The Origins of Suicide Terrorism

The (worringly named) American Conservative magazine has a pretty fascinating interview with Robert Pape, the author of Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism:

People who make the argument that it is a good thing to have them attacking us over there are missing that suicide terrorism is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.

There are a number of great quotes. Here’s another:

Another point in this regard is Iraq itself. Before our invasion, Iraq never had a suicide-terrorist attack in its history. Never. Since our invasion, suicide terrorism has been escalating rapidly with 20 attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004, and over 50 in just the first five months of 2005. Every year that the United States has stationed 150,000 combat troops in Iraq, suicide terrorism has doubled.

I can’t speak to the author’s politics, but he makes some pretty compelling observations on why American military intervention is unlikely to prevent (or even discourage) suicide-terrorist attacks. Near the end, there’s an interesting comparison to IRA terrorism in the eighties.


  1. I think I’ll actually have to pick that magazine up sometime. This is the third article from it that has been brought to my attention by decidedly non-conservative people, and all three have been worthwile reading.
    Maybe it’s a legacy title like those U.S. newspapers that toe the Bush line under old mastheads like, “The [some town] Democrat.”

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