The Strategic Logic of Terrorism

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If you didn't get a chance to watch the live-streams yesterday, the New America Foundation hosted the University of Chicago's Robert Pape. Pape authored the book Dying to Win: the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism and has just unveiled a massive database of all the suicide attacks in the world since the 1980s.

At New America, Pape presented the new database and also discussed his research into suicide terrorism. In contrast to the popular assertions that terrorists "hate freedom" or want to build a 21st century Caliphate, Pape documents the true driver of suicide attacks: to compel a democracy to remove combat forces from territory the terrorists prize and/or want to liberate. It is not primarily a function of Muslim extremism, even if Muslim terrorists have embraced the tactic. Before 2003, the largest perpetrator of suicide terrorism was the Tamil Tigers, a Marxist group. It's also used by the PKK, a Kurdish/Marxist terror outfit. Suicide terrorism is popular, Pape argues, because it is lethally effective.

This doesn't mean that terrorists don't despise Western values or don't, in their minds, hope to restore Islamic rule, it just means that those things don't matter nearly as much as is presumed and don't figure centrally into the history of suicide violence.

His entire presentation is worth a watch:

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