Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Rationality of Suicide Bombing

Confusion still reigns over the issue of jihadis, Islamism, and suicide terrorism. This confusion causes ignorant discussion and even more destructive policy recommendations.

Colmar3000 linked this article by Lee Smith. Wherein we find this quotation:

After a certain point, people's willingness to be recruited for a cause does not depend on outrage or vengeance, but on whether or not they believe that cause is likely to succeed. Rational people do not generally volunteer for a suicide mission, nor a cause doomed to failure. And there's the rub. Many of these fighters in Iraq have signed up precisely because they want the chance to kill themselves, along with US-led coalition troops, and/or sectarian rivals. Indeed, the suicide bombing--or in Islamic parlance, the "martyrdom operation"--is the signature act of Islamic radicals across the world, from Baghdad to Bali, and Morocco to Manhattan. By and large then, we are not talking about rational people, but suicidal-homicidal fanatics in search of a theatre where they can exercise their already radical impulses. From this perspective, opening up a front in Iraq, far from American cities and civilians, where American soldiers can kill radical Muslims isn't such a bad idea. Moreover, driving such fanatics into a jihad-zone like Iraq is a time-tested survival strategy for many Arab regimes.

Compare that view with this one [interviewed by the American Conservative btw], from Robert Pape, author of the Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Pape is the first scholar to study the demographics behind all suicide attacks--however much information is available for each--from 1980-2004. The leading suicide bombers in the world, the inventors of the suicide bombing vest--who do you think.....Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda....wrong, wrong, wrong. The Tamil Tigers a Marxist, secular minority in Sri Lanka.

Listen to Pape:

RP: The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents—has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw. Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us.

Pape notes further down that to the best of our records, the most suicide bombers in Iraq are Sunni Iraqi Arabs and Saudis, the two groups most vulnerable to transformation from the Americna presence in Arabian peninsula.

Hezbollah, which formed as a resistance movement to Israeli occupation and achieved partial successes in its again recent combat of Israeli incursions into Lebanon, was more an umbrella organization for suicide bombers. Many of Hezbollah suicide bombers were atheists, Marxists, even a few Christians killed themselves for Hezbollah. Of Hezbollah's suicide bombing campaign of the 80s, 8 were Islamic fundamentalists, 27 Communists and Socialists, 3 Christians.

Pape's work also shows that the tired old cliche about how these are fanatics, psychologically maladpted. Rather as history has shown, the "fanatics" are almost without exception well educated middle class individuals who either don't fit in with an occupied ideology or not accepted in a foreign context---e.g. Mohammad Atta, leader of the 9/11 attack being radicalized after his stint as a secular pro-Western student in Germany.

Now suicide bombing alone should not define American foreign policy. But it is true that the reason we have suffered attacks domestically and internationally is that of our forces being installed in other countries, particularly the Arabian peninsula.

Americans still look at jihadis through the lens of Al-Qaeda which is a mistaken notion. AQ is a minor movement within jihadism, and if not minor at least quite distinct. Insofar as AQ seeks to destroy the far enemies of Israel/US first, trying to unite all jihadis under one banner (Osama's ego?) and then leaving the near enemies of Saudi Arabia/Jordan/Syria, etc open to attack. Jihadism of the future (and the past) is much more along the lines of Zarqawi. Going to Iraq where the Americans are, fighting them, passing information/techniques through global communication open-source tactics.

Now whether we should be in certain countries is a different question. But part of the discussion of any future ventures is honesty that if we are occupying a non-modern rule of law democracy (and why in hell would we occupy anything else?), then suicide bombing will increase. There are not a finite number of suicide bombers that can all be sucked into one main location. Occupations bred suicide bombings, period.

The real issue remains that the US has no capacity to actually deal with counterinsurgencies. The only possible way for that to occur is US leveraging of other nations skill sets. Especially with China and India supplying massive numbers of boots on the ground for any future such movement. And I stress China.

The National Intelligence Report stated that our presence in Iraq has increased numbers of jihadis/suicide bombers. This is true and accords with Pape's thesis that foreign democracies occupying non-integrated countries is the prime reason for suicide bombing campaigns.

The NIE estimate also stated that if the jihadis lost in Iraq, the movement worldwide would lose support. Yes (to a degree)--it would lose mass support in Iraq but still be likely during any other occupation.

Notcie the useless political parties cherrypicking on this estimate. The Democrats only piece out that our presence increases radical movements. Republicans point to the estimate as proof we should stay in Iraq.

Of course the Democrats have no plan for what happens after we leave Iraq. And the Republicans can't admit that we won't win in Iraq. We won the war, lost the peace. Iraq has to break up, it will be bloody around Baghdad and the Maliki government can not hold. A recent poll undertaken for the [British] Ministry of Defence and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, shows that up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country.

Americans look at this through the Vietnam lens. Kissinger is still talking to Bush, as we learn in Bob Woodward's new book. Kissinger still believes that we were winning in 1972 and were months away from victory, only to have defeat snatched from those victorious jaws by Congress, American people. He thinks the same, it appears, in Iraq.

You hear the argument from conservatives that Vietnam had no popular government but that the Iraqi government is freely elected. That may be, but the Americans are not wanted. We have failed to win the hearts and minds of the people. That window shut at least 2 years ago in my estimation. You can not win the peace in counterinsurgency struggles when the populace supports them.

Except that Vietnam is now thanks to China, going capitalist. So are former Yugoslav Balkan states. But it will require the US to be gone. Iran will be the ones like China to Vietnam to bring the market gap to least Shia southern Iraq.

So we will pull out....Republicans blaming the loser lefties and Democrats retreating to isolationism along with some far right nativist types, everyone failing to see what is really happening.

Forms of victory and loss.


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