Information Warfare: The Red Menace

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July 7, 2007: Islamic terrorism isn't the only violent ideology loose in the world. In South Asia, communist radicals (called Maoists, among other things) are becoming increasingly successful by using tactics that are likely to give them the maximum positive media coverage. For the Maoists, as well as the Islamic terrorists, the most important thing is to appear invincible. Maoists are now doing this by only making attacks on security forces that are almost certain to succeed. This means assembling up to a thousand fighters, in a rural area, for an attack on a police or army base. This is called a "swarming attack." Not all the attackers will have firearms, but they will outnumber the defenders by about ten to one. Attacking at night, and on a strict schedule (so as to be gone before reinforcements show up), it almost always succeeds. This tactic is an ancient one, but was popularized by the communists during their civil war to take over China in the 1930s and 40s. Vietnamese communists later used the tactic successfully against the French in the 1950s, but less successfully against the Americans and South Vietnamese in the 1960s. The Indian Maoists are using the dozen or so swarming attack operations in the last year to obtain favorable media coverage. Favorable in the sense that the Maoists will appear invincible.

The second tactic borrowed from the Nepalese Maoists is the blockade. This involves having teams of gunmen halt truck traffic over a wide area. This involves roadblocks (where the police won't rapidly destroy them) and sniping at traffic (to force vehicles off the roads) in areas where the police are too strong. These blockades are enforced for a few days, whatever the Maoists believe they can actually do. Again, the media reports the impact of the blockade, and the Maoists appear more powerful than they actually are.

Meanwhile, people are dying as well. While Islamic violence is still the biggest killer, the communist Maoist rebel groups of northern and eastern India are catching up. Currently, nearly a thousand people a year are dying in India from Maoist violence. In 2004, Maoist violence led to 653 people (100 police and 466 civilians, of whom 87 were Maoists) dying. This rose to 892 in 2005 (153 police, 516 civilians, including 223 Maoists). While deaths were up 37 percent, actual violent incidents only rose four percent, to 1,594.

The Maoists use violence to terrorize civilians to support them, or to extort money from businesses. India believes that there are 9-10 thousand armed Maoists operating in the country.

The Maoist gangs are popular in many poor, and rural, parts of India. The Maoists are something like Robin Hood, in that they attack the local gentry, for the benefit of the poor, and the Maoists. The army considers the Maoists a police problem, and that they will apparently remain.

Maoist rebels in India are concentrating their combat operations in the eastern India states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. There, two thirds of the 1,509 Maoist attacks in the last year occurred. These left 750 people dead (a third of them rebels, the rest civilians and security personnel.) The government has sent 33 additional battalions of security troops to the area, and another 29 battalions are on the way. The government is also spending half a billion dollars on infrastructure in the area, to address some of the social ills the communists are exploiting.

 


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