THE ZEN OF SUICIDE BOMBING
By Alan Caruba
The succession of suicide bombings in Iraq influenced the outcome of the recent U.S. election to the point where a majority of Americans have signaled the government that it is time, in their opinion, to leave Iraq. Prior to the 2003 “Coalition” invasion, Iraq had never had a suicide terrorist attack in its history.
Robert A. Pape, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and Director of the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism, is the author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. He recently had an analysis published by the Cato Institute called What We’ve Learned Since 9/11. Policy wonks like myself read the Cato Analysis papers to get behind and beyond the daily headlines.
Pape understands the suicide bomber like few others. So, let me share some of his insights: “Suicide is an especially convincing signal of future intent because it suggests that the attackers could not have been deterred, and future attackers will not be, by a threat of costly retaliation.”
Put aside, for the moment, the dramatic 9/11 Islamist attacks on America. We know that the U.S.A. elected to inflict a costly retaliation on the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban have returned to Afghanistan and are, once again, waging a guerrilla war there. Just as they originally wanted the Russians out, now it is the Americans.
We did not, however, invade Iraq as the result of 9/11, although the invasion was sold on the basis of a potential future attack on the U.S. homeland or on its allies in the Middle Eastern region. We attacked Iraq for the strategic reason that it would (1) depose a troublemaking dictator, (2) lure terrorists to a place where they could be killed, and (3) provide the U.S.A. with a military platform in the most important, strategic location in the Middle East.
Vital to understanding the action taken, there was clearly a perceived need to protect the West’s access to Iraq’s oil reserves, as well as other reserves in the region, such as those of the Saudis, Kuwaitis, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, all of them Sunni societies, and all of them fearing Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime and now fearing the radical Shiite regime in Iran.
A relative handful of suicide bombers have successfully forced the U.S.A to reevaluate its strategic goals, and it is not surprising that most attacks occur in Baghdad, where they receive maximum media coverage -- coverage by a media that is largely opposed to our objectives there.
Since the 1980s, the West has pulled back from military engagements, ranging from Lebanon, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia where our troops were garrisoned, and other places in the Middle East. Nations such as Spain and Great Britain, whose troops were allied with the U.S.A., also experienced terrorist bombings.
According to Pape, “The data showed that all suicide terrorist campaigns have in common a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists value.”
Like 9/11, it is not the dregs of Islamic society committing these acts of terror. As often as not, the bombers are educated members of the middle class. They are primarily motivated by a “deep anger over Western combat forces in the Persian Gulf region and other predominantly Muslim lands.”
The vast bulk of the suicide terrorists have been Saudis, and this is understandable, if one considers that it is the locus of Wahhabism, the most fundamentalist of Islamic sects.
Pape states: “If al-Qa'ida no longer drew recruits from the Muslim countries where there is an American combat presence, the remaining transnational network would pose a far smaller threat and might well simply collapse.”
This fact requires one to ask the question of the value of keeping American and Coalition troops in the Middle Eastern region. Pape concludes that, “The longer this suicide terrorist campaign continues, the greater the risk of new attacks in the United States.”
The coup de gras he delivers is the view:
Welcome to that spot between a rock and a hard place. Benjamin Franklin famously once said that, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
We need to find that delicate balance between the protection of our interest in the flow of oil from the region and engagement with the forces competing for hegemony there. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but the failure to project our power will only create a vacuum that would swiftly be filled by Islamic extremists.
Middle Eastern nations have spawned a new, very long war between each other and, so long as we play soldier in their sandbox, it is a war directed against the West as well. If we leave, does anyone believe it will get better?
Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors
North Africa -- The Arab States of Islamic North Africa
The Middle East & the Problem of Iraq
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The Problem of Rogue States:
Iraq as a Case History
National Strategy for Victory in Iraq
The Middle East & the Problem of Iran
Egypt, Arabs, & the Middle East
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Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
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Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
U.S. National Security Strategy
American Foreign Policy -- Constitutional Democracy:
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Alan Caruba is a veteran business and science writer, a Public Relations Counselor, and Founder of the National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about media-driven scare campaigns. Caruba writes a weekly commentary, "Warning Signs," posted on the Internet website of the National Anxiety Center, which is located at www.anxietycenter.com.
Caruba’s new book, Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy, has been published by Merril Press.
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