Politics and Current Events

Ending suicide terrorism

jacket imageDespite a popular belief that suicide terrorism is the result of religious fanaticism, such attacks are really a calculated response to occupations by outsiders, according to Robert A. Pape and James K. Feldman in Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It. The book draws on exhaustively researched data on suicide attacks since 1980 in the Middle East, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, and around the world. The resulting picture is grim; as Pape recently noted, “Each month there are more suicide terrorists trying to kill Americans and their military allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other Muslim countries than in all the years before 2001 combined.” Nonetheless, based on this data, Pape claims, “we now have strong evidence that the narrative—that suicide terrorism is prompted by Islamic fundamentalism—is not true.” The real problem is the way American military force is deployed overseas.
Steve Clemons, writing for the Huffington Post, agrees, “Can it be that American military bases abroad, usually thought of as ‘stabilizers’ in tough neighborhoods, are really the primary cause of radical terrorism against the US and its allies? That is what Robert Pape and James K. Feldman compellingly argue in their new book.” Noting Pape and Feldman’s advocacy of a military strategy that would combine stationing American military personnel offshore and working more closely with local forces, Clemons concludes:

Pape is working from the data upward in formulating a smart strategy for military organization. . . . Pape sees a chance to neutralize the forces that could otherwise yield another generation of hardened terrorists, many of whom are willing to engage in suicide attacks. I know the Pentagon is listening—and this impresses me. Others should be too.

Read an excerpt of Cutting the Fuse here.