside some of the sites as fighting continues within. American commentators have been repeating that the attacks show how on guard we must be against terrorism. But the deeper issues are frightening to even contemplate.

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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, November 28, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Want to Worry? - Aftermath of Mumbai

GhandiAs we contemplated our Thanksgiving celebrations, radical Islamists attacked two classic hotels, a Jewish center, and other sites in Mumbai, the financial center of India. After three days, as I write this, the attacks have still not been resolved. Local residents have been shown celebrating outside some of the sites as fighting continues within. American commentators have been repeating that the attacks show how on guard we must be against terrorism. But the deeper issues are frightening to even contemplate.

1. India v. Pakistan. Those of you who sat through Ghandi may recall that as Britain granted India independence, it also partitioned off Pakistan as a separate, Muslim country (India is largely Hindu). Ghandi - a Hindu idealist - opposed the partition, which immediately set off massive migrations of Hindus out of Pakistan and Muslims leaving India. The result was more violence and death than occurred during the entire British occupation! Ghandi was soon afterwards assassinated by a fellow Hindu, since many of his coreligionists regarded him as a turncoat for having "permitted" the partition.

Now both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons. Both are our allies - yet their mutual antipathy constantly threatens to break out into active fighting - including all-out nuclear war. In the current crisis, Indian officials - as well as many (or most) Indians on the street - are instantaneously suspicious that the Pakistani government facilitated the attacks. The chance of war between these countries in the aftermath of the attacks is the number one American foreign policy concern.

2. Attacks by Indian Muslims. But 150 million Muslims remain in India, many living in the Indian state of Kashmir. Kashmiri radicals (sometimes with Pakistani allies) have regularly attacked Indian sites, most notably the Indian Parliament in 2001. Muslim attacks have continued to kill hundreds of Indians over the years since. The Hindu leadership of India and its political parties are divided into those who seek reconciliation with Muslims and those who want to exclude them. India is a modern nation in constant danger of internal disintegration and civil war.

3. Anti-Muslim pogroms. Hindi riots against minorities - including Christians, Sikhs, and Muslims - are commonplace in India. In 2002, following the attack on Parliament, Hindus armed with ceremonial swords launched a pogrom on Muslims in the state of Gujarat, killing 2500 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. There have been others since (one such pogrom is shown in the film, Slumdog Millionaire, leaving the protagonist's mother dead). The second most feared outcome of the current terrorist attack is a new pogrom against Muslims in India.

4. Indian intelligence and police. American intelligence commentators were stunned by how such a large terrorist force could infiltrate so many sites so quickly in the leading Indian target area (its financial center, where the most Westerners congregate). They continue to be perplexed by the seeming ineptitude of Indian security forces, leading to the deaths of many hostages and the excruciating duration of the fighting and occupation of buildings. Adding to the mayhem and confusion is the rabid presence of local residents at the attack sites - where in Europe and the United States mile-wide zones would be immediately created to contain the fighting and protect civilians. Throughout the crisis, it proved impossible to get a sensible assessment of the situation from Indian authorities. And we're counting on them to prevent an Asian meltdown, which would have catastrophic consequences for us!

5. Israeli retaliation. Jewish and Israeli individuals - including tragically an American rabbi and his wife - were among the targets and victims of the Mumbai attacks. Israel is noted for retaliating whenever its nationals are killed - no matter what kind of restraint Americans and Europeans urge. Of course, this simply stores up energy for future Islamic radical attacks in the never-ending cycle that has been Israel's - and is becoming our - lives.

At least this takes our minds off of our economic crisis! Happy Thanksgiving!