September 23, 2003


Chicago academic Robert A. Pape argues that suicide terrorism is nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism:

I have spent a year compiling a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 to 2001 — 188 in all. The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any religion for that matter. In fact, the leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families but who are adamantly opposed to religion (they have have committed 75 of the 188 incidents).

But what about the suicide attacks committed by Islamic fundamentalists? Is it possible that suicide attacks committed by Islamic fundamentalists are evidence somehow of a link between Islamic fundamentalism and suicide attacks?

Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist campaigns have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel liberal democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.

Which leads us, eventually -- click on the above link for the whole mess -- to Pape's solution:

In the end, the best approach for the states under fire is probably to focus on their own domestic security while doing what they can to see that the least militant forces on the terrorists' side build a viable state on their own.

Well, it might work, so long as you can trust the sort of people who blow themselves up over real estate disputes to remain within the areas they “consider to be their homeland”. And so long as you can find non-militant terrorists with whom to negotiate. And so long as you have the gigantic military preparedness to deal with every aggrieved group on earth who would take this as a signal to launch their own suicide attacks over their own particular issues, having seen such tactics triumph in Israel, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Posted by Tim Blair at September 23, 2003 12:39 AM

Yeah, it's certainly a muddle, you're right about that, but he does manage one good point:

"Israel, for example, would be well advised to abandon the territory it holds on the West Bank but to go ahead with building the immense wall, 20 feet high and 20 feet wide, to physically separate it from the Palestinian population. This would create real security for Israel and leave the West Bank for a true Palestinian state."

Well, a partially good point, anyway: after the fence goes up, there won't be "a true Palestinian state" (whatever that might be). And that's sui generis, anyway; fence-building's not an option for the US. We don't have much choice to but to take the fight to the secular jihadists (now there's a concept).

Posted by: wm. tyroler at September 23, 2003 at 12:52 AM

Get Orf My Laaand!!!

Posted by: Farmer Palmer at September 23, 2003 at 12:55 AM

Israel's wall needs to be at least 50 feet deep.

Posted by: Sandy P. at September 23, 2003 at 02:29 AM

First, using the time period from 1980-2001 kind of skews things a bit, doesn't it? Especially if you count quasi-suicide attacks by gunmen, Israel had more than 188 incidents in just a few months.

Second, "little connection" suggests that all sorts of people in the world blow themselves up in restaurants. He's right that the Tamil Tigers pioneered the kind of bombings associated mostly with the Palestinians -- explosive vests, shrapnel embedded in the explosives, female bombers -- but today those attacks come from a) the Tamils b) Palestinians and c) other Muslim fundamentalists. That may not make for a statistical correlation, but only if you really don't understand significance.

Posted by: Otter at September 23, 2003 at 02:45 AM

Socialism and thus also its hues Nazism and Communism is a religion - its anchored in set of quack beliefs from such as Rouseau,Comte, Weber,Descartes and asserts a very caprious morality, it is dualistic (mystery beliefs), its teleology is determinism , its morality is the morality of the primitive tribesman - re-asserted, though, within the terms of civilsation, and argues : becuase of this `higher morality' it is why central coercive government is necessary and why govevernment control over markets is necessary - ie. to make the world a happy place for the primitive.

Posted by: d at September 23, 2003 at 11:23 AM

Pape: 'The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any religion for that matter.'

d. is exactly right. Pape suggests there is no correlation of suicide terrorism with religion of any kind. Yet the Marxist/Leninist groups he mentions bear all the fundamentalist characteristics that Pape would otherwise ascribe to religion.

So his point is what, exactly?

Pape goes on: 'one likely reason suicide terrorism has been rising so rapidly in recent years is that terrorist groups have learned that the strategy pays off. Suicide terrorists were thought to compel American and French military forces to abandon Lebanon in 1983, Israeli forces to leave most of Lebanon in 1985, Israeli forces to quit the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1994 and 1995, and the Turkish government to grant measures of autonomy to the Kurds in the late 1990's.'

Yet he concludes: 'Even if our intentions in Iraq are good, our presence there will continue to help terrorist groups recruit more people willing to blow themselves up in the war against America.'

Surely a more correct conclusion would have been that giving in to suicide terrorism has encouraged its spread.

Posted by: ilibcc at September 23, 2003 at 11:47 AM

Palestinians consider Israel their land. Just where should the Israelis withdraw to? Whenever a Palie spokesman rants about the "occupation", I wish the media would then ask, what land is occupied? Is Tel Aviv occupied? I'd love to see them sputter about for an answer.

Posted by: Jabba the Nutt at September 23, 2003 at 12:33 PM

Anti-immigration activists sometimes claim immigration is an invasion. What if they start a suicide-bombing campaign?

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at September 23, 2003 at 02:50 PM

My next door neighbor keeps his yard in a pig sty state. I'm sending my dog over strapped with C-4.

Posted by: wallace at September 23, 2003 at 02:56 PM

That's a bizarre article - the more so because Pape wrote a very good book on bombing (the "strategic" kind with planes) and I'm rather surprised he'd come out with this.

It's a real mess of an article, frankly.

Posted by: Anthony C at September 23, 2003 at 06:34 PM

Good to see this post getting a link at a top Well done.

Posted by: ZsaZsa at September 23, 2003 at 10:33 PM

ZsaZsa - This is a top site! And I've got a Semtex laden kitty for anyone who claims otherwise!

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 24, 2003 at 12:19 AM


Sorry for not expressing myself clearly. Tim's is indeed a top site. It must be because doesn't link to rubbish, as evidenced by the limited number of links to leftist articles.

Posted by: ZsaZsa at September 24, 2003 at 01:40 AM