Middle East studies in the News
Religious Extremism Not the Leading Cause of Terrorism, Professor Says [on Robert Pape]
by Joe Levine
The founder of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism said that military occupation of foreign territory does little to prevent terroristic attacks.
In fact, it is often the cause of more attacks.
Dr. Robert Pape, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, spoke at the University of Georgia Thursday to discuss the biggest killer out of all terrorist attacks: suicidal terrorism.
"What you see is powerful evidence, both in the data and from the attackers themselves, that military occupation is the principle trigger in suicidal terrorism," he said.
Suicidal terrorism has been the focus of Pape's studies since 9/11. His organization has compiled data on 4,500 suicide attacks from 1982 to February 2015. The database, which is publicly available on CPOST's website, requires at least two independent sources to confirm an attack. By compiling the most thorough and accurate database for suicide terrorism, Pope said he has found the key cause for most suicide attacks.
"Over 95 percent of all suicide attacks around the world are driven by a strategic logic to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces from territory the terrorists consider to be their homeland," Pape said.
Pape said that initially, he expected suicide terrorism to be strongly related to Islamic extremism, which he said is the perception that most of the mainstream media perpetuates. However, after analyzing the data and looking at specific examples, he saw that most attacks were simply strategies to force military withdrawal and were not religiously motivated.
This was the case in Lebanon and the West Bank in the 80s and 90s and that it applies to Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years, Pape said.
He pointed to Hezbollah's truck bombing of U.S. Marines in Beirut back in 1983 to illustrate when this strategy emerged and why it became so popular.
"They killed 271 of our troops at the loss of just one of theirs. Four months later, Ronald Reagan, no pacifist, decided to withdraw all American combat forces from Lebanon rather than face the risk of another suicide attack," he said. "That sent a message to terrorists – not just in Hezbollah, not just in Lebanon, but basically around the world – that suicide terrorism pays."
And as the United States continues to occupy foreign territory, suicide terrorism has continued, Pape said.
"The main issue here with occupation is you have one distinct group occupying another distinct group so that group B fears that its lifestyle is going to be distorted by group A," he said. "So the biggest distinction between them socially, the more group B should likely fear their way of life changing."
Pape said moving forward, it is crucial that we realize what's behind these attacks.
"If we don't understand the actual logic…we could easily make matters worse," he said.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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