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Giving profs the Boot

August 3, 2011 - Harry Eagar
Ordinarily, RtO wouldn't link to anybody else's book review, and more especially not one by Max Boot. I wouldn't give 2 cents for his opinions on economics. However, he takes down U. of Chicago's Richard Pape in a superb review in the Weekly Standard on the subject of suicide bombing.

Nut graf:

"While suicide bombing started with Hezbollah, it soon spread to other organizations, including a few secular groups, such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Pape makes much of the Tigers’ record of suicide attacks to deny any Islamic orientation to this tactic. But by his own count the Tigers killed 1,501 people in suicide attacks over 21 years (1987-2008). That works out to an average of 71 victims a year. The only other major campaign of suicide terrorism mounted by a secular group that Pape cites is the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which killed all of 43 people in Turkey between 1996 and 2008. Contrast this with the far bloodier record of Islamic suicide bombers from Chechnya to Israel. Pape’s database reveals that, since 1981, Muslim groups (not counting the PKK) have accounted for 93.7 percent of all deaths caused by suicide bombers—24,631 out of 26,277. This statistic isn’t cited in Pape and Feldman’s book, presumably because it is so at odds with their main argument."

This is especially timely, since it appears that later on today, Obama's White House is going to release a new program against domestic terrorism or radicalism that sounds (according to NPR) an awful lot like the subsidies Chicago gave to the Blackstone Rangers to behave back in the '60s -- which is perilously similar to the policy that Boot calls "Papism," and all are in line with the weak-kneed approach to Muslim terrorism advocated by one of Obama's primary advisers on antiterrorism, David Kilcullen. (See my review of his surrender appeal, "The Accidental Guerrilla."

My main point, however, neatly summarized by the nut graf, is that there is something in Islam that makes suicide bombing attractive, something not found in any other religion or ideology. As the nut graf makes clear, when non-Muslim actors try suicide tactics (Boot and Pape miss the Sikhs), they very quickly give it up.

With Muslims, though, the supply of suicide volunteers is apparently inexhaustible.

It is possible to search through history and find suicidal political actors here and there, notably the narodniki in late czarist Russia, but episodes are short and constricted, while suicidal attacks for political ends have a thousand-year history in Islam, always (contra Pape) explicitly religious. It is probably significant that when they were renewed in the 20th century, it happened in Lebanon, the ancestral source of Islamic suicidal religious doctrine.


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