Thursday, July 14, 2005

Richard Pape revisited 

Richard Pape seems to be our leading expert on the causes of suicide terrorism. His basic argument is that suicide terrorists almost always consider themselves to be resisting at least perceived occupation. This is not to say that all military occupations trigger suicide terror attacks, but that the perpetrators of virtually all such attacks genuinely, even if inanely, believe that they are resisting foreign occupation.

I have been pretty tough on Pape in the past, because I think that his theory, while interesting and probably true as far as it goes, explains both too much and too little. In the interests of completeness, though, I commend to you this interview of Pape, in which he articulates his argument much more completely than in the press accounts that I read. It is well worth reading.

I may write more on this in a couple of days. Suffice it to say that I think that Pape is on much stronger ground when he discusses the causes of suicide bombing than when he proposes the remedy, which is the withdrawal of American troops from Arab lands and a reversion to the "offshore balancing" strategy of the 1970s and 80s.
For us, victory means not sacrificing any of our vital interests while also not having Americans vulnerable to suicide-terrorist attacks. In the case of the Persian Gulf, that means we should pursue a strategy that secures our interest in oil but does not encourage the rise of a new generation of suicide terrorists.

In the 1970s and the 1980s, the United States secured its interest in oil without stationing a single combat soldier on the Arabian Peninsula. Instead, we formed an alliance with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which we can now do again. We relied on numerous aircraft carriers off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and naval air power now is more effective not less. We also built numerous military bases so that we could move large numbers of ground forces to the region quickly if a crisis emerged.

That strategy called “offshore balancing,” worked splendidly against Saddam Hussein in 1990 and is again our best strategy to secure our interest in oil while preventing the rise of more suicide terrorists.

One can never derive "what ought" from "what is," and while Pape's explanation of the motives of suicide bombers may well be the best that we have at our disposal (I have no idea, really), Pape should recall that it was the collapse of "offshore balancing" that put American troops into Arabia in the first place.


By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Thu Jul 14, 09:06:00 AM:

For anybody on the planet who has children, you tend to understand reflexively that if you reward a behavior, you get more of it. Alternatively, if you respond to unwanted behavior in a fashion which is in direct contradiction to the objective, that behavior over time tends to stop.

Sharon's tough responses to Palestinian suicide bombing, including killing Hamas's leadership, arresting and killing prospective bombers, building a separation fence and shutting down the Palestinian economy has markedly reduced suicide bombing.

American intervention in the Middle East will continue to escalate as long as the US is threatened with and experiences terrorism. Osama is simply wrong about American resolve and toughness. A suicide bombing in Grand Central Station (likely, in my judgment) will lead to an escalated American military involvement in the Middle East, just as 9/11 begat the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars.

Over time, the wahhabi idiots will begin to figure out it ain't working. Assuming there's any of them left.  

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