Suicide terrorism is rising around the world, but there is great confusion as to why. In this paradigm-shifting analysis, University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape has collected groundbreaking evidence to explain the strategic, social, and individual factors responsible for this growing threat.
One of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject, Professor Pape has created the first comprehensive database of every suicide terrorist attack in the world from 1980 until today. With striking clarity and precision, Professor Pape uses this unprecedented research to debunk widely held misconceptions about the nature of suicide terrorism and provide a new lens that makes sense of the threat we face.
FACT: Suicide terrorism is not primarily a product of Islamic fundamentalism.
FACT: The world’s leading practitioners of suicide terrorism are the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka–a secular, Marxist-Leninist group drawn from Hindu families.
FACT: Ninety-five percent of suicide terrorist attacks occur as part of coherent campaigns organized by large militant organizations with significant public support.
FACT: Every suicide terrorist campaign has had a clear goal that is secular and political: to compel a modern democracy to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.
FACT: Al-Qaeda fits the above pattern. Although Saudi Arabia is not under American military occupation per se, one major objective of al-Qaeda is the expulsion of U.S. troops from the Persian Gulf region, and as a result there have been repeated attacks by terrorists loyal to Osama bin Laden against American troops in Saudi Arabia and the region as a whole.
FACT: Despite their rhetoric, democracies–including the United States–have routinely made concessions to suicide terrorists. Suicide terrorism is on the rise because terrorists have learned that it’s effective.
In this wide-ranging analysis, Professor Pape offers the essential tools to forecast when some groups are likely to resort to suicide terrorism and when they are not. He also provides the first comprehensive demographic profile of modern suicide terrorist attackers. With data from more than 460 such attackers–including the names of 333–we now know that these individuals are not mainly poor, desperate criminals or uneducated religious fanatics but are often well-educated, middle-class political activists.
More than simply advancing new theory and facts, these pages also answer key questions about the war on terror:
• Are we safer now than we were before September 11?
• Was the invasion of Iraq a good counterterrorist move?
• Is al-Qaeda stronger now than it was before September 11?
Professor Pape answers these questions with analysis grounded in fact, not politics, and recommends concrete ways for today’s states to fight and prevent terrorist attacks. Military options may disrupt terrorist operations in the short term, but a lasting solution to suicide terrorism will require a comprehensive, long-term approach–one that abandons visions of empire and relies on a combined strategy of vigorous homeland security, nation building in troubled states, and greater energy independence.
For both policy makers and the general public, Dying to Win transcends speculation with systematic scholarship, making it one of the most important political studies of recent time.
From the Hardcover edition.
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About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The facts clear the confusing fog of presidential rhetoric. For example, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka thus far carry out the majority of all suicide bombings in the world, and they operate from a Marxist-Leninist ideology in Hindu communities, and not from Islamic fundamentalism. Pape uses quantitative analysis to prove other facts that many other experts (former CIA agents, journalists, military officers, etc.) have already discussed in the many books on this subject. Large militant organizations carry out 95% of all suicide bombings in the world. Suicide bombings arise from political entities, such as Al Queda, Hamas, and the LTTE. The author develops this as his central thesis: suicide terrorism¿s goal arises from secular, nationalistic political demands while religion comes into play as a secondary ideological platform. Moreover, despite the rhetoric of western democracies, notably the U.S., they have yielded often to terrorists¿ demands. In 1983, the Americans and French withdrew from Lebanon as a result of Hezbollah¿s bombing that killed 241 U.S. Marines. This concession serves as one among nine major conflicts that Pape reviews. He argues that these concessions to terrorists have taught them to develop a logical approach to their operations and encouraged them to increase their campaigns.
While Pape assesses suicide bombers¿ motives by using more precise statistics, we might wonder why Bush II continues to mislead the American public by repeating that the terrorist bombers fight and kill because ¿they hate our freedoms.¿ On the contrary, the author demonstrates by quantitative facts what many other experts have been saying for some time -- that the terrorists wage war against democracies like the U.S. because they reject the U.S. military presence in their homelands, such as the Persian Gulf. The facts clear the confusing fog of presidential rhetoric. For example, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka thus far carry out the majority of all suicide bombings in the world, and they operate from a Marxist-Leninist ideology in Hindu communities, and not from Islamic fundamentalism. Pape uses quantitative analysis to prove other facts that many other experts (former CIA agents, journalists, military officers, etc.) have already discussed in the many books on this subject. Large militant organizations carry out 95% of all suicide bombings in the world. Suicide bombings arise from political entities, such as Al Queda, Hamas, and the LTTE. The author develops this as his central thesis: suicide terrorism¿s goal arises from secular, nationalistic political demands while religion comes into play as a secondary ideological platform.
Robert Pape's approach to Dying to Win is interesting in a variety of ways, including his heavy reliance on data, models and analysis, something often missing from historians of the Middle East. In reading the book, one gets the impression, however, that the author began with a conclusion and then worked the data in order to prove it. The conclusion or thesis of his work is that there is really little difference between Islamist suicide attackers and those of non-Islamic organizations, since what they share is an absolute nationalist commitment, coupled with a similar commitment to eject outsiders from their mist. The problem with this approach is that it relies on an analysis of suicide bombers only, as opposed to the movements, which spun them. Furthermore, Mr. Pape must take the position that for Muslims there are no nation-states and thus any non-Muslim presence in a predominantly Muslim land not only justifies the use of suicide attackers, but also provides enough impetus to get individuals from outside that country to join the fight and commit suicide. Nationalism, in this circumstance, would be based on loyalty to a supra-national Islamic state, as opposed to a more traditional country. Complicating the nationalist explanation is Iraq, where suicide attackers' often target and kill fellow Muslims, many of which do not support the occupation. In the end, the book is more interesting as a source of data and general methodology, than as a source of wisdom. It also illustrates how data, without sufficient context can be used to prove almost anything.
Obviously well informed, the Author suggests a novel and interesting approach to analyzing suicide terrorism from a statistical point of view in order to learn what we may from this new and scary phenomenon. For the first 100 or so pages, he delivers a generous share of often surprising facts about the wave of violence that is now sadly familiar in our lives, as well as very perceptive and generally incisive comments of his own. Unfortunately, this leads him to his 'Great Theory', and once he fully formulates it, the author will pound his points rather relentlessly and, sadly, at the cost of the intellectual rigor he demonstrated in the first few chapters. Be prepared for his parsing of the statistical universe until it serves the greater purpose of 'The Theory', as well as a rather shameless treatment of causality. Once the Truth appears, all arrows must be made to point in the 'right' direction. So, for example, suicide terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, we are told, because about a quarter of all recorded events were perpetrated by the Tamil Tigers. It doesn't matter that the first (and about three quarters of all) recorded events occurred in Islamic countries, or that they begun in the 1980's, which is to say contemporaneously with the rise of hard-core fundamentalist Islam, or even, as the author freely recognizes, that the Tamil's Tigers did explicitly copy the methods of their successful Middle-Eastern peers. No, it really has nothing to do with Islam. No references to Iranian children human waves used for clearing mines in the Iran-Iraq war, no, no conceptual connection there. As long as the political faction claiming the suicide attack is deemed secular (say, the PLO), the author is fully satisfied that it doesn't count as having anything to do with Islam. Even the clear correlation between the location of Western troops in the Middle-East and the apparent local appeal of suicide terrorism amongst the population, one of the authors strongest points, is given the accelerated causality treatment. He concludes, not surprisingly, that it is the presence of Western troops that is responsible, of course. It doesn't even occur to him that there might be a reason for these troops to be there in the first place. Maybe this was already a 'problem spot'? No, the author insists that the root cause of suicide terrorism is the presence of troops on the ground in Islamic countries. Considering that the US is being blamed for 'abandoning' Afghanistan after the Russian withdrawal, this is kind of funny. Didn't help there, it seems. Ah, but there were troops in other places. So nothing but a complete evacuation of all 'lands that the Muslims see as theirs' will do, I take it. Presumably, this includes parts of Brooklyn. So in the end, we are left with an interesting statistical analysis, many relevant point, and the nagging task to have to constantly remind ourselves that we need to interpret the facts for ourselves, as the author's conclusion is systematically, and some times comically, driven to demonstrate his 'Great Insight'. When one has the talent and intellectual abilities the author clearly demonstrates, as a reader, one should be able to expect a little rigor to boot. Not in this case.