July 15, 2005

What Drives Suicide Terrorism? The Pape Take

Robert Pape of U. Chicago, interviewed over in Paleo-ville:

The American Conservative: Your new book, Dying to Win, has a subtitle: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Can you just tell us generally on what the book is based, what kind of research went into it, and what your findings were?

Robert Pape: Over the past two years, I have collected the first complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. This research is conducted not only in English but also in native-language sourcesóArabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Tamil, and othersóso that we can gather information not only from newspapers but also from products from the terrorist community. The terrorists are often quite proud of what they do in their local communities, and they produce albums and all kinds of other information that can be very helpful to understand suicide-terrorist attacks.

This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

This is a Marxist group, a completely secular group that draws from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of the country. They invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers.

TAC: So if Islamic fundamentalism is not necessarily a key variable behind these groups, what is?

RP: The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaignóover 95 percent of all the incidentsóhas had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.

TAC: That would seem to run contrary to a view that one heard during the American election campaign, put forth by people who favor Bushís policy. That is, we need to fight the terrorists over there, so we donít have to fight them here.

RP: Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us.

Since 1990, the United States has stationed tens of thousands of ground troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and that is the main mobilization appeal of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. People who make the argument that it is a good thing to have them attacking us over there are missing that suicide terrorism is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life.


TAC: If you were to break down causal factors, how much weight would you put on a cultural rejection of the West and how much weight on the presence of American troops on Muslim territory?

RP: The evidence shows that the presence of American troops is clearly the pivotal factor driving suicide terrorism.

If Islamic fundamentalism were the pivotal factor, then we should see some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world, like Iran, which has 70 million peopleóthree times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabiaówith some of the most active groups in suicide terrorism against the United States. However, there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Iran, and we have no evidence that there are any suicide terrorists in Iraq from Iran.

Sudan is a country of 21 million people. Its government is extremely Islamic fundamentalist. The ideology of Sudan was so congenial to Osama bin Laden that he spent three years in Sudan in the 1990s. Yet there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Sudan.

I have the first complete set of data on every al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from 1995 to early 2004, and they are not from some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world. Two thirds are from the countries where the United States has stationed heavy combat troops since 1990.

Another point in this regard is Iraq itself. Before our invasion, Iraq never had a suicide-terrorist attack in its history. Never. Since our invasion, suicide terrorism has been escalating rapidly with 20 attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004, and over 50 in just the first five months of 2005. Every year that the United States has stationed 150,000 combat troops in Iraq, suicide terrorism has doubled.

TAC: So your assessment is that there are more suicide terrorists or potential suicide terrorists today than there were in March 2003?

RP: I have collected demographic data from around the world on the 462 suicide terrorists since 1980 who completed the mission, actually killed themselves. This information tells us that most are walk-in volunteers. Very few are criminals. Few are actually longtime members of a terrorist group. For most suicide terrorists, their first experience with violence is their very own suicide-terrorist attack.

There is no evidence there were any suicide-terrorist organizations lying in wait in Iraq before our invasion. What is happening is that the suicide terrorists have been produced by the invasion.

Discuss the pros and cons of the validity of Pape's quite interesting interview below. My analysis will follow, but I'd appreciate reasoned feedback.

Posted by Gregory at July 15, 2005 11:18 PM | TrackBack (0)

No evidence that Iran uses suicide terrorists? Ask the families of the hundreds of Marines who were killed by Hizbollah kamikazes in Lebanon. Or the Israelis killed by Hamas suicide terrorists funded and trained by Iran.

The Marines in Fallujah found copious documentation that the terrorists in Iraq were getting plenty of help from Iran. That documentatio included photographs, taken in Syria, of terrorists alongside Syrian and Iranian officials.

I also have my doubts about the data base. We know that a certain number of "suicide terrorists" didn't intend to blow themselves up, but were tricked into driving vehicles or carrying backpacks that were exploded remotely. And we also know that some of the 9/11 terrorists were unaware of the true nature of their mission until they were airborne, and perhaps not even then.

As for the statement that suicide terrorism is not necessarily Islamic or even religious, it's quite true, I've often written that, as the Sri Lankan origins. And I think the first female suicide terrorist was from Asia as well.

Posted by: michael ledeen at July 16, 2005 12:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think Pape means that there are no Iranian suicide bombers. Whether the country of origin of the bomber is as important as the country of origin of his financial support is another thing.

Sounds plausible, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to tell whether he's cherry-picking his examples (later on in the interview, he talks about how suicide bombing "stops on a dime" after troop withdrawals).

Posted by: fling93 at July 16, 2005 12:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I recall our troops uncovering dozens of suicide vests during our blitz to Baghdad. Propaganda of the Deed has a long pedigree, at least back to the Russian revolutionaries in the 1880's. I would argue that the worst Arab "suicide attack" on America was not 9/11 but Sirhan Sirhan (a Palestinian Christian) effecting the tragectory of the 1960's.

Posted by: wayne at July 16, 2005 12:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"...operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life."

Is that right. A new lease on life. A new lease on LIFE.


So what you're saying is that actions involving "suicide" have new "life".

That's quite a trick. Tell me - was Pape able to keep a straight face when he uttered that sentence?

Brilliant, just brilliant. Thank god he's at University, where he can do the war and diplomatic efforts of this administration no harm.

Posted by: Tommy G at July 16, 2005 01:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No doubt the interview was done before the London attacks. I guess it's back to the drawing board for Prof. Pape.

Posted by: scarhill at July 16, 2005 01:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rove's line from a while back that the liberals wanted to offer terrorists therapy, treatment and indictments, while Bush wanted to take the attack to the terrorists, comes to mind. It seems to me what Bush's perspective lacks is any empathy for the enemy. Not sympathy, but empathy. We need to understand them, if we are to prevail. This recent research sounds like it may provide some valuable information about who it is that straps on the explosive vest, and why. I've often thought it may be extreme territorial behavior. The recent British examples don't fit this model, unless they identified with a Muslim homeland. From the brief summary, it sounds like the author has a strong political viewpoint that may distort the underlying information. Still it seems that it should be invaluable in combating suicide bombers to read all the detail available about everyone of them. If a large percentage are motivated to expel an infidel occupying force, then we should understand that, and recognize that maintaining troops in these countries has this cost.


Posted by: Doppler at July 16, 2005 01:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is important to make a distinction between the strategic objective of the suicide attacks and the nature of those willing to engage in such attacks. The most common strategic objective may in fact be "to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland." I tend to think that there may often be a more fundamental/ideological motivation (note Pape's emphasis on modern democracies). However, some cultures seem to create many more individuals willing to engage in attacks of a suicidal nauture than others. Though not exactly the same as terrorists, the extreme nationalism of Japan during WWII produced suicide pilots. In this light, Islamic fundamentalism may not have invented the suicide bomber, but it may be a culture that is particularly prone to the cultivation of such souls.

Posted by: Flyingrinn at July 16, 2005 02:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Remember that the Tamil Tigers are strongly supported by the government and citizens of the Indian province of Tamil Nadu. Is the largely Sinahalese Buddist (with a small Muslim minority) Sri Lanka their territory?

Posted by: Bec de Corbin at July 16, 2005 02:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How to explain Saudi suicide bombers in Iraq then? Not exactly their homeland. I think the theory might have more relevance if you were to consider cultural occupation as much as physical occupation as the cause. In Iraq, that's what I think the foreign terrorists (as opposed to the Baathists) are afraid of. They threaten to blow up McDonald's stores in Saudi and generally want Western civilians to leave for much the same reason. The terrorists worry that if liberal democratic values get established across the border in Iraq, eventually it will trickle back to Saudi. And it's the Saudis I really think we are talking about here. Iraqi sunnis seemed to have more secular goals and aren't so enamoured with suicide bombing.

Posted by: FM at July 16, 2005 03:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I wrote on Pape's thesis last week


I think it is just a superficial look at the demands of these groups. Sure, they want the US out of Iraq, but do you think if that were to happen Zarqawi would let Iraqi be in it's current Shi'a dominated democratic state? Of course not. They'd try to destabilize and overthrow the government and establish their own regime that would be a carbon copy of the Taliban - a fundamentalist Islamic state. That's where Islamic fundamentalism is at the root of what is happening.

It's also rather misleading the way Pape laid out his data. He says the Tamil Tigers have the highest rate of suicide bombings. But that's b/c he broke up all the Islamic fundamentalist groups, which have more or less the same goal if they differ on particularls, into individual groups. Put Islamic Jihad and Hamas together and already Islamic fundamentalism trumps secular, resistance-driven terrorism.

Also, he has said that the suicide bombers all come from countries that are dictatorships and friendly with the US: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. Thee first commenter pointed out Iran's history with suicide terrorism, but it's irrelevant now that four Brits have attacked their own country with suicide terrorism. Sure, one of the guys spent two months in Pakistan. There's no way that two months made him want to blow himself up to get US troops out of the region and overthrow Musharraf. What did happen in the two months was that someone radicalized him with a fundementalist ideology that said he had to blow himself up to be a martyr. On top of that, one of the bombers was a JAMAICAN!!! My history might be a little shaky, but I'm pretty sure we never occupied Jamaica.

The Tamil Tigers are really just a data outlier. Other than the Tigers, the only groups I've ever heard Pape mention in his articles and interviews are Islamic groups (and Arab groups he claims are secular, like al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade) Plenty of countries have been occupied in the 20th century alone. The IRA, ETA, etc. They never resorted to suicide terrorism. Suicide Terrorism comes from an ideology that drives it and endorses it, not from an occupation.

Posted by: Dan at July 16, 2005 03:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The thing is, Pape is more from the Realist school, like most of the Poli Sci department at U of Chicago. If you read his NY Times op-eds, you'll see this is mainly just a way to push the Realist school of thought that democratization will never work, that internal policies don't mean crap and that we need to go back to offshore-balancing.

Posted by: Dan at July 16, 2005 03:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I had thought that for Islamic fundamentalists strategic and political objectives were also religious objectives. Divorcing the religious from the political, as Pape seems to do, might reflect a presupposition not shared by many Muslims. By way of contrast, Nasra Hassan describes the religious-political motivation of suicide terrorists in this fascinating read:


Need suicide terrorism be a monocausal phenomenon?

Posted by: anthropos at July 16, 2005 04:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I thought this was a common, well-known fact, but: "The vast majority of suicide attackers in Iraq are thought to be foreigners ó mostly Saudis and other Gulf Arabs...Since 2003, less than 10 percent of more than 500 suicide attacks have been carried out by Iraqis." http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8420885/ (July 1, 2005)

If Pape's theory worked, wouldn't you expect the majority of suicide attacks to be Iraqi? The insurgency is a combination of domestic Sunni and foreign Jihadi elements; if occupation is the primary cause of suicide bombers, shouldn't the domestic Sunni half of the insurgency be providing most of the suicide bombers?--after all, it is their country under occupation, it is they who would have the greatest interest.

Posted by: Dan Larsen at July 16, 2005 04:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Suicide Bombers Can Be Stopped: It's relatively easy to understand why someone kills another human being. Human beings have done it forever--in war and in peace. It is far more difficult to fathom why someone would kill himself--or herself.

Russians today are asking just this question, as they have witnessed a rash of suicide bombings--by women. In the last four months, seven Chechen suicide bombers, all but one of them women, have detonated explosives that have taken 165 lives, including their own. What has made this conflict one that moves people not merely to kill but to die?

Scholars who have studied the phenomenon tend to look at the personal profiles of suicide bombers for some sign of a pattern. Generally, they are Muslim (with the exception of the Sri Lankan rebels), young, single, and have some religious education. They are usually not newcomers to their political cause, or to terror tactics. All this is interesting, but why do some choose this path and not others? After all, there are tens of millions of young, single Muslims and only a few hundred suicide bombers, who are found in a few specific places. In searching for better answers, I have been struck by two phenomena--the rise of suicide bombings in Russia, and their decline in Turkey.

In the early 1990s, there were no Chechen suicide bombers, despite a growing, violent movement against Russian rule. The Chechens have been trying to declare independence from Russia for 150 years, but the Chechen resistance was always nationalist and nonreligious. Samil Beno, Chechnya's foreign minister in the early 1990s, explained that he and the then president, Dzhokhar Dudayev, feared the rise of religious and terrorist groups. They wanted a Chechen nation. The Islamic groups wanted an Islamic state, comprising other areas and run in a medieval manner. Reporters who covered the Chechen war in the early 1990s mostly agree that there were very few "international Islamists"--Saudis, Afghans, Yemenis--present. They grew in numbers, explains Anatol Lieven, who covered the conflict for The Times of London, as a direct result of the "brutal, botched and unnecessary" Russian military intervention of 1994-96.

Over the past 10 years, Russia's military has had a scorched-earth strategy toward Chechnya. The targets are not simply Chechen rebels but, through indiscriminate warfare, ordinary Chechens. The Army has destroyed Chechnya as both an economic and a political entity. And over time, the Chechen rebellion has become more desperate, more extreme and more Islamist.

The female suicide bombings, for example, are in part a direct reaction to Russian military tactics. Many of the women bombers are relatives of Chechens killed by the Russian military--that's why they are called "black widows" in the Russian press. The human-rights group Memorial adds that another contributing factor might be the routine rape of Chechen women by Russian soldiers.

None of this is to absolve the Chechens of responsibility. They have been lawless, chaotic, corrupt and brutal in their own tactics. But looking at things now, one has to ask, was there any other way? Turkey's experience with the Kurds suggests that there might have been.

In the mid-1990s, Turkey was racked by suicide bombings. The leader of the Kurdish rebel group PKK explained in a 1997 interview that "suicide bombings are very much [our] tactic." Between 1996 and 1999 there were more than 20 such attacks all over Turkey. But in a few years they began to peter out. Today, apart from an isolated incident here and there, suicide bombings have largely disappeared from Turkish life. Why?

A combination of reasons: First, the Turkish military hit the rebels hard, crushing the PKK, closing down international support for them and eventually arresting its leader. But the Army directed its fire at the rebels and not the surrounding population. In fact, the Turks worked very hard to win over the Kurds, creating stable governing structures for them, befriending them and putting forward social-welfare programs--to improve agriculture and women's education, for example. The Turkish government made a massive investment (totaling well over $32 billion) in the Kurdish southeast. On a per capita basis, it has invested more in the Kurdish region than in any other part of Turkey. It also had agreed to a number of Kurdish demands on language, cultural freedom and educational reforms. These concessions were dramatically accelerated as a result of European pressure over the last few years.

We treat suicide bombers as delusional figures, brainwashed by imams. But they are also products of political realities. There are many differences between the Kurds and the Chechens. But both are Muslim populations that have political grievances. In one case, the grievances and tactics grew more extreme and violent, culminating in suicide bombing. In the other, suicide bombing gave way to political negotiations and even coexistence. There is a lesson here.

Posted by: georgio at July 16, 2005 06:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Student Journeys Into Secret Circle Of Extremism: One afternoon, Mustafa Saied, a junior at the University of Tennessee, was summoned by a friend to a nearly empty campus cafeteria. The two settled themselves in a quiet corner, and Mr. Saied's friend invited him to join the Muslim Brotherhood. "Everything I had learned pointed to the Muslim Brotherhood being an awesome thing, the elite movement," says Mr. Saied of his initiation in 1994. "I cannot tell you the feeling that I felt -- awesome power."

On that day in Knoxville, Mr. Saied entered a secretive community that was slowly building a roster of young men committed to spreading fundamentalist Islam in the U.S. A movement launched 75 years ago in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has inspired terrorist acts, as well as social reform, throughout the Middle East and has chapters in some European nations. Until recently, law-enforcement officials saw little evidence that the organization was active in the U.S.

Once inside this world, Mr. Saied railed against Jews and Israel during Friday services. He attended meetings in hotels in Toledo and Chicago where radical sheiks glorified jihad. He raised money for Muslims in Bosnia and Chechnya, some of which he later learned was funneled to mujahedeen fighters.

In recent years, especially in the wake of the terror attacks in 2001, much of this radical activity in the U.S. has been tamped down, according to law-enforcement officials. The State Department in 1999 barred the sheik Mr. Saied heard endorsing jihad from entering the country. The Treasury Department two years ago froze the accounts of the charity that sent his donations abroad, later designating it a "financier of terrorism."

Mr. Saied, now an executive at a Florida environmental-testing firm, underwent a conversion to a less orthodox form of Islam in 1998. Today, his story offers a rare inside look at an extremist movement that flourished in the U.S. And it raises questions about how it managed to spread undetected in the U.S. and whether, since Sept. 11, it has simply moved deeper underground.

"Anti-American sentiment is usually reserved for closed-door discussions or expressed in languages that most Americans don't understand," says Mr. Saied. "While such rhetoric has been drastically reduced since 9/11, it is still prevalent enough to be a cause for concern."

Bungee Jumping and Paula Abdul

Mr. Saied's roots were anything but radical...

Posted by: georgio at July 16, 2005 06:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If one speak of suicide attacks, how about the thousands of Kamikaze pilots during WWII. Strangely after we occupied Japan, they stopped.

Pape's theory has flaw. We did not occupy Egypt, one cannot explain the Egyptians on the on 9/11. Shah Masoud of the Northern Alliance did not occupy North Africa, but two suicide bombers who killed him were North African.

Posted by: Minh-Duc at July 16, 2005 08:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How does Pape explain Afghanistan where Al Qaeda chose to have its base?Who occupied Afghanistan prior to 9/11 except the Arabs from all over the Middle East. Pre 9/11 all the suicide bombers that attacked Americans on behalf of Al Qaeda had a link with Afghanistan. They were all trained,equipped and centrally controlled from here. There is no disputing this. I don't remember american or western occupation of Afghanistan pre-9/11.All I remember is Taliban Central. You cannot claim Afghanistan as an outlier and ignore it as it was central to suicide attacks on foreigners pre 9/11. Can Pape explain away the fact that 99% of the casualties of suicide bombers in Iraq are Iraqis. Memo to Pape - Iraqis cannot be considered "occupiers" of their own country. This is especially germane since Iraq probably constitutes at least 80% of suicide bombings at present worldwide. Can anyone imagine Palestinians being blown up by foreign Arab suicide bombers for the crime of being occupied by Israelis?But this is what is happening in Iraq right now and Pape's thesis just doesn't cut it.

Posted by: John Cleese at July 16, 2005 09:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pape's theory makes sense, and seems well researched.

The only real problem I have is that "suicide terrorism" is just a subset of terrorism, and probably a small subset at that....a fact which Pape doesn't really bother to acknowledge.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at July 16, 2005 11:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My understanding is there have been approximately 360 suicide attacks in Israel alone. Considering the fact that, because of the wall, there has been a drastic reduction in the number of suicide attacks during the year 2005, this would mean, if Mr. Pape's statistics are correct, that the preponderance of suicide attacks have been in Israel.

These attacks were clearly motivated by an Islamic fundamentalism which inseminates potential suicide terrorists with two necessary ideas,

1) that it is their land by the will of Allah, and that no human being of another religion should be on their land, ever, for any reason, unless they are living in submission to Islam,


2) that they will attain paradise for their actions.

While it may be true that the secular Tamil Tigers invented the bomb vest, the numbers would seem to prove that the ideology of communism has been less successful in motivating humans to commit suicide in the name of their cause.

In other words, the Tamil Tigers may have invented the vest, but the Islamists have provided an almost perfect germinating ideology.

I must say, I agree with Pape that there are an almost unlimited supply of suicide terrorists available in the Islamic world. I agree that in the short run, terrorism will increase as a result of our "occupation" of foreign land.

However, one of the notable things about making war upon a people is that it usually angers them, and causes them to fight back.

So, no surprise there.

The notion that such anger and determination on the part of our enemy is a reason to quit is a wholly new idea in the annals of war; and it's probably not an idea with legs.

It seems to me wars are won by breaking the will of the people fighting them. Unfortunately, this is done by cornering the enemy and pouring the force on, until he believes he has no other choice than to admit defeat.


Posted by: Pastorius at July 16, 2005 02:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If suicide bomber's objective is to get occupiers out of their homeland, what happened in London? Londoner bombers wanting the British out of London?

Posted by: donna at July 16, 2005 03:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If suicide bomber's objective is to get occupiers out of their homeland, what happened in London? Londoner bombers wanting the British out of London?

Posted by: donna at July 16, 2005 03:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I guess I am prepared to accept either a nationalist or a religious rationale for suicide bombing. In Iraq, the Shiites are now free to do their pilgimages and practice their from of Islam thanks to our "occupation". They are also notably absent from the ranks of the suicide bombers. Even the Sadrists have chosen to take the political route; even though they object strenuously to the American presence. We should take our cue from the new majortarian/democratic government of Iraq and not overstay our welcome, to be sure.

It seems to me that the Sunni Arabs have taken it upon themselves to be defenders of Arab Nationalism in Iraq, but not at the invitation of the Shiite majority, or the Sunni Kurds, for that matter. As recent events in Lebonon and Iraq show, the "Arab Street" is much more diverse than any Poli Sci professor or ME expert dared to believe.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at July 16, 2005 04:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Suicide terrorism targets the MEDIA -- which in a democracy can be counted on to over-report terrorist incidents due to their drama, not their social or military significance. (An airline crash causes far more actual personal, social, & economic damage.)

This gives suicide terrorism the asymmetric advantage the terrorists seek and in fact cannot exist without.

The suicide bomb technique is not used in authoritarian states because the media would generally bury it on page 10 and forget it the next day, if it was reported at all.

Pape is engaging in a shallow non-sequitur by attributing this stuff to the presence of foreign, and especially American, forces.

I frankly suspect willful blindness relating to the typical anti-American or anti-Bush agenda. And when an expert misinterprets his own facts, he should also be suspected of intellectual dishonesty, not mere error.

Posted by: Tom Paine at July 16, 2005 04:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When you try to wrap a complex phenomenom into a convienent ball of wax, you run the risk of self delusion. In trying to explain the universe of suicide bombing in a neat little theory, Pace ignores the subtleties and even strong differences between the various movements that have spawned such actors. During WWII, the rise of the Kamikaze was in response to the gradual attrition of the Japanese naval capacity particularly after Midway. Suicide was the ultimate expression of loyalty to the emperior and to the motherland. There were nooccupiers.

During WWII in Europe and No. Africa, there were many instances of what amounted to suicide missions, or missions where high casualty rates were expected. These reflected commitment to the cause and the discipline within the military. This suggests that there can be what we Westerners would consider as rational decisions that are ultimately suicidal.

I have a lot of difficulty sorting out the equivalency or lack thereof of the actions of the Timal Tigers to that of the suicide attackers in either Isreal or in Iraq. I must confess that I do not know a great deal about the former. However, the attempt to impose a Stalinist regime in Sri Lanka was prosecuted with a religious zeal with huge casualties and destruction such that it equates with a religious crusade.

In the end, Prof. Pace does not face what I consider the ultimate questions: What is it in the idealogy of the perpetrators that allows them (1) to freely sacrifice their own lives for a cause that, with certainty they will never experience, and (2) how is the taking of innocent lives - that is attacking of civilians who are not directing the political or economic direction of the enemy justified in the philosophy of the bomber. I think the latter may be the distinction to which Luka referred to above.

I think that there is more to this than Prof. Pace advances. I think there is an element of brainwashing of a sort that removes from the bomber the "fight or flight" instinct. Whether that is a result of religious conversion or political zeal, or grief over the loss of a dear one in the ongoing conflict, the result is that the perpetrator is reduced to, in effect, a self destructing automaton. The bombers in London are perfect examples. To date nothing has been discovered their conversion from "ordinary lads" to what they became. I find it interesting that the majority of suicide bombers are quite young and at impressionable ages.

In contrast, Atta and the rest who attacked the WTC, were also suicide bombers who were driven by a long standing commitment motivated by religious zeal. If Professor Pace's theory was correct, those attacks would have occurred in Saudi or some other place where there was religious objection to the American presence. Remember that the perpetrators were educated, from well to do families, and could not possibly be characterized as from the ignorant masses. They were clearly of a different sort than the London bombers or most of the Chechnian bombers.

This is a very complex subject in which Western values - that is the high value that we place on the individual and upon life in general -are in conflict with the analysis. While superficially rational, the Professor's conclusions are simply too facile for me. My hypothesis is that in many, but not all cases, suicide bombers are young, impressionable persons who feel a great deal of zealousness for the causes they espouse, and who fall under the sway of "handlers" who are very sophisticated in taking advantage of that impressionablilty either by promising martyrdom, or other psychic rewards that overcome what I believe are basic human instincts.


Posted by: Michael Pecherer at July 16, 2005 05:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I do not think you can generalise about terrorist organisations or the use of suicide bombers. They do different things in different places.

Islamism is certainly a reaction to "imperialism" in one sense: what they most fear is the "imperialism" of liberal ideas within muslim culture, and the damage it does to the soul of individual muslims.

Their fear is, essentially, that the turn towards modernity and materialism by muslims is a far greater threat than the actual physical presence of non-muslims in majority-muslim countries.

This is evident both in the writings of Qutb, and in the practices of Muslim Brotherhood organisations within Europe.

David T

Harry's Place

Posted by: David T at July 16, 2005 05:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I meant to add that my view was that the aims of the suicide terrorist attack in London last week were various, but included, I think, the acceleration of the isolation of British muslims from the political mainstream.

One of the ways we combat that is to talk to our British muslim friends and keep them close to us. They're part of the "territory" that is being fought for.

Posted by: David T at July 16, 2005 05:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hi Pastorius here again.

I got my numbers wrong the first comment.

Of the 462 suicide attacks worldwide, circa 1980-2004, 140 occured in Israel, circa 2000-2004.

In 2004 alone 382 suicide attacks were attempted against Israel, of which 367 were thwarted.


This shows, as I said in the first comment, that almost all suicide bombers are motivated by fundamentalist Islam.

I would be interested to see just how many suicide attacks were motivated by secular ideologies over the years. I doubt it is many. Interesting that Papes did not break it out.

Posted by: Pastorius at July 16, 2005 07:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


"In 2004 alone 382 suicide attacks were attempted against Israel, of which 367 were thwarted. This shows, as I said in the first comment, that almost all suicide bombers are motivated by fundamentalist Islam."

I'm confused. Isn't that precisely Pape's argument? Israel occupies the West Bank and Gaza. If there were to leave both areas, suicide terrorism would hugely diminish (save for that of maximalist groups like Islamic Jihad who want '48 lands back too). The reason people blow themselves up in Israel is because, as Pape puts it, to "compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland." what am i missing?

Posted by: confused at July 16, 2005 07:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just from the interview, without having seen his data, it looks like there are some serious flaws in Pape's reasoning. Mainly, he is unduly focused on the suicide bombing as the security issue of the day, where in reality suicide bombings are a tactic employed by groups/movements with particular goals (that are comprehensible to varying degrees -- compare the global domination of Islam sought by al-Qaeda vs. the Tamil Tigers more limited aims).

This leads Pape to make some seemingly inane points. Sure, after the U.S., France, and Israel pulled their troops either out of Lebanon or, in the case of Israel, back to the security zone, suicide bombings sharply decreased -- the targets were gone. But Hizballah continued to fire rockets into Israel for years after the pullout/pullback. Moreover, he forgets that even after Israel fully withdrew from Lebabon, Hizballah continues to take offensive actions against Israel. And though they generally do not divulge their information, several U.S. Senators and other officials involved in national security have repeatedly expressed concerns that Hizballah is more dangerous to us than al-Qaeda. In short, the removal of our troops from Lebanon had little impact on the threat posed by Hizballah, even though suicide bombings per se have decreased.

Also, Pape says that "As Israel is at least promising to withdraw from Palestinian-controlled territory (in addition to some other factors), there has been a decline of that ferocious suicide-terrorist campaign. This is just more evidence that withdrawal of military forces really does diminish the ability of the terrorist leaders to recruit more suicide terrorists." (it's not in the excerpt on BD) This conclusion borders on willful blindness. There are some things like the security fence and Israel's aggressive offensive against terrorist workshops and "safe areas" -- leading to the detention of thousands of Palestinian terrorists -- that indisputably had something (more like everything) to do with the drop in suicide attacks. Pape also fails to account for the fact that there have been numerous thwarted suicide attacks. His conclusion simply does not follow from his "evidence."

Just one other brief example. Pape lauds the alliance we had with Saudi Arabia in the 1970s and 1980s which, he argues, secured our oil interests without committing any troops to the Arabian peninsula, and he advocates a returni to this policy. This notion ignores so many current realities that it virtually defies belief. For one thing, it is hard to see any connection between American troops in Saudi (of which there are no more) or troops on the peninsula, and the Saudi Wahabist program establishing mosques and madrassas around the world, creating networks of fundamentalist organizations in Europe and the U.S. which are avowedly hostile to their host countries, or the support for the Taliban regime undertaken by Saudi until we dislodged it from power. This point illustrates the other larger problem with Pape's analysis: by isolating contacts between Islam and foreign countries as the cause for suicide bombings, he pays no mind to the reasons those contacts occurred -- i.e., a security situation that necessitated the presence of foreign troops.

The analogy that comes to mind in assessing Pape's work here is of a town doctor who is confronted with a spread of flu-like symptoms in the town. The doctor discovers upon examining a few patients that the symptoms are a manifestation of a lethal infectious disease that the patients are carrying and that will eventually spread to all of the town. According to Pape, the doctor should disregard the disease, treat the patients as if they had the flu, and advise the rest of the town to avoid people who seem like they have the flu. Sure, the apparent flu-like symptoms will go away. But the lethal disease will continue to spread, imperiling all.

Posted by: Brutus at July 16, 2005 07:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As others have already pointed out, Pape's analysis misses a crucial point. He treats suicide attacks as as an end rather than as a means to an end. Suicide bombings are a tactic with a very defined goal in mind. Addressing the tactic without addressing the larger strategy of the opposition, as well as its political goal, is pointless.

The Islamic fundamentalists want a pure form of Islam to reign in the Caliphate, an area defined as all areas now or formerly under Islamic control (including much of Southern Europe). Some even want this in areas of Western countries where Muslims live. They want sharia law imposed, and all contrary influences kept out. They want much more than a withdrawl of foreign troops from the Caliphate -- they want a withdrawl of foreign influence (including culture). I fail to see any way in which this is even remotely acceptable to the West.

Pape also ignores the effect of suicide attacks on the people who endure them. Victor Davis Hanson wrote about this in "Ripples of Battle." He points out that Japanese suicide attacks reached a crescendo during the Battle of Okinawa and that the ultimate result of them was much more harmful to Japan than to the USA. Initially, the attacks caused a large number of casualties. Thereafter, the troops learned how to counter the tactic (i.e., put a lot of firepower on anything that moves, forget about trying to capture the enemy and kill even those trying to surrender because they might be carrying bombs). Ultimately, use of this tactic convinced the US that the Japanese intended to fight to the end, directly leading to the decision to drop nuclear weapons on Japan.

Posted by: Ben at July 16, 2005 10:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To quote Hanson: ìRomantics may have remembered the kamikazes; realists recalled how they were dealt with.... Okinawa taught the world that the chief horror of war is not the random use of suicide bombers, but the response that they incur from Western powers whose self-imposed restraint upon their ingenuity for killing usually rests only with their own sense of moral reluctanceóa brake that suicidal attack seems to strip away entirely.î

Ultimately, I view the Iraq War (which I support) as an attempt to force the Islamic World to reform itself -- because if it doesn't, bad things will happen. Have no illusions: If a mass attack against the USA is sufficiently costly, the gloves will come off in a serious way and MANY Muslims will die. This will happen regardless of who is President or who controls Congress because the People will demand it.

Posted by: Ben at July 16, 2005 10:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ITA Ben, Hanson is correct.

One thing that contradicts Pape's argument is the attacks on Turkey and Tunisa. Both Muslim countries, neither occupied by anyone, both opposed to the US involvement in any way with Iraq.

Why then blow up banks, and synagogues in Istanbul, and a centuries old synagoge in Tunisia?

ONLY pure religious hatred explains this, and thus Pape's argument about nationalism (and implicit, the solution which is to "withdraw") fails.

If Tunisia and Turkey get attacked, and of course London (by their own Pakistani-background citizens who are well educated and well off financially) then Pape's idea completely fails.

We are, sadly, in a fundamental conflict with Islam. The secular, "free from religion" West which advances (and is comprised of Japan, South Korea, parts of India, China, and other non-caucasian nations) and Dar al Islam, which continually regresses under the banner of sixth century Islam.

The Future is fighting the past, and guess what? The future has ballistic missile submarines, strategic bombers, and a host of other nasties that the past conviently forgets.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at July 16, 2005 11:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You asked for input to weave into your analysis. Having read several of Pape's interviews in various media but not his book, plus various blog posts on the topic and some of the better comments (including particularly those here), I have the following observations:

1. Pape's basic research sounds as though it is extremely useful. If it has not already been done -- as Pape asserts -- by somebody in the American or Israeli intelligence staff, that is shameful in and of itself.

2. Pape's conclusions and his prescriptions strike me as far more problematic.

3. On the one hand, Pape cites the Tamil Tigers as "evidence" that suicide terrorism is not a Muslim phenomenon. Without having read the book, it seems that he is abusing this one example. Indeed, even if the Tigers were the inventors of suicide terrorism, who is to say that Muslims didn't "improve" on it and proliferate it to an entirely different level? Africans invented slavery, but Europeans made a business out of it and spread it to a new hemisphere. Just as Europeans industrialized human slavery (before abolishing it), Muslims seem to have industrialized suicide terrorism. See, for instance, al Qaeda's dissemination of "how to" instruction manuals, and the car bomb and bomb belt "factories" discovered in Iraq. So even if Pape is technically correct that suicide terrorism is not a Muslim phenomenon, might we say that "industrial" suicide terrorism is?

4. On the other hand, as ready as Pape is to cite one data point (the Tigers) to universalize suicide terrorism, he ignores many data points when he universalizes his thesis that suicide terrorism is a response to foreign occupation. Many occupied peoples have not resorted to suicide terrorism, even in modern times. You don't see Tibetans blowing themselves up. Without having run the numbers, "Muslim extremism" seems much more highly correlated with suicide terrorism than "resistance to occupation."

5. In order to accept Pape's thesis, you need a very expansive definition of "occupation." This is accomplished, it seems to me, with a sleight of hand. Under Pape's model, all Muslim suicide bombers are deemed resisting the occupation of any Muslim land. If an Egyptian blows himself up killing people, the explanation is that he is resisting the American occupation of Iraq. Well, who besides Muslims takes such an expansive view of what constitutes "occupation"? If any Muslim is considered to be resisting occupation as long as any infidel bases soldiers or businesses or Jews on any Muslim land, then it becomes very hard to argue with Pape. But he hasn't proved anything other than Muslims -- uniquely -- have declared that a third of the world is off limits to anybody who does not recognize the Prophet. The implication -- that we're supposed to respect that point of view -- is troubling.

6. There are lots of suicide attacks that do not seem to fit even Pape's theory. Just today, for instance, a female suicide bomber blew up a bunch of European tourists in Turkey. Turkey is neither Arab nor occupied by any sane definition of the concept. Only, again, by conceding that Muslims demand that a third of the world remain "apostate free" can you conclude that today's attack was to resist "occupation."

7. His prescription, as I have read it, is that we return to the "offshore balancing" that characterized American strategy vs. the Middle East for the thirty years ended with the Gulf War in 1991. This will remove American troops from the region, and according to Pape it will diminish suicide attacks. There are two problems with this prescription. First, it was the collapse of "off shore balancing" that led to the first Gulf War. Second, it assumes that elimination of suicide attacks against American troops in the Middle East will today translate to the elimination of such attacks in Western cities, or against Westerners who travel in the Muslim world? The demands of al Qaeda are such that suffering suicide attacks may be a small price to pay for continuing engagement in the region.

I have a bit more, but I don't want to wear out my welcome.

Posted by: TigerHawk at July 17, 2005 12:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hi Confused,

Pastorius here.

One of the first things Pape said in this interview was, "Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think."

He then goes on to make the point that "overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland."

The thing is, Islamism is driven by the Jihadi idea that there are only two worlds; Dar al-Islam, and Dar al-Harb. These are the House of Islam, and the House of War respectively. The House of War is considered to be anywhere Islam doesn't reign supreme, where the people are not governed by Sharia.

When you take this into consideration, along with an understanding of the Shahid indoctrination that goes in the Palestinian educational system, and the Palestinian state-controlled media, then you would see that it is clear that Palestinian suicide bombing is driven by religious ideology, and not political concerns, as we in the West understand the notion of political concerns.

In addition, it is my belief that most of the suicide bombings in Iraq are driven by the same ideology.

Are you still confused by my points?


Posted by: Pastorius at July 17, 2005 01:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As a number of posters upthread have suggested, I suspect Pape is seeing a little bit of what he wishes to see -- tangible objectives being pursued though rational means, which implies some way to avoid or at least limit conflict. If suicide bombing and other terrorism is being pursued against us because of what we do rather than for other reasons, changing our actions holds promise of persuading some terrorists to do something else.

A lot of things might be said about this, and some of them have been already on this thread. The definition of "occupation" seems to be highly flexible, for one thing. For another, the men directing and financing suicide terrorism have used it as a means of gaining power and status they were most unlikely to acquire any other way. This by itself provides a powerful incentive for them to continue encouraging use of this tactic.

There is plainly a strong religious element in planning and executing suicide attacks; clearly there are strong Islamist arguments being made on behalf of the idea that non-Islamist Muslims as well as Westerners, Jews, Hindus, Russians and probably most other people need to be killed. With this in mind we may be heading down the wrong path by considering suicide terrorism as qualitatively different from other types of terrorism widely practiced in the Muslim world. Suicide terrorism is a tactic used against civilian populations in the West because other tactics are less reliably productive of death on a large scale or the spreading of terror. Among the Arab militia of the Western Sudan suicide terrorism is unknown -- because they do not need it. More conventional tactics work just fine on a much less well-protected population of potential victims. The point is that while the tactics are different, the tactical objective is essentially the same. And on some level, the tactical objective and the strategic objective are probably also the same -- successful terrorism is defined by the number of its victims.

Finally, it might be helpful to look at suicide terrorism as we look at other types of especially reckless behavior: violent crime above all, but also things like drug abuse and drunk driving. This kind of behavior is much more likely among a specific demographic -- males under the age of 30. Most predominantly Muslim countries also have very youthful populations, and a high ratio of younger to older males. There are some countries, like Saudi Arabia, where economic and social conditions increase the attractiveness to young males of suicide terrorism. Examples include a sense of entitlement to good jobs by young men whose education has not provided them with especially useful skills, and the prevalence of plural marriage, which increases the number of young men unlikely to gain the stability that family life often provides.

Pape appears to see suicide terrorism primarily in a geopolitical context -- terrorists are fighting for specific objectives that, once attained, will offer no further incentive for suicide terrorism. I am more disposed to see suicide terrorism, indeed terrorism in general, as a mixture of social pathology and the response of a culture confronting its manifold and profound inadequacies by denying them in the most dramatic way possible.

Posted by: JEB at July 17, 2005 02:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Posted by: NeoPatriot at July 17, 2005 03:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Blaming Islam for terrorism is like blaming Roman Catholicism for fascism.

Most fascist parties of Europe and Latin America (past and present) have a ìreligious zealî for the Christian faith, yet only the most anti-Christian mind would ever think to blame the Gospels and religious leaders.

Posted by: NeoDude at July 17, 2005 04:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Nazis were Christians??? I don't think so.


Posted by: Michael Pecherer at July 17, 2005 07:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's Time to Stick It to the Enemy in the GWOT!

Georgio, Michael, Rockford, and all,

In scanning this thread you all are onto something . I wouldn't spend too much time debating the nits though. This is a frame of reference issue. It's the difference in how the Western world value's life and the Islamofascists rejoice in death. While Pape has taken hits for his term "rational behavior" Dean at Dean Wprld's reminds folks this is from the poltical science meaning and not that the bombers was acting rationally in the mental sense. They are robotic delivery agents of a cult.

The crux is we are dealing with a cult that sprang from the Arabian and North African deserts that predated Islam. This culture has pathological traits in terms of interactions with modern society.

Don't overlook a concealed hand of another in this strategic play either - The Chinese. China and via Norks and Dr. Kahn have provided the ME players with missile and nuke tech. This is the real enemy. The Jihadist cause is being exploited by them to take us down a notch or two so they can move into the power vacuum.

And while I'm at it please go to Dr.Zin's site:


and read about the brave Iranian journalist near death in prison putting his very life on the line to call the world's attention to the struggle of the Iranian people for freedom. The Iranian people will overthrow this tryannical regime if they believe they have the moral support of the American people and the free world. Of course the LL and the MSM are on target with this story. Further like all totalitarian regimes, the Mullahs are actively blocking and filtering sites from the outside world. Seems the "Big Lie" looses it's power to control when there are alternative informational sources available. Remember Hitler had his "final solution." The Islamofascists have the "Great and Little Satans" as scapegoats for the failures of their ideology.

Would we ever allow an enemy to gain air superiority over the battlefield? Hell no! But that's just what we are giving the enemy in the GWOT with free run of CyberSpace. This is true for the Chinese as well. This is a war is much more a war of ideals and the validity of ideologies. Islamofascism is doomed to failure like Naziism, Communism, and Fascism because they do not recognized the universial truth of the free will of men and women.

The last I checked IBM, Intel, Novel, Covad, Cisco, Microsoft, and Motorola were all HQ'd here. The Am taxpayer is footing the bill to pay for the US Military to project a level playing field so these companies can exist and make a profit. The least they could do perhaps for a fee is to tear down these walls (Reaganistic) or system blocks to allow the free flow of news/information without censorship.

There are several discussions going on at several sites. One is being led by Bill Roggio at Winds of Change. Go here and scroll back up the thread for links to other sites. There is a consensus emerging between the threads as to what the cause is and what to do about it.


Bill and others,

I believe you all are on the right track. It's fascinating to watch as a group consensus seems to be evolving across the political Blog sites. Others are starting to come to similar conclusions about what the cause is and what needs to be done to win the GWOT (Un PC - Islamofascism).

The secret is we must know our enemy and the ideology that drives it. We need to exploit the weaknesses of the enemy. We need to drive a stake literally through the very heart of the enemy (e.g. the Mad Mullahs of Iran would be a close first) and wipe this cult-like religious ideology that evolved from the sands of the Arabian and North African deserts from the face of the earth.

This ideology has been brought to our world by the radical madrasses of this movement by the oil money of the House of Saud. This is the key nexus of this mess that we have ignored for all too long because of our multiculturism, political correctness, and tolerance of other religions and cultures. The enemy is exploiting this strength of the American society. It's time we awoke and ram this back down their throats.


Posted by: Ron Wright at July 17, 2005 03:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ooophs. Sorry forgot to include the link for WOC.


Posted by: Ron Wright at July 17, 2005 03:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."

-Adolf Hitler

Posted by: NeoDude at July 17, 2005 03:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.

-Adolf Hitler

Posted by: NeoDude at July 17, 2005 03:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What do Orthodox Protestants think of Roman Catholicism and Fascism?

Ever heard of the Inquisition, from 1200 A.D. to 1800 A.D. . . ? It's never mentioned any longer. We hear a lot about the Jewish Holocaust when 6 million Jews perished under Hitler. But most people don't know that Hitler was a Roman Catholic and an instrument of the Holy Office. Hitler was never excommunicated for his crimes against humanity and causing the deaths of millions of people; whereas Martin Luther was excommunicated for translating the Bible into German.


Posted by: NeoDude at July 17, 2005 04:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And donít get me started on the relationship between Roman Catholicism and the Fascist organizations of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina France, Austria, Paraguay, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

Posted by: NeoDude at July 17, 2005 04:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with many points above, especially the bizarre focus on suicide bombing as something completely separate from the movements of which they are a part (Madrid, for instance, was not suicide bombing, but it would seem strange to draw any very significant difference between it and what happened in London in ideological/political terms). Also seems right that 'occupation' is too broad.

The only thing I would add is that much of the above seems to treat suicide bombers as either political and rational (following Pape) or religious and irrational. These aren't well-drawn categories generally, but they also neglect an important alternative Lee Harris has discussed: some terrorist violence (that of al Q especially) can be seen not as a means to a political end (liberation) or a religious end (Paradise) but as violence for its own sake.


Understood this way al Q has more in common with T McVeigh than the Tamil Tigers.

Posted by: Zena at July 17, 2005 06:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Clever repackaging of appeasement and it is all our fault anyway.

As others have pointed out: suicide bombings are merely a weapon of opportunity. Other examples of suicidal missions included German submarines late in WWII and US bombers early in the bomber offensive.

As others have pointed out, demographic reality of many idle young men with no prospect of career (no skills) or family (polygamy: no women) and glorification of suicide bombers. The largest producers of suicide bombers: Saudi Arabia and Palestine are among the worst places to be a young devout Arab male with no job prospects. This idea should be developed further.

Posted by: Robert at July 18, 2005 04:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Trouble is, the profile of the typical suicide bomber is middle class and well educated. They're hardly partisans who've taken to the hills. Among Palestinians, the terrorist groups ideally do not accept suicide bombers who are merely suicidal, or who are doing it for the money for their families, or who lack religious conviction.

Anyway, the more interesting thing is that, in Israel, suicide bombings are just a new means of pursing the same, 60 year-old goals. Elsewhere, I guess Pape wants us to believe that the spread of radical islam around the globe has absolutely nothing to do with suicide terrorist attacks where there were none before.

Posted by: AT at July 18, 2005 05:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

NeoDude, I think your quotes are most interesting. However, while Hitler cited to his Christian, ie: Catholic motivations in his writings, the German people did not celebrate Christianity in their zeal for the Nazi movement. If anything, it was more Pagan. Hitler often said that to understand Nazism, you must understand Wagner. Wagner's paganistic beliefs were deep seated and reflected in the Ring operas. Quoting from Shirer (The rise and Fall of The Third Reich") at p 234 et seq.: "The Nazi war on the Christian churches began more moderately." After concluding a concordat with the Vatican guaranteeing the freedom of the Catholic religion and the rights of the Church, within the next several years, "thousands of Catholic priests, nuns, and lay leaders were arrested. . . " It is true that many of the German Protestants, as adherents to the teachings of Martin Luther, a raving anti-semite, were attracted the the anti-semitic stance of the Nazis and were supporters of Hitler. Gradually, the National Socialist party took control of the Protestent Churches. In the Nazi program, " . . . Christianity is not dependent upon the Apostle's Creed. . . True Christianity is represented by the party and the German people are now called by the party and especially by the Fuehrer to a real Christianity. . . The Fuehrer is the herald of a new revelation." Hitler effectively, and by the use of terror, displaced Christ in German Protestantism.

The Nazis were successful in melding the Protestant churches in Germany with the Nazi party. Thus, I think this a far more complex issue that simply equating Christianity with Fascism. Remember that Hitler was a Catholic from Austria which was largely a Catholic country while Germany was largely a Protestent country.

Incidently, I am not grinding any particular ax here as I am not at Christian nor do I have any love for Fascism in any form. I am simply pointing out that, in my view, we are not going to get to the heart of the Jihadist mentality by sweeping through history with a Fascism/religious fundamentalism equivalency. There is more to this equation.


Posted by: Michael Pecherer at July 18, 2005 07:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I agree with you. My point was to show how simplistic and easy it is to begin to formulate bigoted theories concerning religion and ethnicity. I think the rush to blame Islam and Muslims and demand that believers act a certain way, in order to convince the children of Christianity/Fascism is absurd.

Posted by: NeoDude at July 18, 2005 03:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neo -

Be careful in applying the label "bigoted." Calling someone "bigoted" should be a shield to protect an embattled group. It can, however, as easily be used as a sword to cut off legitimate criticism and dispassionate analysis. I think that in order to understand the current spate of suicide bombing, it is essential to understand the role of Islam in motivating people to commit these heinous acts. That is not to say Islam is responsible for terrorism, it is simply to say that because the problem seems to be centered in Islamic societies, the role of Islam must be taken into account in any analysis of the problem.

Posted by: Ben at July 19, 2005 01:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


That is not to say Islam is responsible for terrorism, it is simply to say that because the problem seems to be centered in Islamic societies, the role of Islam must be taken into account in any analysis of the problem.

I agree with this...totally.

But this rush to blame "moderates" for not acting convincing enough, rings hollow from the same culture that perfected feudalism and fascism.

Posted by: NeoDude at July 19, 2005 03:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not an expert in political science or even a university professor, but Pape's analysis (although interesting) doesn't appear to be very useful at least for the likely near/long term future scenarios.

It appears that Pape's essential point is 'if you remove the cause of the suicide attacks, then the attacks will stop.' So, if the presence of US troops is the basic cause of the attacks, then remove the troops. Specifically, the troops should be moved to where they don't trigger attacks, but would be readily available if needed in the future (i.e., could be moved back into the mideast).

This is the point I don't understand. If the troops are moved back into the area (say in the highly unlikely situation where one country invades another to grab oil), won't the suicide attacks re-start? Then what? remove them? again? If this is how Pape's analysis would be applied, I think it's a waste of time.

Are we interested in stability in this area of the world or not? Pape seems to suggest that we are as his plan calls for keeping the troops available (i.e., it seems like Pape even thinks it's realistic that we'll need the troops again). Ok, if we are interested, we shouldn't flinch because of the attacks. We know by Pape's own data and conclusions that the attacks are going to happen.

Moreover, who cares if the attacks are not motivated by religious beliefs? the attackers are 'extremists,' which is to say that they have extreme viewpoints. I don't think it's a good idea to set policy based on what extremists will do.

If we are interested in stability, then we need to accept that these attacks are part of the costs. If we aren't interested, let's invent an alternative to oil, go home, and tell them to "suck it" (oil that is)


Posted by: Robert Crouse at July 26, 2005 09:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
--New York Times
"Always-Worth Reading"
--Andrew Sullivan
Recent Entries
English Language Media
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
The Blogs
Law & Finance
Think Tanks
The City
Syndicate this site:

Belgravia Dispatch Maintained by:


Powered by