There were many failures that enabled the scale of the attacks. Quite telling was that the elite commando force took 10 hours to arrive at the scene of the attacks, ferried the last miles to the scene of the attacks on borrowed public buses. Clearly the Indian government was completely unprepared for this kind of attack.
Also telling was the role that ordinary people played in rescues. The heroes were hotel waitstaff and cooks who put their lives at risk to hide hundreds of guests instead of bailing out through the back door with their own lives – many staff perished (watch a segment on Charlie Rose). A tea vendor at the train station that was attacked saved dozens of lives by repeatedly rushing in to get paralyzed commuters out. The one AK-47 toting terrorist who was captured alive was taken down by constables wielding bamboo sticks.
In the national soul searching that has followed the attacks there is much blame being levied against the government for the lack of intelligence, the lack of preparation, and the tardy response. Nevertheless there is appreciation too that guarding this vast country from terrorism is going to take the vigilance of all people. It is a lesson India can learn from Israel where ordinary citizens foil the majority of attacks by taking swift action. In the Mumbai attacks the 10 terrorists came ashore at a fishing village and walked past the dock official who passively watched them go despite all the signals that something was amiss.