MU professor answers questions about terrorist attacks

Monday, December 8, 2008 | 7:12 p.m. CST; updated 8:15 p.m. CST, Monday, December 8, 2008

COLUMBIA — Paul Wallace is an MU professor emeritus and expert on international terrorism and south Asia. He graduated with a doctorate degree in political science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1966, and led MU faculty as chair of the political science department from 1981 to 1985. He travels to India annually to research and lecture on Indian politics, political violence and international terrorism. He specializes in elections in India and has written articles and co-edited three books about the past three elections. Wallace is an expert on the Punjab region, which comprises eastern Pakistan and northwestern India. He followed the terrorist movement in Punjab from 1980 to 1993.


Q: Why did militants target Westerners in the Mumbai attacks?

A: The major purpose was not to target Westerners. That was like a sidebar. The major purpose was to destabilize relations between India and Pakistan.


Q: What can the Pakistani government do to stabilize?

A: There’s been a lawyer-led protest for a year now. It represents what could be called civil society in Pakistan. These are the elements that we would want to be in power. They’re anti-Taliban, anti-Al Qaeda, anti-extremist. They want a peaceful Pakistan; they could offer support.

Getting Nawaz Sharif and other political sources in Punjab into the government is necessary for Pakistanis to be able to deal with the problems the Jihadis (these militants) pose. He’s one of the keys.

Another key is the U.S. providing long-term support to Pakistan, restructuring education so madrassas (or religious schools) are not so much of an essential part of the educational system.

We have to be firm with Pakistan, as far as the use of the military, and that’s where Obama comes in. We simply can’t say, ‘Pakistan military you have to get those (Jihadis).’ We have to work with the other countries in that area, China, Russia, even Iran. As Obama has been saying, we really have to start talking with Iran and get them into this regional conversation because otherwise all it does is engender anti-Americanism.


Q: What are the implications for this as a conflict between states that both have nuclear power?

A: The Pakistan military is really in charge of their nuclear weapons. They not only have the weapons, they have the delivery system, and so does India.

If there is a nuclear exchange, that’s not just something that happens on the other side of the world. That would wreck agriculture around the world for two years. It would be a nuclear winter. That really is irrevocable to every country around the world.


Q: What is the militants’ relationship to Al-Qaeda?

A: Al Qaeda is the icon. They’re the symbol that these Jihadi groups look to. Al-Qaeda did not have to have a direct influence on this Jihadi group. They look up to al-Qaeda and take on the al-Qaeda-type issues. So the attack on the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Center in Mumbai was the anti-Israeli issue that al-Qaeda pushes very strongly. They were to some extent channeling anti-Americanism, but that’s not their major objective or they wouldn’t have attacked that train station.



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