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
That’s Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism, an in interview from several years ago. Steve Levitt points to the interview in one of his best posts. Here’s one bit from Levitt. Read the whole thing.
For most government officials, there is much more pressure to look like you
are trying to stop terrorism than there is to actually stop it. The head of the
TSA can’t be blamed if a plane gets shot down by a shoulder-launched missile, but he is in serious trouble if a tube of
explosive toothpaste takes down a plane. Consequently, we put much more effort
into the toothpaste even though it is probably a much less important threat.