Suicide Bombers as Freedom Fighters?
Jude Wanniski
June 27, 2005

 

Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Secular Suicides

From the dawn of civilization, the man of the house has been the protector of hearth and home from outside enemies; women were responsible for maintaining the household. Donald Rumsfeld, on the Sunday talk shows yesterday, clearly indicated he does not understand that the "insurgents" in Iraq are fighting and dieing, even willing to commit suicide if need be to protect hearth and home from the American invaders and occupiers. Rumsfeld still insists the suicide bombers are outside religious fanatics from Syria or Saudi Arabia and that Iraqis themselves wouldn't blow themselves up.

Rumsfeld has been wrong about a great many things as Defense Secretary and he is so again. Several months before the "war" began in 2003, I'd been advised by Iraqi dissidents in exile in London that young men were being trained as suicide bombers. This week's chilling cover story in Time magazine, an interview with a young Iraqi who is preparing for his own suicidal attack on "the Americans," makes it clear there is much more going that our troops are facing. But to complete the picture I'm also appending an article that ran in antiwar.com on June 10 by Michael Scheuer. It's a review of a book by an academic who has studied "suicide terrorism" and has concluded that it is secular in origin, not religious. And it goes to my point about the role of the male in defending the "home," or the "homeland" in this case. Of the many thousands of young men who died in the army of the American Revolution behind George Washington's leadership, how many knew their attacks against the British -- to expel them from our homeland -- were suicidal? In this light, Rumsfeld may finally right on something when he says it may take a dozen years to subdue the insurgents. If not more?

 
June 10, 2005
Throwing America a Life Preserver

by Michael Scheuer

Professor Robert Pape's brilliant new book "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism" gives Americans an urgently needed basis for devising a strategy to defeat Osama bin Laden and other Islamist militants. In scholarly and low-key prose, Pape delivers the results of his own extensive research and that done by the University of Chicago's Project on Suicide Terrorism. In so doing, Pape demolishes the relentlessly repeated assertion of the neoconservatives and Israeli politicians that Islamist suicide attacks against America and other counties are launched by undereducated, unemployed, alienated, apocalyptic fanatics who are eager to kill themselves because Americans vote, have civil liberties, and allow women to drive cars. This assertion always has been transparently false, and I have argued so in my own work on al-Qaeda. It has been, however, an assertion that is easy to protect because its authors simply dismiss their critics by calling them anti-Semites, thereby foreclosing debate. But Pape avoids contentious rhetoric and employs facts to kill the assertion, and he does so coolly and with the precision of a Marine sniper.

The basis of Dying to Win is Pape's study of the 315 known suicide terrorist attacks that occurred in the world between 1980 and 2003, attacks carried out by Muslims, Tamils, Sikhs, and Kurds. Pape concludes that "the data show there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any of the world's religions."

"Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is rarely the root cause, although it is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in other efforts in service of the broader strategic objective."

Yes, Pape has documented both the valid logic behind the use of suicide attacks they are an effective weapon for an inferior force fighting a great power, especially a pain-averse, democratic great power and the reality that groups using such attacks are playing for strategic stakes: Their goal is victory, not mere destruction. The suicide attacks by each of the groups studied in Dying to Win, Pape concludes, were "mainly a response to foreign occupation rather than the product of Islamic fundamentalism." In sum, America faces a logical, patient, and deliberate enemy, one with clear strategic goals. This enemy is attacking because he perceives his country, culture, and/or religion are under attack. In addition, Pape shows conclusively that suicide attackers are usually respected and even revered in their own societies because they are defending those societies against a foreign threat. Simply put, Pape suggests there is no sound reason to believe the pool of potential suicide attackers can be dried up as long as their societies perceive an existential threat to their existence.

Pape's conclusions flow into a set of recommendations that cannot be too highly commended to American leaders and citizens, whatever their political persuasion: For near-term self-defense, America must kill as many of this generation of terrorists as possible while simultaneously beginning to terminate the interventionist policies and presence that motivate our present enemies and, if continued, will motivate greater numbers in the next generation. Pape warns that the hands-on, Wilsonian crusaders who today control both U.S. political parties have already vastly increased the likelihood of another 9/11 attack via their efforts to use military force to spread democracy abroad; this he calls the "taproot" of the suicide attackers' motivation. Pape argues that the "most important" concept for Americans the leaders and the led is that

"[A]n attempt to transform Muslim societies through regime change is likely to dramatically increase the threat we face. The root cause of suicide terrorism is foreign occupation and the threat that foreign military presence poses to the local community's way of life. Hence, any policy that seeks to conquer Muslim societies in order, deliberately, to transform their culture is folly. Even if our intentions are good, anti-American terrorism would likely grow, and grow rapidly."

This reality, Pape recognizes, will require changes in America's relations with the Persian Gulf states, getting our military out of Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula, and the implementation of an energy policy that makes Arab oil production substantially less important to our economy. In other words, America must heed John Quincy Adam's advice that disaster lurks for America in every effort it undertakes to destroy monsters abroad in order to install democracy in their place. What Adams knew based on historical study and intuition, Pape has splendidly documented with cold, hard facts. All honor and praise to Professor Robert Pape and his colleagues at the University of Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism not only for solid and penetrating research, but for leaving the neoconservatives, the Israelis, and the world's other Wilsonian democracy-installers with the formidable task of finding a way to attribute "anti-Semitism" to the mass of data painstakingly accumulated and evenhandedly presented in the invaluable book, Dying to Win.