Costs and Constraints of Suicide Attacks

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It should come as no surprise that Kori Schake would dissent from Robert Pape's policy recommendations on Off-Shore Balancing. Professor Pape has already posted a response, as has Chad Levinson , a contributor to Cutting the Fuse. Pape is also fortunate enough to have two confederates in Greg Scoblete and Daniel Larison.

There are really a few arguments going on here. The first is whether or not the locations that the United States currently has troops stationed serve American interests. The second is whether or not we can accomplish our objectives with a less intrusive military policy. A third discussion, which is more common within blogs and groups that focus more on domestic politics, is what the data actually means. I feel, however, that a change in the way we think about this data (which I had no hand in collecting) would be very helpful in resolving the third question, and will allow us to move on to a more useful discussion of potential policy, even if we do not yet agree on the first two questions.

First, there's the finding of extremely strong correlation between occupation and suicide attacks. This is not a causal relationship. Professor Pape elaborates on secondary variables that explain when suicide attacks might not occur during an occupation, but I believe that the correlation is the key point. It is stretching the finding to extrapolate statements about terrorist motivation, culpability or rationality of actors.

I see the Logic of Suicide Terrorism (LST) as imposing costs on powerful actors and constraints on weaker ones. Powerful actors are usually the targets of suicide terrorism, either directly or indirectly, and suicide attacks are a very effective tool of the weak.

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