The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Actual Logical Thought on Terrorists?

Via Yglesias, a fascinating interview (in The American Conservative, no less) with a guy who's actually studied every documented suicide bombing of the last 25 years and determined that, basically, suicide bombers are inpired by one thing, and one thing only: territorial occupation by a readily-demonized "other."

Why yes, now that you mention it, that would have been handy to know back in the winter of '02-'03.

Anyway, it's really worth a read, as it wipes away all of the rhetoric, all of the "moral clarity," and gets to the bottom line:
The central motive for anti-American terrorism, suicide terrorism, and catastrophic terrorism is response to foreign occupation, the presence of our troops [in the Persian Gulf]. The longer our forces stay on the ground in the Arabian Peninsula, the greater the risk of the next 9/11, whether that is a suicide attack, a nuclear attack, or a biological attack.

To summarize the rest, a few specific points he hits:

- The #1 suicide attack group in the world is the secular, Marxist Tamil Tigers. Couple this with the virtually complete absence of suicide bombers from Iran and Sudan, two populous, radically-Islamist countries, and you see the fallacy of those who insist that Islam itself is somehow the problem.

- The presence of a political process - "light at the end of the tunnel," as it were, has a powerful reducing effect on suicide (and other) attacks. Evidence for this has been seen in Palestine & Northern Ireland.

- The cessation of occupation leads almost instantly to cessation of suicide attacks. Lebanon here is an extremely clear example, where dozens of attacks occurred while US, French, & Israeli forces were present, and stopped quickly and almost completely once they were removed.

The notion that "they" attack us because they "hate our freedom," or feel economically shamed by Western wealth simply has no basis in observed fact. Sure, the rhetoric may indicate some of that, but for the rhetoricians to actually get recruits, they need bodies, and the surest way to get bodies so filled with rage as to kill themselves is to create a situation where every day brings with it fresh outrage, fresh evidence of seemingly-endless occupation.

To be honest, I bring this up less as a point about our being in Iraq (although the lessons are crystal-clear), and more about our overall approach to terror. While non-suicide attacks are clearly no more inherently evil, no more devastating than others, they are a useful barometer. If it is possible to identify viable strategies to reduce or eliminate such attacks, it follows that other attacks would also be reduced, to the point where they are, as someone once put it, more of a nuisance and less of an existential threat.


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