Friday, April 25, 2008

Getting one step beyond the hype.

The surge is working so violence is up and we can't leave. If the surge had worked violence would have been reduced and we wouldn't be able to leave. The level of discourse related to violence in Iraq is pathetic. Somewhere out there, though, is Robert Pape, doing the actual stats and work showing that most of what you know about suicide bombing is wrong. Foreign Policy Watch: It's the Occupation, Stupid
Writing for The Independent, Robert Fisk notes that the Iraq invasion has spawned an incredible spike in suicide attacks. Since the war began, some 1,121 Muslims have blown themselves up. "On several days," Fisk writes, "six even nine suicide bombers have exploded themselves in Iraq in a display of almost Wal-Mart availability. If life in Iraq is cheap, death is cheaper." The numbers are particularly surprising, given the history. Between 1980 and 2003, there were 'just' 315 suicide attacks by terrorist groups around the world. In the past five years, those numbers have jumped severalfold.
Fisk relies on Pape for his article. Pape himself makes a good case in the NYT. Blowing Up an Assumption - New York Times
To make sense of this apparent contradiction, one has to understand the strategic logic of suicide terrorism. Since Muslim terrorists professing religious motives have perpetrated many of the attacks, it might seem obvious that Islamic fundamentalism is the central cause, and thus the wholesale transformation of Muslim societies into secular democracies, even at the barrel of a gun, is the obvious solution. However, the presumed connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is misleading, and it may spur American policies that are likely to worsen the situation.
If you have an iPod I believe that Pape's talks are still available from iTunes on the Cato Events podcasts or the Centre for Foreign Relations podcasts. He give basically the same talk in both forums.   Blowing Up an Assumption - New York Times
What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks actually have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in seeking aid from abroad, but is rarely the root cause. 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.

Okay, so here's my proposal. When we talk about suicide bombers as individuals, we may talk about their individual motivations and religion might play a role there. But as we start talking about the war, bombing campaigns and the view from 30,000 feet as it were, religion has to come off the table. It's not part of the larger picture.

And if you say they hate us for our freedoms, I get to slap you. With a frying pan.

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