The Buggy Series on Terrorism Marches On
In late July 2005 a new prof-bug series began on jihad terrorism, especially of the sorts that Al Qaeda and either its affiliates or imitators among radical Islamists embody on a world-wide scale . . . a global threat these days that rightly worries a hundred or more countries, whether democratic or authoritarian or for that matter Muslim or non-Muslim. The threat is all the greater because of the clear evidence that these jihad terrorist groups have been seeking to obtain WMD --- nuclear, chemical, and biological. As it happens, even the book by Robert Pape that the buggy series started focusing on in the 2nd buggy article in the series --- Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism --- agrees that Al Qaeda and other suicide-terrorist groups could acquire nuclear weapons in the future (p.6).
That fear of his, as it also happens, is about the only thing that his book’s arguments have in common with the buggy professor’s understanding of jihad terrorism, whether suicidal in nature or not. Pape's fear, though, is odd. It clashes with his policy-advice, which was set out at length in the two previous buggy articles. After all, were the US and its allies to follow his advice, then al Qaeda's nationalist goals --- basic and overarching in the terrorist group's motives and behavior, says Pape --- would be satisfied, wouldn't they? And so bin Laden and his "altruistic" colleagues would have no incentive to acquire either nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, let alone use them against the US and others, yes?
Of course, if Pape had said in his last chapter (where he is generous with his policy-advice) that it might not be followed --- and that al Qaeda would continue its quest after super-destructive weaponry as a terrorist weapon --- this would be another matter; and also consistent with his theoretical analysis. But he didn't say that: not anywhere.
Today’s buggy article is the 3rd devoted to analyzing the problems and other defects of Pape’s views of suicide terrorism, Al Qaeda’s included.
On jihad as a religion-sanctioned use of violence and war against infidels --- glossed over and sugarcoated by the pc-infested apologists in the Middle East Studies Association in this country, one of whose heads bragged after 9/11 that he was glad none of the members had remotely predicted such a terrorist attack from fundamentalist Muslims, and the current head (Juan Cole) who has tried to carry out a personal but secret campaign to smear the major Middle East scholar who has uncovered the towering defects of their work on Islamist movements and the pc-pieties that underlie their apologia --- see two recent and important book-length studies: click here and here Regarding Juan Cole's efforts to smear Martin Kramer, a scholar whose work in knowledge and insight towers above Cole's feeble excuse-making pc-pieties, click on the Kramer site and read Cole's exposed character-assasination memo to his fellow pc-acolytes and Kramer's astonished, detailed replies.
What The First Two Buggy Articles On Pape Tried to Show
The initial article on Pape’s book was mainly confined to summarizing its overall thesis about suicide-terrorism, plus the various arguments and evidence that he offers up in support of it. The 2nd article shifted tack. It began grappling with the numerous problems and other shortcomings that bedevil the entire book. In particular, it uncovered several gaps in Pape’s data-base of suicide-terrorist attacks --- a complete catalogue, he claims --- that were carried out between 1980 and the end of 2003 . . . not to forget several wrong or questionable ways he presented and interpreted the data in his initial chapters.
It brings us smack up against the numerous defects that beset and beleaguer his general theory of suicide-terrorism as well as the specific arguments, quantitative and qualitative, that he sets out in support of the theory.
Taken together --- whether intentionally or not --- the shortcomings and omissions in his data-base and his use of it alone, nothing else, end up whitewashing the clear connections between the vast number of suicide-terrorist organizations and clear connections to Islamist jihad-extremism. Worse, by obscuring or arguing away these connections, Pape’s data and uses of it --- including some statistical tests that we’ll begin looking at today --- repeatedly twist and strain at supporting his overall thesis about suicide-terrorisms since 1980.
In a nutshell, all 18 suicide-terrorist campaigns --- 5 of which were still ongoing at the end of 2003 --- have first and foremost been motivated by secular nationalist ideologies: the rippling urge to rid their national territories of foreign occupying powers . . . all of them democratic, and with religion of any sort influencing the terrorist groups’ motive-force only indirectly and almost coincidentally. How so specifically? Specifically, argues Pape, religious influences will aggravate the fears and hatred of the terrorist groups directed at the foreign occupier if that occupying country happens to have a different religion from that of the national communities from which the terrorists hail, and on whose behalf they’re using suicide-terrorism. Even that impact, note quickly, is further diluted in the book. Using a statistical test that we’ll criticize later in this buggy article, Pape argues that religious differences of this sort will have an impact on the terrorist groups’ decision to employ suicide attacks --- always seen as an awesome weapon --- strictly and only if there has already been a pre-existing armed national rebellion on the part of the local nationals to rid their territories of foreign military forces, but that has failed. Seen in this light, so Pape argues, suicide-terrorism is a weapon of last-resort employed by the oppressed weak in their struggles for national self-determination and autonomy against powerful foreign occupiers . . . used with calculated rational clear-headedness as a strategic weapon to coerce the government of the foreign occupier into withdrawing its occupational forces from the terrorists’ territory.
Nor is that all. Seen in the same light, the suicide-terrorist organizations are altruistic in their sacrificial behavior on behalf of their oppressed ethnic and national communities, whose members support them in large number; and for that matter, the individual suicide-bombers are similarly altruistic and true national martyrs duly celebrated by their fellow nationals.
INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS: TODAY'S FOCUS
The current article jogs our criticisms of Pape’s overall model of suicide-terrorism forward, concentrating on some of the key points in it that the brief buggy summary just touched on --- four in all, and all related.
(1) The 18 suicide-terrorist campaigns that unfolded between 1980 and 2003 have all been secular nationalist in their motives and behavior, with religion entering in only indirectly and more or less coincidentally in the ways just described.
(2) What’s more, the nationalist goals of the diverse suicide-terrorist groups have been directed specifically --- even exclusively, or so Pape comes close to implying --- at freeing their territories of oppressive foreign occupation, and there’s no need to dig deep into any ultimate ideological ambitions, whether secular or religious, at what they intend to do with their liberated territories and their fellow-nationals on it.
Islamic fundamentalism of the sort that Al Qaeda adheres to is no different. At most, Pape says in his chapter of it (the 7th), there are diverse Islamic fundamentalisms; they are all overwhelmingly peaceful; and the only thing they share in common is a desire to reorganize their liberated national societies according to ancient Islamic laws, the Sharia. That’s it. Nothing more really. Islamist ideology of a radical sort --- which Pape dubs Salafi (such as Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its imitators, or Deobandism in Pakistan) and which in any case are peaceful these days and “discourage violence as a legitimate means of achieving” their aim of organizing Muslim societies on “a strict and literal limitation of the Islam of the Prophet and his companions” --- has no direct influence whatever on al Qaeda’s goals and behavior in using suicide-terrorism against the US and several other countries since 1996, all allies of the US or stooge-regimes in the Arab world and other Muslim countries that depend on US military support to remain in power. Those goals are strictly nationalist.
True, Pape isn’t sure whether bin Laden is interested only in liberating the Saudi peninsula from US military “occupation” or all 21 of the Arab countries or even “other Muslim countries” --- of which there are 56 world-wide --- but he is sure that Osama and his cohorts are basically nationalists. If Salafi Islam has any impact on al Qaeda’s terrorism, it is --- like all religious influences on the other 8 suicide-terrorist groups Pape studies, whether Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh --- indirect and secondary, aggravating the national liberation struggles by local national or ethnic communities to rid themselves of foreign military occupiers.
Oddly, but predictably, Pape says hardly anything about the Taliban in Afghanistan except to note in Appendix III that it is a Salafi-influenced movement, p. 273. Nor does he consider Shia-fundamentlism of the sort that reigns in the clerical police-state of Iran as relevant to his study of suicide-terrorism, quite simply because --- so he claims [wrongly as we'll see] --- the hardline mullahs have never sponsored or been responsible for suicide terrorist attacks. Then too Wahhabi Saudi Arabia is passed over, both as another system of institutionalized Sharia-run life and a source of financial support for al Qaeda and hate-mongering anti-Semitism and other forms of vicious propaganda. On Pape's cheery view, as you'll see, these three Sharia-infested countries --- the only ones we have familiarity with in the contemporary era --- aren't indicators of something fanatical and vicious about extremist Islamic fundamentalism.
Pape uses another statistical model --- based on a new table of data --- to test whether fundamentalist (Salafi) Islam has noticeably influenced Al Qaeda's suicide-terrorism. That table, as prof bugy will strive to show, is riddled with errors that add up to head-spinning whoppers.
(3) The US, as this brief summary of Pape’s views has just indicated, has been an alien, unwanted military occupier of Saudi Arabia and elsewhere (like Afghanistan). And even though Americans might see things differently, what counts is how bin Laden and Al Qaeda sees things, not others. No reality-testing by a scholar is needed, you see.
On similar grounds, Hitler’s demented paranoid delusions about a world-wide Jewish conspiracy to dominate Germany and all racially superior Aryan peoples --- by means of using Bolshevism to conquer and rule the Communist Soviet Union and Wall Street and London stock-markets and banks to control the Capitalist world --- didn’t need reality-testing either. Others might disagree with the Nazis' weltanschauung, but scholars and other informed observers have no right or duty to probe this Jew-hating dementia. What matters is that Hitler and the Nazi leadership and enough German elites shared this world-outlook; and so --- like al Qaeda’s rational and calculated strategic uses of terrorism --- the Nazis and their allies were also fully rational and presumably limited in their use of genocide when they tried to exterminate Europe’s Jewish population . . . 8 million in all (roughly 1.5% of Europe’s total population in 1939, and 0.6% of Germany’s when Hitler came to power in 1933).
That any resulting scholarly analysis of Nazism would look . . . well, bizarre and head-spinning except to Nazi apologists shouldn't bother the scholar responsible for it, should it?
(4) And finally, the targets of the suicide-attacks in all 18 campaigns have been invariably directed at coercing foreign military occupiers that are democratic --- a claim, as you’ll find out, that is misleading and wrong-headed . . . accurate only if Pape is able to ignore about a dozen other suicide-terrorist attacks carried out by Islamist fundamentalists that he either overlooked in his data-collection or consigned to the 14 of 315 suicide-terrorist bombings that, he says, were sporadic or random and hence not like the systematic group-organized, planned, and implemented suicide attacks carried out by his 9 terrorist groups in 18 different campaigns. Which, note, includes 1 suicide attack by the Sikh BKI in India that killed a huge total of 16 persons in 1995.
Looks strange, no? --- this fast-and-loose use of data or omission; but with the purpose in the BKI case of adding 1 non-Islamic religion to the secular/Hindu Tamil Tigers (LTTE) in Sri Lanka. For that matter, as you’ll further find out, Pape counts separate suicide-terrorist campaigns when they aren’t actually separate and isolated easily, chronologically or otherwise --- other than at most a lull in the campaigns for negotiations with the alien occupying government (whether the motive by the terrorist group is to negotiate seriously or to use the negotiations as a pretext for regrouping and obtaining new members or weapons). The LTTE has used this pretext at least a couple of times. Even so, table 1 in Pape's book distinguishes 18 separate organized campaigns; overlooks certain others that were carried out by Muslim extremists in Algeria and Egypt and Tunisia; inflates the small-number of cases he can use for statistical purposes (or so it seems); further obscures the clear connections between Islamist extremism and suicide-terrorism.
Well, as you'll see below, that's not the end of it. If the previous article uncovered several defects in Pape's data and his use and presentation of it, there happen to be other data-ridden glitches --- a few of them real whoppers --- that mar his theory of sucide-terrorism and related arguments.
In short: junk-in, junk-out.