Robert A. Pape, the University of Chicago professor of Political Science gets it. US, British, Australian, Chinese, Russian and Israeli leaders should pay close attention to his words: “…suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation rather than the product of Islamic fundamentalism…” Pape’s insightful, well documented and thorough analysis of what he calls the strategic logic of suicide terrorism in his book Dying to Win (2006 Random House available through the CWIS Bookstore) clearly explains the use of terror tactics against the interests and forces of the United States, Britain and other allied states. Each state that has the military, economic and political capacity to occupy the lands of weaker peoples have become the target of terror tactics including suicide terrorism. This has been the common wisdom for virtually all of human history.
To resist occupation, Pape argues, the weaker people have one of two options to achieve removal of the occupying force: guerrilla war or suicide aimed at threatening through civilian fear the stability of the occupier as a tactic of resistance. If there is insufficient capacity to conduct guerrilla war, the resistance turns to suicide. To affirm his argument that Islamic fundamentalism is not the cause of suicide terrorism Pape points to his more than 25 years of data describing incidents of suicide attack. Jewish Zealots used the tactic of suicide terroism against the Romans, the Assassins in the eleventh and twelfth centuries used suicide terrorism and the Japanese introduced the kamikazes during World War II, Pape explains. According to his data, the Tamil (Hindu), the Sikh of India and secular groups associated with the Kurds, the Chechins and the Palestinians have all used the suicide tactic. Each of these groups explained their violence as resistance to occupation.
Pape goes on to explain that between 1980 and 2003 there were 315 suicide terrorist attacks worldwide “of which 301 were carried out as parts of eighteen organized coercive campaigns.”
The most conventional explanation for conflict between peoples over all of history has been occupation of one by the other. Scores of Fourth World nations are engaged in political, low intensity conflict and major military confrontations to resist occupation.
Pape’s suggestion is that countries like the United States wanting to protect oil interests in the Middle East ought to use the approach it has long used in the world: “off-shore balancing.” Set ships off the coast and enter regions when interests are threatened and then withdraw again. Stop occupying the territory of other peoples.
Foreign occupation of lands triggers resistance and suicide terrorism–not religious hatred. Pape gets it. State political leaders ought to get it now.
(c) 2007 Center for World Indigenous Studies
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