7/25/2005

So you want to stop the suicide bombers?

Asia Times Online
Jul 12, 2005
SPEAKING FREELY
By Toni Momiroski

...a book called Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, by Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist, and it presents some compelling explanations for acts of terrorist violence...

Pape's study looks at 462 suicide-terrorist attacks between 1980 and early 2004 world-wide. The research finds that in over 95% of the cases the "central objective" of this form of terrorism was the eviction of foreign troops from occupied countries or regions that were considered by the terrorist groups to be occupied. Therefore, perceptions were a crucial indicator of reality articulated in acts of terror. What this means is that since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism, "the use of heavy military force to transform societies over there ... is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us".

Some of the chief findings that Pape reached include:
# 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.
# 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 territories that the terrorists view as their homelands.
# 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" is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists "coming at us".
# It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces in 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.
# Two-thirds of Al-Qaeda suicide terrorists from 1995 to early 2004 were from countries where the US had stationed combat troops since 1990.
# Before the US invasion, Iraq had never had a suicide-terrorist attack. Since the invasion, suicide terrorism has escalated rapidly, with 20 attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004 and over 50 in just the first five months of 2005. Every year that the US has stationed combat troops in Iraq, suicide terrorism has doubled.
# Of the terrorists since 1980 who completed the mission (actually killed themselves) most were walk-in volunteers. Very few were criminals, and few were 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 that any suicide-terrorist organizations were lying in wait in Iraq before the US invasion - the suicide terrorists have been produced by the invasion.
# Al-Qaeda certainly has demonstrated the capacity to attack, and in fact it has made over 15 suicide-terrorist attacks since 2002, more than all the years before September 11 combined. Al-Qaeda is not weaker now, it's stronger.
# Not every foreign occupation has produced suicide terrorism. This is where religion matters, but not quite in the way most people think. In virtually every instance where an occupation has produced a suicide-terrorist campaign, there has been a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied community.
# When there is a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied, this enables terrorist leaders to demonize the occupier in especially vicious ways.
# Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop - and often on a dime.
# The purpose of a suicide-terrorist attack is not so much to die as to kill, to inflict the maximum number of casualties on the target society to compel that target to put pressure on its government to change policy.
# If the government is already changing policy, then the whole point of suicide terrorism, at least the way it has been used for the past 25 years, doesn't come up.
# The reasons for the target selection of suicide terrorists appear to be much more based on operational rather than normative criteria. They appear to be looking for targets where they can maximize the number of casualties.

What does all this mean? Acts of terrorism and suicide are not random acts, but have clear strategic objectives. They can be political, but they are political only in terms of seeking to influence governments with respect of strategic interests related to occupation. While lobby and interest groups seek to influence democratic governments by words and electoral power, terrorists seek to do this through the only political means available to them. In their acts of violence, they seek to redress a power imbalance, that is, if the occupation ends, then so does terrorism.

Pape's findings point to the succinct view that the occupiers should get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and quickly. Their presence invites more violence. More violence leads to additional violence from all sides. This provides the perfect conditions for "a new kind of war" - an "endless" war...

...Pat Robertson says he warned President Bush before U.S. troops invaded Iraq that the United States would sustain casualties but that Bush responded, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."

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