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"The Logic of Suicide Terrorism"

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Robert Pape, Associate Professor at the University of Chicago, has written a book, "Dying to Win", about the motivations of suicide terrorism. (Note to hair trigger right wingers: "motivations"!=justification").

In researching his book he compiled a massive data base of the particulars of every suicide terrorist attack around the world for the last 25 years.

There is an interview with him at The American Conservative Online

Money quote:

Quote:
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 campaignover 95 percent of all the incidentshas had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.

Tellingly, this analysis doesn't require me to particularly "sympathize" with the motivations of suicide bombers, or offer them "aid and comfort", or "therapy", while at the same time forcing me to conclude that Bush's policies on responding to terrorism are ill-founded and unworkable.

Get it? The evidence at hand (I know it's like kryptonite to some of you) suggests that Bush is fighting the wrong war for the wrong reasons, and I can reach that conclusion, rationally, and I don't even have to like terrorists!

I have sound, legitimate reasons to strongly disagree with strategy and tactics, and they don't oblige me to proceed from "irrational Bush hatred"! Go figure!

So can we discuss this gentleman's findings, on the merits, without anyone reflexively going to their "liberals want terrorists to blow up your mother" security blanket?
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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post #2 of 20
I'm sick of the BS about "they hate our freedom" or even worse "they're just psychopaths that we don't need to understand."

However. Even if we do understand their motives and goals, there's still a question of whether they're legitimate.

I'm trying to think of an example - let's say in the mid-1800s, some African slaves in the US started committing acts of terrorism. Everyone would agree that slavery is wrong and the political route to change wasn't working, and in fact never would work. In that situation, even if killing innocents was still wrong, I think everyone would agree that their motivation - to end slavery - was right. So it would be right to meet the terrorists' demands.

But let's assume that this analysis is correct - they want us out of Saudi Arabia. Is that really legitimate? I'm not so sure. At the least, it's not as clear cut as the slavery example.

That doesn't mean going to war with Iraq was a good idea to decrease terrorism. Clearly it's not. But I'm not at all sure that we should get out of the Middle East in order to reduce terrorism, either.
post #3 of 20
I haven't read the whole article, but don't tell me it isn't about religion. Suicide bombers pray 5 times a day. Not only do they believe they will go to heaven afterward, but get bonuses, like virgins and the such.

you will never find the masterminds killing themselves though.
post #4 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by the cool gut
I haven't read the whole article, but don't tell me it isn't about religion. Suicide bombers pray 5 times a day. Not only do they believe they will go to heaven afterward, but get bonuses, like virgins and the such.

you will never find the masterminds killing themselves though.

Your last sentence contradicts your first paragraph.

If it was truly about religion, why wouldn't the leaders do it as well?
proud resident of a failed state
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proud resident of a failed state
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post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 
BRussell:

I take your point that having discerned that suicide terrorism is motivated by trying to force occupying powers to vacate land doesn't necessarily mean that the "solution" to terrorism is to therefore vacate land.

However, I would think that any sane policy would have to start with at least acknowledging this fact, instead of pretending that we are the midst of some kind of "global war" wherein the martyrs of Islam won't be satisfied until the West is destroyed utterly.

The whole point of this guy's research (and it is extremely comprehensive research) is that this notion, widespread as it may be, is flatly untrue, suggesting that any WOT which uses "global war" as its underlying organizing principle is doomed to failure.

At one point in the interview Pape talks about protecting our interests in the middle east while minimizing our military footprint in Muslim majority nations:

Quote:
TAC: What would constitute a victory in the War on Terror or at least an improvement in the American situation?

RP: For us, victory means not sacrificing any of our vital interests while also not having Americans vulnerable to suicide-terrorist attacks. In the case of the Persian Gulf, that means we should pursue a strategy that secures our interest in oil but does not encourage the rise of a new generation of suicide terrorists.

In the 1970s and the 1980s, the United States secured its interest in oil without stationing a single combat soldier on the Arabian Peninsula. Instead, we formed an alliance with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which we can now do again. We relied on numerous aircraft carriers off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and naval air power now is more effective not less. We also built numerous military bases so that we could move large numbers of ground forces to the region quickly if a crisis emerged.

This strikes me as the kind of pragmatism that only becomes possible when you drop the "holy war" blinders and think about how to go about achieving a desirable end. But we're so invested in "if we do x, the terrorists win" rhetoric, simple self interested logic somehow becomes "treason".

Mindless belligerence over actually getting what you want. How fucked up is that?

'Gut, I'm not telling you anything. Again, from Pape's research:

Quote:
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 peoplethree times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabiawith 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.

If you can make sense of those numbers within an "It's all about Islamic extremism" paradigm, my hat's off to you.
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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post #6 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by groverat
Your last sentence contradicts your first paragraph.

If it was truly about religion, why wouldn't the leaders do it as well?

It's about religion, because if they didn't think they would go to heaven, they wouldn't do it.

It's obviously not all religion - you need to be fucking nuts as well. The planners are well educated, and are smarter than that.
post #7 of 20
Good thread. I tend to think that there is a lot of truth in what is being said. I think you have to wonder htough how far back to go in connecting the dots to find other possible causes and corrolaries. The "foreign invaders in our land" is one issue. But take it back a level and how did the foreign invaders get there? In many of those cases those countries/regions already had civil unrest or wars, they frequently had authoritarian systems which preceded (and followed) foreign invasions, they often had meager economic systems (usually correlated to weaker technology which in turn tends to cause the foreign invaders to "win" the conventional war), they generally had questionable civil rights records prior to invasion etc. Or to simplify, most those bad foreign democracies only pick on poor weak countries because those are the ones they can pick on which raises the question of whether the people are pissed because of the foreign invaders or because of the miserable conditions before/during/afterwards while local leadership was in place, or both?

The suggestion that most suicide bombings are though to some extent what you see is a cause celebre effect where you have disenfranched people and they need a scapegoat for their marginalization. Occupiers are a convenient and obvious and perhaps legitimately objectionable source for that. But are they just the target or are they the real underlying issue? I think Iraq and Palestine, while both being legit grievences, are also picked up as symbols and honed in on by people who are already pissed off hopeless mopes for reasons which sometimes have nothing to do with the purported "cause".

One really has to question what exactly the value of being in Saudi Arabia militarily is. For logistical purposes being in Bahrain and Kuwait and small rich kingdowms which enjoy wealth (placates the populace) while being small enough population wise that they are militarily vulnerable and so those seem to me to be even better fits without the sociopolitical complications. Moreover with Saddam gone and the US in Iraq for a while there really is no substantive thread to Saudi Arabia. Israel sure in theory but there is no way that the US would let one of their favorite countries go against their oil dealer. Turkey and maybe Egypt have the might but neither is a threat at all to the Saudis now. Iran would have to go through the US in Iraq and if Iran has a war anyway it will be a civil war between the secularists and the fundamentalists. So really what is the point? Aside from cost and all of the other stuff involved.

Even the neocons get the concept of perception->motivations->terrorism at least to some extent. They wouldnt be starting up all of these advertising campaigns and various radio and TV networks in certain countries, ineffective as they may be, if they didn't realize that this stuff matters. Of course their dual solutions of propaganda and invasion don't do anything except accomplish the opposite ends, but they do at least realize that this is some sort of problem.
post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by groverat
Your last sentence contradicts your first paragraph.

If it was truly about religion, why wouldn't the leaders do it as well?

Because leaders often know the "truth" i.e., that religion x is a bunch of crap (usually with some universally true things thrown in for credibility - hence so much overlap between religions) - crap designed to keep the people at the bottom scared and under control whereas the rules don't apply to those in control/"in the know" at the topmost levels.

Works for nearly any group.
"The Roots of Violence: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics...
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"The Roots of Violence: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics...
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post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 
I think the value of Pape's research is largely pragmatic: that is, it gives us a handle on the actual who and why of suicide terrorism, which could allow for the possibility, at least, of framing a more effective response.

I don't think it's as useful to use his findings to "figure out" historical lessons, or allocate responsibility, or analyze post colonial patterns of oppression.

Possibly useful exercises all, but we are fighting this "war on terror" based almost entirely on emotional, highly manipulative appeals to wounded national pride, the specter of some kind of global Islamic death machine, and a fierce sense of American primacy, wherein nobody fucking tells us what we can and can't do.

What is entirely lacking is actual, researched data as to who these people are and what they think they are about (knowing what they think they are about is essential in preventing them from harming us, and has nothing to do with "approving" of their reasoning, thought this seems to be a particularly hard point for some folks to grasp).

Without that, we are left with the xenophobic puppet of the "militant Islamic jihadist", whose only salient attributes are his fundamentalism, insanity and bloodthirstiness.

I wish I didn't have to keep stressing this, but many posts on this forum suggest that I should: rejecting that cardboard cutout figure does not equal
being "soft" on terrorism
.

Quite the opposite-- it means taking preventing destruction by terrorists seriously enough to think about the problem.

Yes, I know, thinking about problems is a sure sign of incipient homosexuality, and real men charge in with their dicks out and their guns drawn, all evil motherfuckers beware.

And that's working out so splendidly, don't you think?
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by johnq
Because leaders often know the "truth" i.e., that religion x is a bunch of crap....

that sounds suspiciously close to the truth.

...let me point you guys to a couple of articles:

Faith Invaders

Religious War and Peace

In our desire to impose form on the world we have lost the capacity to see the form that is there;
and in that lies not liberation but alienation, the cutting off from things as they really are. --...

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In our desire to impose form on the world we have lost the capacity to see the form that is there;
and in that lies not liberation but alienation, the cutting off from things as they really are. --...

Reply
post #11 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by dmz
that sounds suspiciously close to the truth.

I think you haven't quite got his point.

Nightcrawler
I disagree, and could prove you're wrong; care to offer any proof that you're not wrong?
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I disagree, and could prove you're wrong; care to offer any proof that you're not wrong?
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post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by johnq
Because leaders often know the "truth" i.e., that religion x is a bunch of crap (usually with some universally true things thrown in for credibility - hence so much overlap between religions) - crap designed to keep the people at the bottom scared and under control whereas the rules don't apply to those in control/"in the know" at the topmost levels.

Works for nearly any group.

What a nonsense, do you really think prophet Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammed were thinking the revelations, messages.. they received from God were crap, or selfinvented crap to keep people scared and under control...?

Nightcrawler
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I disagree, and could prove you're wrong; care to offer any proof that you're not wrong?
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post #13 of 20
What do you think about L. Ron Hubbard?
a flirt with mediocrity comes with heavy penalty
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a flirt with mediocrity comes with heavy penalty
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post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by Nightcrawler
I think you haven't quite got his point.

Nightcrawler

That more of a "better you than me" thing.

Nightcrawler, check out that second article, here is a quote:

Quote:
I dont know what hope there may be for a peaceful agreement, but I can tell one story. A Turkish Muslim man named Mustafa Akyol contacted me about my book The Right Questions, written just after the September 11, 2001 attack, to challenge some things I had written about Islam. I was nervous about this encounter, but as we continued, the conversation grew steadily friendlier and more mutually appreciative.

When Mustafa at last came to my home, we became dear friends, and now are hoping to work together to encourage better relations between Christians and Muslims, starting from what we have in common. I do not know if this personal coming together can be repeated by others on a larger scale, but there is a basis for hope when we consider how some other seemingly irreconcilable religious conflicts have been overcome or at least ameliorated.

In our desire to impose form on the world we have lost the capacity to see the form that is there;
and in that lies not liberation but alienation, the cutting off from things as they really are. --...

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In our desire to impose form on the world we have lost the capacity to see the form that is there;
and in that lies not liberation but alienation, the cutting off from things as they really are. --...

Reply
post #15 of 20
Religion may not be the basis of the leaders motivation, but it is often used to incite those who die. In WWII, the Japanese religious-like dedication to their Emperor drove the kamikaze mentality. I think most suicide bombers believe they are serving someone stronger than any man and that they will be rewarded and protected by that force. How often do those giving the orders share this zeal? I don't know.
Moe has left the building
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Moe has left the building
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post #16 of 20
Religious beliefs and the promise of an afterlife undoubtedly assist an individual (be it a suicide bomber, a kamikaze pilot or Bruce Willis on that giant asteroid) in deciding to give their lives for what they consider to be a worthy cause...but it doesn't necessarily mean that such individuals are spending their lives lightly. The point made in Papes book stands irrespective of Religion


Quote:
Originally posted by stupider...likeafox
What do you think about L. Ron Hubbard?

I heart L. Ron. Dude was so f***ing crazy. Ive been reading all about the evil Galactic Overlord Xenu and how he killed 178 billion aliens on the planet Teegeeack (or "Earth") and then brainwashed their souls in the three-D super colossal motion picture for three days leading to the survivors (or "humanity") being tormented throughout the millenia by confused ghosts manifesting as sadness and mental illness. That people pay millions of dollars to learn about this shit is proof positive that the population of this planet taken as a collective group is clinically (or "batshit") insane.
post #17 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by kneelbeforezod
I heart L. Ron. Dude was so f***ing crazy. Ive been reading all about the evil Galactic Overlord Xenu and how he killed 178 billion aliens on the planet Teegeeack (or "Earth") and then brainwashed their souls in the three-D super colossal motion picture for three days leading to the survivors (or "humanity") being tormented throughout the millenia by confused ghosts manifesting as sadness and mental illness. That people pay millions of dollars to learn about this shit is proof positive that the population of this planet taken as a collective group is clinically (or "batshit") insane.

Just give it a few hundred years . . . . after Scientaology has its fair share of 'Nicene (sp?)Councils' and heresy trials . . . then soon enough it will be hard to Not think of it as the ground of truth . . . . in the same way that other such stories have encrusted over time . .

as far as the thread topic: the point of the article is that we should LEARN how to deal with these people and their desires.

It in no-way legitimizes what they are doing: it doesn't mean that because they want democracy out that we should say 'oh, now I see, you're really good-guys'
It does mean, though, that we probably shouldn't imagine that the reactionary denizens that co-inhabit a region in high density are going to embrace our 'freedoms' when we drive those freedoms into their hometowns in large armored vehicles right after killing a few neighbors and their children with 'intelligent' (read demon possessed) bombs.

What needs to take place is what I have been constantly spouting since shortly after Afghanistan: thoughtful strategic thinking that works with regions and their modes of life, police and intelligence work and, concerted and intelligent media PR work that aims at dissolving the bonds that bind reactionary thought
The probelm with that last tactic is that it takes real critical thought on all sides of the coin: can't have reactionary Christians with dogma tying their eyes closed using subtle techniques of world-view changing self-critical media . . . we can see how resistant reactionary ideas are by simply watching the dogmatic cling tto unreasonable ideas at all costs . . . Hmm?!

The other mode of working intelligently is, going hand-in-hand with the above listed tactics, to immediately start working intelligently With regional economies and practices, Not forcing Islamic regions to trade unreasonably through coercive WTO stipulations etc . . . but also just to use trade and its inherent crow-bar-to-the-mind capabilities as a way to change people's attitudes: . . the forceful use of the solvent of mass media and capitalist incentives: meaning smart politico/economic power-playing and the lure of the freedom to Buy-Stuff
"They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
--George W Bush

"Narrative is what starts to happen after eight minutes
--Franklin Miller.

"Nothing...

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"They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
--George W Bush

"Narrative is what starts to happen after eight minutes
--Franklin Miller.

"Nothing...

Reply
post #18 of 20
They just want to give some back. They feel aggrieved, and want revenge.

They have no other viable military options. If they fought conventionally, they would be crushed and die without doing any damage to the enemy (us). If they take the suicide approach, at least they can take a few of us with them.

cf Japan's Kamikaze attacks towards the end of world war 2. It only became widespread once they realised they had no other alternatives: the only way they could inflict damage was through suicide attacks.
post #19 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by dmz
That more of a "better you than me" thing.

He was referring in a general way about all religions and claiming they were invented for selfish purposes of control and might by their own prophets, and you as a christian should object to that notion and not supporting it.

Nightcrawler
I disagree, and could prove you're wrong; care to offer any proof that you're not wrong?
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I disagree, and could prove you're wrong; care to offer any proof that you're not wrong?
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post #20 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by Nightcrawler
He was referring in a general way about all religions and claiming they were invented for selfish purposes of control and might by their own prophets, and you as a christian should object to that notion and not supporting it.

Nightcrawler

no, I didn't mean that, I was more in reference to the guys who are sent on their suicide missions, more of a cheeky boss/employee schtick.

but then when you have to explain the joke --- I guess it wasn't that funny. Hmmmm where's my shoe.....Oh Look!! it's right here in my mouth!

shutting up.

(be sure to check out those articles, though)

In our desire to impose form on the world we have lost the capacity to see the form that is there;
and in that lies not liberation but alienation, the cutting off from things as they really are. --...

Reply

In our desire to impose form on the world we have lost the capacity to see the form that is there;
and in that lies not liberation but alienation, the cutting off from things as they really are. --...

Reply
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