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Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorismby Robert Anthony Pape
Synopses & Reviews
Suicide terrorism is rising around the world, but there is great confusion as to why. In this paradigm-shifting analysis, University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape has collected groundbreaking evidence to explain the strategic, social, and individual factors responsible for this growing threat.
One of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject, Professor Pape has created the first comprehensive database of every suicide terrorist attack in the world from 1980 until today. With striking clarity and precision, Professor Pape uses this unprecedented research to debunk widely held misconceptions about the nature of suicide terrorism and provide a new lens that makes sense of the threat we face.
FACT: Suicide terrorism is not primarily a product of Islamic fundamentalism.
FACT: The world’s leading practitioners of suicide terrorism are the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka–a secular, Marxist-Leninist group drawn from Hindu families.
FACT: Ninety-five percent of suicide terrorist attacks occur as part of coherent campaigns organized by large militant organizations with significant public support.
FACT: Every suicide terrorist campaign has had a clear goal that is secular and political: to compel a modern democracy to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.
FACT: Al-Qaeda fits the above pattern. Although Saudi Arabia is not under American military occupation per se, one major objective of al-Qaeda is the expulsion of U.S. troops from the Persian Gulf region, and as a result there have been repeated attacks by terrorists loyal to Osama bin Laden against American troops in Saudi Arabia and the region as a whole.
FACT: Despite their rhetoric, democracies–including the United States–have routinely made concessions to suicide terrorists. Suicide terrorism is on the rise because terrorists have learned that it’s effective.
In this wide-ranging analysis, Professor Pape offers the essential tools to forecast when some groups are likely to resort to suicide terrorism and when they are not. He also provides the first comprehensive demographic profile of modern suicide terrorist attackers. With data from more than 460 such attackers–including the names of 333–we now know that these individuals are not mainly poor, desperate criminals or uneducated religious fanatics but are often well-educated, middle-class political activists.
More than simply advancing new theory and facts, these pages also answer key questions about the war on terror:
• Are we safer now than we were before September 11?
• Was the invasion of Iraq a good counterterrorist move?
• Is al-Qaeda stronger now than it was before September 11?
Professor Pape answers these questions with analysis grounded in fact, not politics, and recommends concrete ways for today’s states to fight and prevent terrorist attacks. Military options may disrupt terrorist operations in the short term, but a lasting solution to suicide terrorism will require a comprehensive, long-term approach–one that abandons visions of empire and relies on a combined strategy of vigorous homeland security, nation building in troubled states, and greater energy independence.
For both policy makers and the general public, Dying to Win transcends speculation with systematic scholarship, making it one of the most important political studies of recent time.
From the Hardcover edition.
A sobering, thought-provoking study of suicide terrorism analyzes the political logic and motivations behind the phenomenon, charting incidents of suicide terrorism around the world since World War II, examining key patterns in the events, assessing their impact on the political process, and outlining ways in which governments and society can fight them. 30,000 first printing.
The Growing Threat
Suicide terrorism is rising around the world, but there is great confusion as to why. Since many such attacks--including, of course, those of September 11, 2001--have been perpetrated by Muslim terrorists professing religious motives, it might seem obvious that Islamic fundamentalism is the central cause. This presumption has fueled the belief that future 9/11's can be avoided only by a wholesale transformation of Muslim societies, a core reason for broad public support in the United States for the recent conquest of Iraq.
However, the presumed connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is misleading and may be encouraging domestic and foreign policies likely to worsen America's situation and to harm many Muslims needlessly.
I have compiled a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 through 2003--315 attacks in all.1 It includes every attack in which at least one terrorist killed himself or herself while attempting to kill others; it excludes attacks authorized by a national government, for example by North Korea against the South. This database is the first complete universe of suicide terrorist attacks worldwide. I have amassed and independently verified all the relevant information that could be found in English and other languages (for example, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Tamil) in print and on-line. The information is drawn from suicide terrorist groups themselves, from the main organizations that collect such data in target countries, and from news media around the world. More than a list of lists, this database probably represents the most comprehensive and reliable survey of suicide terrorist attacks that is now available.
The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world's religions. In fact, the leading instigators of suicide attacks are 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 suicide attacks than Hamas.
Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks 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 rarely the root cause, although it is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in other efforts in service of the broader strategic objective.
Three general patterns in the data support my conclusions. First, nearly all suicide terrorist attacks occur as part of organized campaigns, not as isolated or random incidents. Of the 315 separate attacks in the period I studied, 301 could have their roots traced to large, coherent political or military campaigns.
Second, democratic states are uniquely vulnerable to suicide terrorists. The United States, France, India, Israel, Russia, Sri Lanka, and Turkey have been the targets of almost every suicide attack of the past two decades, and each country has been a democracy at the time of the incidents.
Third, suicide terrorist campaigns are directed toward a strategic objective. From Lebanon to Israel to Sri Lanka to Kashmir to Chechnya, the
About the Author
Robert A. Pape is associate professor of political science at the University of Chicago, where he teaches international politics and is the director of the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism. A distinguished scholar of national security affairs, he writes widely on coercive airpower, economic sanctions, international moral action, and the politics of unipolarity and has taught international relations at Dartmouth College and air strategy for the U.S. Air Force’s School of Advanced Airpower Studies. He is a contributor to The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, and The Washington Post and has appeared on ABC’s Nightline and World News Tonight, National Public Radio, and other national television and radio programs.
Table of Contents
Introduction. The growing threat — Explaining suicide terrorism — pt. 1. The strategic logic of suicide terrorism. A strategy for weak actors — Targeting democracies — Learning terrorism pays — pt. 2. The social logic of suicide terrorism. Occupation and religious difference — Demystifying al-Qaeda — Suicide terrorist organizations around the globe — pt. 3. The individual logic of suicide terrorism. Altruism and terrorism — The demographic profile of suicide terrorists — Portraits of three suicide terrorists — Conclusion. A new strategy for victory — Acknowledgments — Appendix I. Suicide terrorist campaigns, 1980-2003 — Appendix II. Occupations by democratic states, 1980-2003 — Appendix III. Salafism in major Sunni Muslim majority countries.
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