Boston Bombing

Prof Farakh A Khan:

Two Improvised Explosive Devises (IED) exploded (15.4.13) at the finishing line of Boston Marathon a prestigious event for the Americans killing three and injuring more than 170 innocent people. Although the two young people from Chechnya have been implicated the motive is far from clear.

So far the world is looking at this incidence from humanitarian and tactical angles. I am going to look into the historical aspect of war, which will throw some light on the future of wars.

Humans developed stone knife, axe and the spear to hunt and stay alive during the Stone Age. Soon bow and arrow was invented and spread to all corners of the world. These also became tools of war with neighbouring groups.

Then came the invention of bronze implements especially the sword as a killing machine. This was superseded by iron and later steel implements and the more pliable bronze sword was defeated. To facilitate movement the horse was pressed into service but till the introduction of the stirrup from Central Asia the war horse was used in drawing chariots by the Egyptians and later others. The stirrup gave control of the horse and armed with bow and arrow as instruments of war was best exploited by 13th century armies of Chengaze Khan. Soon we saw heavily armoured knights going into battle as part of the cavalry. With the invention of gunpowder and its use as guns and artillery changed the battleground scene. Introduction of machinegun, heavy artillery, and to some extent air power in WW I demanded new tactics for war. WW II brought in new killing instruments. The final drop scene was the unleashing of the atomic bomb. Despite clamp down on acquiring nuclear bomb technology by the superpowers many countries including Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea have this capability. Iran may be the next nuclear-armed nation. The spread of new technology far and wide at short notice is disturbing. Historically it is surprising how quickly war technology spread in the age of isolation and poor communication to different parts of the world. Today the spread is far quicker.

In the development of war technology two important developments have taken place after WW II. Firstly individual has become more important than the hordes of disciplined manpower. Today individual is capable of shooting down aircraft and tanks and has firepower never seen before. The AK47 (Avtomat Kalashnikova was designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in late 1940s), Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) and sniper rifle can hold up conventional armies. Secondly the destructive power of the individual has increased many folds. The increase in the power of modern explosives has been staggering. For the poor armed resistance with the use of IED or suicide bomber has become a potent standard instrument of war.

World is no different today in the spread of technology including for war. The structure, uniform and tactics of paid armies of Europe were soon copied all over the world. Navy and later tank warfare added mobility and firepower never seen before. What the Americans develop in war technology with massive investment in R & D is soon copied by other nations. Use of drone technology is an invention where the aggressor does not get bloodied. Unfortunately today like other war inventions 70 countries are producing drones. It is likely that future drones shall replace today’s conventional manned aircraft.

Today a crude IED was used in traumatising the American nation tomorrow a drone strike in the heart of US is more than likely. The use of crude nuclear material (dirty bomb) carried by a drone to strike America is on the cards. The American response to such an event would be catastrophic for the world and for the country of origin in particular. I do hope these crazy fringe groups realise the damage their actions are going to cause to the world.

What happened in Boston is a huge jolt to the Americans who felt safe after 9/11 and did not feel any remorse for bombing other nations. All countries around the world are venerable to cheap modern warfare technology operated by a small desperate group or even individuals independently. To counter new warfare only pre-emptive measures can be effective. This requires high degree of intelligence and surveillance by the intelligence agencies.

There is a lesson for Pakistan in the Boston bombing where the suspects were killed or caught within a day. Pakistan is subjected to daily IED and suicide bombing and as yet we have failed to arrest the perpetuators of these acts and worst of all failed to convict a single person in this regard. We hear of tall claims by the police of arresting people and recovery of ammunition but not one person has been convicted. Either our intelligence agencies or our police are highly incompetent that the bombers are never brought to justice. Some say that our security agencies and politicians are mixed up with the bombers and hence no conviction has taken place. Meanwhile the Pakistani nation should wait for the next IED/Suicide bomb and hope that they are not the next victims.

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