In a nonsensical New York Op-Ed today Robert Pape argues that suicide bombers are not motivated by religion, they are motivated by foreign occupation:
Over the past two years, I have compiled a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 through 2003 - 315 in all . . . The data show that there is far less of a connection between suicide terrorism and religious fundamentalism than most people think.
The leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families but who are adamantly opposed to religion. This group committed 76 of the 315 incidents, more than Hamas (54) or Islamic Jihad (27). Even among Muslims, secular groups like the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Al Aksa Martyr Brigades account for more than a third of suicide attacks.
In order to make his point Pape has ordered his information in a very dishonest way. He has put all the Tamil Tiger bombers into one group, but has divided Islamic terrorists into a number of different groups. While he tries to argue otherwise, his own data clearly shows that the vast bulk of suicide bombers are Muslims. It makes no sense to differentiate between Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Al Queda. Islamic fundamentalism is behind all the terrorist bombing in the Middle East.
Also, though they don’t believe in God, Marxist-Leninists are essentially a religious group. In fact, the philosophy is more religious than most religions. Christians, Jews and Muslims all believe in God despite the fact that they have never seen him. Marxists-Leninists believe in Marx and Lenin despite the fact that they are both demonstrably dead and their creed has been entirely discredited. Now that’s faith!
And if these people aren’t motivated by religion what is it that moves them? Pape has an answer:
What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks actually have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in seeking aid from abroad, but is rarely the root cause.
If this were the case then why are the vast majority of the suicide bombers in Iraq from other countries? Pape claims that most of the bombers in Iraq are Iraqi Sunnis and Saudi Arabians. But this is simply not true. Very few of the suicide bombers are from Iraq. The bulk are from Saudi Arabia and their attacks make no sense as strikes against “occupation.”
How to solve the problem? Pape has this incredibly unhelpful answer:
BEYOND recognizing the limits of military action and stepping up domestic security efforts, Americans would do well to recall the virtues of our traditional policy of "offshore balancing" in the Persian Gulf. During the 1970's and 1980's, the United States managed its interests there without stationing any combat soldiers on the ground, but keeping our forces close enough - either on ships or in bases near the region - to deploy in huge numbers if an emergency. This worked splendidly to defeat Iraq's aggression against Kuwait in 1990.
The difference here is that pretty much everyone in Kuwait was on our side when we liberated them. There was no insurgency. The suggestion that what worked with Kuwait might work with Iraq is preposterous.
How do we solve the problem of suicide bombing? Kill them first.
Additional Musings: I wonder if the phenomenon of exploding Muslims is related to this equally strange phenomenon.