Ron Paul is Correct

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.


re the first quote: Things aren't that clear cut. I suspect a army presence would be rather more palateable if the army were of the same religion as the occupied people. In each of the examples given, religious difference is central. I'll believe you if you can give me some convincing examples of terrorism developing in a territory where the locals and the occupiers are of the same faith.

I'd disagree with the first excerpt. The fact is, with the exception of Sri Lanka, the suicide bombers are all Muslims, motivated in part by their religions sanction of dying for their religion. Sri Lanka is a case of inter-ethnic violence and inter-religious, and has nothing to do with democracy or homeland. "Strategic objectives" are part of it, but without religion, usually Islam, no suicide bombers.

The fact is, with the exception of Sri Lanka,
the suicide bombers are all Muslims

Not to broaden the debate unnecessarily, but historically it seems like
most people are willing to glorify suicide attacks if circumstances
seem appropriate to them. See for example
Ricaurte, hero of Colombia, whose suicide attack is referred to in Colombia's national anthem. And that's a very Catholic country...

rdf, you might be interested in this from Michael Neumann in CounterPunch on the reason we are in Iraq and public support for war.

Alex's post seems to be searching for a coherent point.

It's an interesting detail that religion has very little to do with the bombings, but where's the paragraph going? That's it seems counterintuitive that democracies are occupying someone else's land?

And does that include Israel, in which case the matter of whose land is much too large and unsettled to flippantly say Palestinians are fighting an occupier.

It has also been covered already, but I'll add my two cents for clarity's sake; the head of the TSA has a job with defined parameters for what he is responsible for. Items coming on board the aircraft are obviously within those parameters, but the TSA policing areas for miles around every major airport are probably not. If they are, they need to be put under someone else's umbrella for the sake of efficiency.

The only thing I've found so far that I dislike about Levitt's writing is his tendency to bring up "big" ideas, and then leave out seemingly obvious details. His now famous opening of Freakonomics leaving off the obvious question; if abortion is responsible for the decline of that crime wave, what started it? (That's rhetorical.)

It's pretty dubious how far democracy can be considered an influence in anything that's happened with Chechnya. This was true under Yeltsin (where it was a regular military defeat the did cause the Russians to withdraw in the 1st war, and a war of aggression on false pretense so as to maintain criminal groups in charge of the country that started the 2nd war) and even more so under Putin.

"Lebanon in the 1980s, of those suicide attackers, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were Communists and Socialists. Three were Christians."

A straight-forward reading of the Qur'an appears to say the following:

- Islam, or submission to Allah, is the only way to heaven.

- The ideal for government is the institution of Sharia law over all citizens where:
- Every infidel must convert to Islam or face death.
- Jews and Christians are the only exceptions. Since Muhammad considered Islam a fulfillment of these religions, he let's them survive. However, they must still follow "Dhimmis," or the relegation under Islam throughout Islam's territory.

- Muslims in non-Islamic countries are simply buying time until Sharia law can be instituted. Radical Muslims in countries such as England and the Netherlands believe that they will eventually take over the country for Islamic law.

- The only guarantee of heaven is in dying in battle for Allah. It's hard for unmarried males to turn down the promise of virgins for death in battle.

Moderate Muslims typically rationalize away these portions of the Qur'an, much the same way that mainline protestants rationalize some parts of the Bible such as the rule against female pastors.

However, the clear reading of the Qur'an gives way to these points above. So many examples exist of Muslims killing for things most people consider inconsequential. Canada, a nation with a fairly benign foreign policy, faced the most serious threat of any western nation with the plot to bomb their capital. Literally hundreds of thousands of Hindus in India have been killed in the name of Allah since the 1940s. Theo van Gogh was killed riding his bike around a dutch neighborhood for exercising his right to free speech. Nuns were killed because of some Danish cartoons. A journalist was killed in Iraq because he married an Iraqi women from a Muslim family. Scores of women and gays have been killed in theocracies such as Iran and Afghanistan under the Taliban. 186 children were killed in the Christian state of Beslan in the hope of creating a conflict to eventually set up an Islamic state.

So, Newt is right. Radical Islam, and not some liberal notion about poverty or injustice, poses the greatest threat to liberal democracy today. While I don't like the way the Iraq war was handled either, I can understand the intentions of the neo-conservatives to break the chronic cycle of violence and Islamization.

I also read that article. The author, while semi-correct about recruitment dertailment being a powerful means of action, missed the biggest potential impact of all: Congress not funding the damned thing.

I read your citation, but he also dodges the question of why we invaded Iraq. It may not be important to his aims of withdrawing, but it is still an interesting question. The one idea he floats is to show our strength after 9/11.
That's not a dodge, you just don't find his theory satisfactory. It makes sense to me. The Iraq war was so incredibly idiotic that most conspiracy theory explanation don't hold water, and once the rational is discarded the only thing left is the irrational, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes.

I think this reflect the fact that the majority of people like the nanny state at home, but also like the US to act like an empire abroad.
Sounds like you agree with Bryan Caplan then!

You can see that both parties are having problems with their members. Neither group has a coherent philosophy.
The modal person does not have a coherent, consistent philosophy. See Public Opinion in Mass Publics.

fustercluck, Counterpunch is a far-left magazine. When the author says "left", he does not mean liberal. He does not expect any politician (except Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel and such) to follow his lead. His audience is far-left activists.

The guy with the most money calls the shots.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are the richest people in the world. If Bill Gates called the shots he wouldn't have wound up in front of the anti-trust court. Warren Buffet has called for taxes on him to be raised. Your theory fails.

Was terrorism used that often in Afghanistan? Terrorism is usually used in urban environments, where population density and media presence can result in very sensational attacks. Afghanistan seems too backwater for terrorism to be all that effective.

Guys - it's very simple. Read this slowly so you get it through your heads. Mankind evolved to be polygynous - where the high-status males had many chances to breed, and the low-status males got kicked out of the gene pool. Violence, force, power, whatever you want to call it - can be used by high-status males to maintain status, or by low-status males to gain it.
Most of the Islamic world is currently entering its 'demographic bulge' stage - that is, it has lots of young men. Much of the Islamic world also has polygyny, so a significant portion of the males will never mate (King Fahd of Saudi Arabia died in 2005; although he only had 4 wives at any one time, throughout his life he had 28 wives). Almost half of the foreign jihadis in Iraq are Saudi citizens. Surprised?
With the exception of the Tamil Tigers, nearly all suicide bombers are Islamic and male - what does the Koran promise martyrs? 72 Virgins. And although the Imans and other high-status males extol the virtue of martyrdom in their sermons, you'll notice they never actually go kaboom in an Israeli restaurant themselves. Why? The high-status males are eliminating their genetic competitors. Once in a blue moon one reads of female bombers; subsequent investigations have shown that these women were all facing 'honor killings' anyway. They can, however, restore honor (status) to their families by becoming 'martyrs.'

"The Iraq war was so incredibly idiotic that most conspiracy theory explanation don't hold water, and once the rational is discarded the only thing left is the irrational, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes."

The thing you leave out is that the administration was promoting the invasion as a "cake walk". This needs to be explained as well. Possibilities include:
deluded optimism because of "macho" posturings.

deluded optimism in response to the desire of the energy sector to take over the oil. Remember the only government structure given full protection immediately was the oil ministry. Bremmer pushed through a bill privatizing the oil industry. There are also maps from before the invasion showing which oil company would get which part of the oil field.

So the remarks of others above that the oil companies can't have been behind the invasion because they favor stability loses some of its force if it was widely believed that stability was going to be restored in a very short period of time.

The occupation and invasion are two separate phases with different goals and need to be analyzed independently. The German's in WWI didn't anticipate trench warfare. Things don't always go as planned...

Of course! Brown people are the cause of suicide bombs. That's why you see Mexicans blowing themselves up at the American border.

Oh wait, no. Besides the few Hindu suicide bombers in the Tamil's attempt to conquer Sri Lanka, suicide bombers are universally Muslim. You'd think that Dr. Paul would notice this, but I bet he's too busy fetishizing "Jesus" and the "Free Market" while wondering why "95% of black people are criminals" to figure things like this out.

IMO it is not necessary to prove that suicide terrorism is based on our presence in their lands to advocate a pull back to our own boarders, that is too difficult to prove. One just has to prove that our presence in their lands does no net good. The cost seems higher to me to keep our soldiers there than to tighten security at home, it seems to me that having our troops in the middle east does no good. Now one could make a case that the war deters more attacks but in this case I would argue that we should have left after winning the war, which we did in about 2 weeks. IMHO the latest we should have left Iraq was just after Sadaam was captured.

"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."

this is also Michael Scheurer's point, made in Imperial Hubris and his appearances in the media

For the same reason, Iran (which famously nationalized its oil under Mossadegh) has recently had riots over oil rationing due to the similarly ridiculously low price their consumers are given.

Iran is not rationing oil, which is a cheap commodity (for them). It is rationing imported refined gasoline/diesel. The riots aren't because oil is low-priced, but because it is expensive for the Iranian government to subsidize imported refined oil products.

This article backs up the claim that religion is not the primary driver of suicide terrorism, but I would contend that certain religions catalyze this behavior moreso than others.

Here I thought it was because some people give emotionally and mentally disturbed people, and people who are just plain beaten down by misery inherant in their political systems a lot of money to attack the scapegoats for the misery. Religion is merely 1 vehicle.

Suicide bombings are an act of desperation. I suggest reading some Spengler, who takes a different view than most:

Those maps show who had contracts in Iraq before the war. Unless there's something else I should have clicked.

we are invading Iraq for their oil, everybody knows that. I can say that in Chinese: 我们是一家专业的翻译公司.

This is Late to the party i know, but as probably one of the few who regularly read this blog from Sri Lanka.. I should correct Dennis/Antipaul, when they say it's inter-religious, religion for some reason has never entered to the fray in the conflict here. LTTE (the terror group) is in fact secular and had never made demands based on Hinduism, although most of them are probably Hindu with the rest probably Christian.

Also, contrary to what Dennis says one of the group's central demands is acceptance of a TAMIL HOMELAND in the north and east of Sri Lanka, so the logic of Pape's book, and Ron Paul's assertions are consistent with that case.

Whether that's the sole incentive is not clear, but it certainly is a very major factor.

This is a very interesting debate. It's definitely a disturbing thought to think that it could have been the US government. They would have a lot of explaining to do.

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