Author Biography

Dr. Andrea J. Dew is the Co-Director of the Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups (CIWAG) and an Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy at the U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI. She lectures and researches on the strategic utility of terror, armed groups on land and at sea, and the strategies of a range of C20th and C21st armed groups. She holds an MALD and Ph.D. in International Relations from the Fletcher School, Tufts University. Dr. Dew is the co-author of Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat (Columbia UP, 2009) and teaches workshops on the strategies of armed groups for Special Operations Forces. Her forthcoming co-edited book is entitled: Deep Currents, Rising Tides: The Indian Ocean and International Security (Georgetown UP, 2013).



Subject Area Keywords

Asymmetric warfare, Irregular warfare, Networks and network analysis, Nonstate actors, Pakistan, Political violence, Small wars and insurgencies, Terrorism / counterterrorism, Violent extremism


This article analyzes a single event—the 2008 Mumbai attacks—in order to consider the strategic and operational lessons for dealing with other armed groups. How and why was Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) able to carry out such a sophisticated attack in the heart of Mumbai? And what lessons does Mumbai hold for strategists seeking to counter other armed groups around the world? While tactical level lessons from Mumbai have been well documented, it is important to also consider what the Mumbai attacks tell us at the strategic and operational levels. Specifically, the Mumbai attacks provide valuable insight into how armed groups use the maritime environment, and how they use surprise, denial, and deception to mask intention and invite over-reaction by states. In addition, studying the Mumbai attacks provides insight into some of the strategic and operational seams and gaps that armed groups seek to exploit. These include environmental and geographical factors; institutional, bureaucratic, and jurisdictional seams and gaps between agencies; cognitive seams and gaps that made the use of the sea by LeT so difficult to conceptualize; and the diplomatic seams and gaps that led to heightened tensions among states— in this case, India, Pakistan, and the United States. This article discusses how to categorize these seams and gaps in order to better address the problems they create, and how states might best direct and focus their limited resources when faced with similar challenges.