walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Dying to Win_, Robert A. Pape (kindle)

Subtitled: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism
Published by Random House, 2005

Pape's thesis is simple: suicide terrorists are not lone actors, are not poor, uneducated young men with no prospects in life, don't necessarily come from (fundamentalist) (Islamic) countries and may or may not be (fundamentalist)(Islamic) themselves. They aren't people who are trying to die anyway, and just happen to do so in a particular way. They are men and women, of a wide variety of ages, who are part of a small group engaged in a concerted campaign over a period of time. This small group shares overall goals (a homeland, ending an occupation, etc.) with a much larger group that has a substantially asymmetric relationship with an occupying power that has a different religion.

Pape argues that all of these elements are important. He and a bunch of other people put together a database of suicide terrorism (quite tightly defined) and did a lot of research to try to understand who participated and how. The short form of the thesis is thus: hey, this isn't random or psychological and the individual actors are really tough to identify. The only way you're going to deal with the problem (after dealing with the currently on course missions) is to end the occupation that is triggering it. To that end, he favors a return to offshore balancing in the Middle East, border fences/walls, and getting out of any territory you aren't _really_ committed to keeping.

It's repetitive, so if you sampled, you'd get a solid sense of the book as a whole, but the repetition is fairly detailed argumentation and arguably worth slogging through. I don't necessarily agree with Pape's conclusion in policy terms; I don't think he goes nearly far enough in terms of ending our contribution to the problem.

I am, however, quite glad the book (and I believe there is a follow-up) exists and you can probably only benefit by understanding the points he is making about the conditions that pre-exist a suicide terrorist campaign.
Tags: book review, non-fiction, politics

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