Thursday, May 19, 2005

Blowing Up an Assumption

/ suicide / bombers / secular /
This piece by Robert Pape in the NYT is an analysis of who exactly commits suicide bombings. The results of a detailed research are quite contrary to a lot of widely held assumptions:

...Over the past two years, I have compiled a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 through 2003 - 315 in all. This includes every episode in which at least one terrorist killed himself or herself while trying to kill others, but excludes attacks authorized by a national government (like those by North Korean agents against South Korea). The data show that there is far less of a connection between suicide terrorism and religious fundamentalism than most people think.

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. This group committed 76 of the 315 incidents, more than Hamas (54) or Islamic Jihad (27). Even among Muslims, secular groups like the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Al Aksa Martyr Brigades account for more than a third of suicide attacks...

...Three general patterns in the data support these conclusions. First, nearly all suicide terrorist attacks - 301 of the 315 in the period I studied - took place as part of organized political or military campaigns. Second, democracies are uniquely vulnerable to suicide terrorists; America, France, India, Israel, Russia, Sri Lanka and Turkey have been the targets of almost every suicide attack of the past two decades. Third, suicide terrorist campaigns are directed toward a strategic objective: from Lebanon to Israel to Sri Lanka to Kashmir to Chechnya, the sponsors of every campaign - 18 organizations in all - are seeking to establish or maintain political self-determination.

Before Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, there was no Hezbollah suicide terrorist campaign against Israel; indeed, Hezbollah came into existence only after this event. Before the Sri Lankan military began moving into the Tamil homelands of the island in 1987, the Tamil Tigers did not use suicide attacks. Before the huge increase in Jewish settlers on the West Bank in the 1980's, Palestinian groups did not use suicide terrorism.

And, true to form, there had never been a documented suicide attack in Iraq until after the American invasion in 2003. Much is made of the fact that we aren't sure who the Iraqi suicide attackers are. This is not unusual in the early years of a suicide terrorist campaign. Hezbollah published most of the biographies and last testaments of its "martyrs" only after it abandoned the suicide-attack strategy in 1986, a pattern adopted by the Tamil Tigers as well..."

Which confirms an older post that more or less asserted as much.

via Metafilter

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is an extremely interesting conclusion, but possibly flawed (I am not confident enough of this to say probably, yet). For one thing, he makes out the Tamil tigers to be "worse" than the palestinians, essentially because they have one group, whereas the Palestinians have splintered! Furthermore, it matters not what hat the (Arab) suicide bomber's purported organisation wears. It's what he/she believes that makes him/her opt for the choice of killing civilians on purpose by suicide bombing. As for desperation being the driving force, do you really believe the 19 hijackers which hit the US were *that* desperate?

Conversely let me offer some food for thought for us all: lots of peoples have been plenty depserate at various times of their history. Some of them, did do some bad things, but did they resort to "suicide" attacks against the "enemy"? What made them different from the contemporary Arab, or indeed the contemporary Arab from that of 30-40 years ago?

"Second, democracies are uniquely vulnerable to suicide terrorists; America, France, India, Israel, Russia, Sri Lanka and Turkey"...this is really hilarious: Sri Lanka, Russia and Turkey in the same league as US and France from a democratic-police state perspective!??!