Pape's Book and Argument
Published earlier this year, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism examines the total number of suicide terror attacks that occurred between 1980 and the end of 2003 --- or so Pape argues; it divides these into 18 different suicide terror campaigns carried out by 11 different organized terrorist groups --- 9 of which are Islamic, just as 14 of the 18 terror campaigns are Islamic in nature; Pape contends nonetheless that religion per se, let alone Islamist groups, have no direct motivating force in suicide terrorism . . . the main motivation behind all 18 of these terror campaigns being clearly nationalist instead. In particular, suicide terrorism is a rational if desperate last-resort of the weak and oppressed to force a alien occupying military power off its territory.
On Pape's view, then, the urge to nationalist liberation and self-determination is the driving force in the suicide terror practiced by these 11 different terrorist groups. Religion, to the extent it play any role here, does so indirectly and with secondary impact. Tersely put, if the religion of the occupied people happens to differ from that of the occupying power, then the stakes in nationalist rebellion against the occupier are raised, the citizenry of the occupying country is demonized, and suicide terrorism becomes much more likely.
How Today's Buggy Article Unfolds
Today's article divides into into four parts, each briefly outlined here to help you keep track of the various twists-and-turns in the overall argument.
(i.) There's no need to say anything more about Pape's nationalist theory of suicide terrorism in this introductory section, and for a solid reason: as you'll soon see, Part One will set out the theory in clear outline form, followed by a schematic diagram of its causal links that is taken from p. 96 of Dying to Win.
One hint intrudes here. When you examine Pape's theory, recall what the two previous buggy articles on Pape's book showed about his work: tersely put, his data-set for the number of suicide terrorist attacks and campaigns are noticeably amiss. Whether intentionally or not, Pape's omissions and the related effort to sneak in several Islamist suicide attacks aimed at mainly moderate or pro-Western Muslim countries have the effect of whitewashing the clear connection between the overwhelming number of suicide terrorist groups and radical Islamist ideology.
All told, there weren't just 9 Islamist terrorist groups active in suicide attacks between 1980 and 2003 out of a total of 11 such groups, rather 20 out of a total of 22 such groups. What's more --- something that contradicts a key component of Pape's theory --- most of them weren't motivated by nationalism, but rather by an effort to disrupt Muslim governments and incite a revolutionary overthrow as a prelude to installing a system of purified Islamist rule . . . most likely resembling (for reasons stated later) the totalitarian-like regimes of Taliban Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia or the Sudan mass murdering rulers or the fanatical Sharia-intoxicated imams and sheiks in Northern Nigeria.
Here, in concrete detail, is the buggy table showing the suicide terrorist groups and attacks that Pape ignored or glossed over or possibly concealed.
Suicide Terrorist Campaigns Missed By Pape 1980-2003
|Date||Terrorists||Religion||Target Country||#Attacks||#Killed & Wounded|
|1981||Egyptian Islamic Jihad||Islamist||Egypt||1||1 k (Pres Sadat); 12 w|
|1995||Egyptian Islamic Jihad||Islamist||Pakistan||1||16k; 60 w|
|1992||Hezbollah||Islamist||Argentina||1||29 k; 242 w|
|1994||Hezbollah||Islamist||Argentina||1||85 k; 300 w|
|1994||Anser Allah||Islamist||Panama||1||21 k;|
|1995||GIA: Armed Islamic Group (Algeria)||Islamist||Algeria||1||42 k; 265 w|
|1994||GIA||Islamist||France||1||aborted plane bombing of Eiffel Tower|
|1997||Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya & Jihad Talaat al-Fath.||Islamist||Egypt||1||62 k; 19 w|
|2002||Al Qaeda||Islamist||Tunisia||1||19 k|
|2002||Jemaah Islamiyah||Islamist||Indonesia (Bali)||1||202k;|
|2003||Jemaah Islamiyah||Islamist||Indonesia||1||12k; 150 w|
|2002||Al-Qaeda linked Somalis||Islamist||Kenya||1||13k; 80 w|
|2003||MILF: Moro Islamic Liberation Front||Islamist||Philippines||21 k; 150 w|
|2003||GIMC Moroccan Combatant Group||Islamist||Morocco||1 - 5||45k|
*This abortive suicide bombing by a hi-jacked airline --- GIA out of Algeria the terrorist group in charge of the mission --- is singled out because it was intended, as the captured terrorists admitted, to crash into the Eiffel tower full of tourists. The mission failed when the French pilot claimed he had to stop in Marseilles to refuel, and French commandos stormed the plane,
**It's not clear how to list the 5 separate but simultaneous bombings in Casablanca. It depends on how Pape would define them: as 1 attack or 5.
As you'll see later on today, this initial data-set used by Pape isn't the only dubious set in his book, far from it. So is the one he generates for statistical purposes in chapter 6. So too is the data-set he uses in chapter 7 --- that chapter devoted entirely to showing that al Qaeda's hundreds of suicide attacks world-wide are in line with his nationalist theory of suicide terrorism --- where he applies a convoluted statistical test to show that al Qaeda's known suicide terrorists don't hail from Muslim societies where radical Islamist fundamentalisms flourish.
(ii.) Enter our main concern today in Part Two: Pape's statistical effort to test the causal links in his nationalist theory of suicide terrorism, using a logit regression model for that purpose.
The model's estimated results and Pape's interpretation of them are, as you'll see, beset by numerous problems --- at any rate, to the extent that he gives us much information about the logit model, which isn't much at all. All we find our about the nuts-and-bolts of the model's specification and the various statistical tests he ran on the estimated results is some scant report(tucked away in fn. 43 on p. 294), or about the classification scheme he uses for reporting those results on p. 99. Even so, we can be pretty confident about these problems.
That said, note that Part Two will be mainly devoted to s non-technical effort to clarify what logistic regression or logit analysis or modeling amounts to. (The two terms are interchangeable.) Those of you familiar with logit need only skim through that section at a galloping rate. Those of you who aren't familiar with the technique --- or with regression statistical techniques of any sort --- will benefit, prof bug hopes, from reading those comments carefully. By the time you're through Part Two, you won't, needless to add, be a whiz¬-like specialist in logit modeling; but you should at least have enough of a decent working idea of the topic that you'll be able to follow the more focused buggy criticisms of Pape's statistical work in Part Three.
(iii.) Part three brings us to the core of the buggy argument, devoted entirely to appraising Pape's statistical work . . . which, as you'll see, are beset by all sorts of numerous problems, some technical, others more substantive.
We'll look first at Pape's data- set that he himself gathered, coded, and classified. All sorts of troubles abound here.
Then they'll look at how the different three models of logit analysis that Pape runs --- only the first, by the way, is reported even in scant detail by him --- and seehow the use of an interaction term for one of the independent variables (don't worry for the moment what this means) is almost certainly misinterpreted by him. Because of this misinterpretation, any reported statistical tests of significance are doubtful. (Don't worry for the time being about the technical terms in this and the next three paragraphs. They'll be clarified later.)
There's more trouble.
We'll also see that the estimated effects of these independent variables in his models on the behavior (values) of his dependent variable --- namely, whether suicide terrorism occurs or not --- are very likely entangled in what's called a joint loglikelihood. That's a common problem in logistic regression when a data-set sample is not probabilistically selected --- by random means or near-random selection or by an estimated natural process. Pape's population and hence his sample of data that he runs his logit model's conditional variables on don't reflect probability sampling at all. They're both what's called state-dependent sampling, and more specifically, a retrospective case-study sample. In the upshot, if Pape's logit model were run backwards --- with the independent and dependent variables' roles reversed --- the same odds ratio (a key measure of a logit model's estimated coefficients) would result as when the models were run in the "causal" way Pape intended . . . at any rate they would be unless Pape took corrective action.
Finally, unless Pape used SAS software and not SPSS --- prof bug isn't sure about the other main statistical software widely used by researchers (Stata) --- there will also certainly be a bias in the classification results no matter how they're interpreted. Much worse, Pape as we'll see misuses the reported results in his 2x2 classification scheme. He claims that these results of his logit modeling show that his nationalist theory of suicide terrorism "correctly predicted" 49 of 58 cases. The theory does no such thing. What the logit model has done is --- ignoring all the other problems we've just touched on --- is correctly classify 49 of 58 cases. Such classification results in logistic regression can't be used for wider theoretical purposes; they are good only for one thing: for confirming correct classification, nothing else.
If Pape's theory could do what he claims his 2x2 classified logit results indicate, he would have achieved a degree of predictive accuracy far greater than any economic forecasting model has ever achieved --- and there are several different forecasting models used in the USA alone, all run on large data-bases of quantitative data unlike Pape's small sample which is derived in non-probability ways . . . a point, as you'll see, that's fully documented and hammered home later on here.
(iv.) Part Four will then summarize whether the following claims that Pape himself makes about his statistical work on pp. 96-97 --- right before he tells us how he coded and assembled his data-set and reports the logit model's estimated (conditional) results --- are justified or not. To wit:
"To test my theory, I employ a methodology that combines the features of focused comparison and statistical-correlative analysis using the universe --- [read: total number] --- of foreign occupations, 1980-2003. Correlative analysis of this universe enhances confidence that my theory can predict future events by showing the patterns predicted by the theory occur over a large class of cases [58 in all]. Detailed analysis of historical cases enhances confidence that the correlations found in the larger universe are not spurious: the theory accurately identifies the causal dynamics that determine outcomes [of suicidal terrorism] " p. 96[italics and bold-type added].
Remember, the buggy argument about Pape's statistical work is divided into this and the next 3 articles That (5th) article is essentially done, waiting only to be formatted in HTML for the Web. The 6th buggy article will continue our in-depth analysis of Pape's nationalist theory of suicide terrorism, probing the four constituent parts --- alleged causal variables --- in that theory and showing how and why they're all unreliable. A 7th will examine all the numerous problems --- some real whoppers --- that bedevil Pape's efforts to apply his flawed nationalist theory of suicide terrorism to al Qaeda and related jihadist terror groups inspired by radical jihadist Islamisms.
PAPE'S NATIONALIST THEORY OF SUICIDE TERRORISM SUMMARIZED
It's in Chapter Six of Pape's book (pp. 79-101) that a full-fledged theory of suicide-terrorism emerges for the first time.
To Pape's credit, his "nationalist theory of suicide-terrorism" is set out clearly there and discussed in useful detail. It consists of four component parts --- a set of independent or explanatory variables if you prefer, all intended to clarify the circumstances that will likely "cause" suicide attacks to be launched. We'll examine these four variables here, along with the useful schematic diagram of the alleged "causal" pathways generating suicide terrorist attacks that Pape himself presents on p. 96.
The Four Independent ("Causal") Variables Sketched In
"Sketched in" is the key here. The four independent (estimating) variables are set out in a fast, top-skimming manner, at any rate for now. The aim is to give you a rough working idea of each variable, followed by the schematic diagram; nothing more . . . not for today anyway. It's only in the next buggy article, remember, that each of these alleged causal links and pathways will be delved into at length.
As for the use of quotes around "causal", they're there purposefully. Pape's theory isn't a scientific theory in a strong sense as we'll see, rather more like a wiring diagram with arrows drawn in different pathways to signify hoped for "causal pathways" among the variables. And very few regression models, linear or non-linear, cannot test causally any theory except a few in the natural sciences.
As we'll see, even the most formalized economic regression-models running on strictly quantitative data that can be randomly sampled have never been tested accurately for any causal links --- even, believe it or not, neo-classical demand theory, the core of microeconomic theory. For a good 75 years now, econometricians have been trying to test the various empirical variables in demand theory --- "the symmetry of (compensated) Slutsky matrix, the homogeneity of degree zero of individual and aggregate demand functions, and Walrus's Law (adding up or Engle aggregation), and guess what? Almost all tested statistical models have produced results that contradict the theory of demand." (See the discussion of this on pages 96-98 in D. Wade Hands, Reflections Without Rules; Economic Methodology and Contemporary Science Theory [Cambridge, 2001). The quoted terms are from pp. 96-97)
All these points will be clarified later on in Part Three. For the moment, fasten your attention on the independent variables that comprise Pape's nationalist theory of suicide terrorism.
1) There's an alien military occupation on a territory of another people --- a national or ethnic community that resents it --- by a democratic country. Pape says that he can find no cases where suicide terrorism has been used against non-democratic occupiers.
Note in passing that this particular variable doesn't enter into Pape's logit model per se. It's not even an exogenous variable, operating from the outside on the logistic regression's estimates of the outcome variable. Instead, by definition, Pape limits his data-collection and coding to only democratic occupying countries . . . wrongly so, as we now know and as will be clarified in part three.
2) Sooner or later, a noticeable religious conflict between the occupying power and the occupied population has to develop that aggravates the locals' fears and resentments of the occupier and leads to demonizing its society and civilians. In turn, the demonizing will celebrate national martyrdom by armed rebels against the evil occupier, justifying the use, if need be, of suicide terrorism . . . the latter seen by more and more of the occupied people as a last desperate resort at coercing the alien democratic country to withdraw its military forces.
Note: though prof bug strive hard to refrain from critical comments of Pape's theory until the next buggy article, he can't fully adhere to this self-denying ordinance here.
More specifically, if Pape is right, the fact that one religion --- Islam, which constitutes most of the suicide terror campaigns between 1980 and 2003 even in his flawed and understated data-set that appears on p. 15 of his book --- has a 1300 year-tradition of armed martyrdom suffered in jihad against infidels, with the suicide attackers instantly entering Paradise the second after they're killed, has nothing to do per se with such demonizing or justification of suicide attacks. Nor does it have anything to do with Islamist terror groups carrying out 90% of the suicide attacks between 1980 and 2003, at any rate when Pape's whitewashed data-set is corrected. For that matter, neither does the tremendous number of other murderous actions carried out by fervent, militantly enraged sections of Muslim populations against Christian, Buddhist, animist, Hindu, or even Muslims designated by fundamentalist extremists as apostates, whether in Pacific Asia (Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore), or in South and Central Asia, or in the Persian Gulf region, or in the Middle East and North Africa, or in the Sudan or Northern Nigeria.
You want clear evidence? Well, consider this: a table compiled daily by ReligionofPeace.comshows that --- since 9/11's massacres in New York and Washington D.C. --- there have been more than 2800 Muslim terrorist attacks around the world as of August 28, 2005. To repeat: in the four years since 9/11, Muslim-inspired terrorism has resulted in 2800 different attacks against overwhelmingly civilian targets.
Does anyone besides Pape and apologists for Islamist extremism --- only a minority of Islam's 1.2 billion people --- really believe this?
3) Before suicide terrorism is resorted to as a final desperate effort at national liberation, the growing nationalist ardor and rippling hatred of the occupier has to spawn an armed rebellion --- whether non-suicide terrorist attacks or urban or non-urban guerrilla warfare --- carried out by national resistance-movements against the foreign country's armed forces and civilians. There haven't been any suicide terrorist groups that have emerged between 1980 and 2003 without a prior national rebellion already in progress, and they start suicide attacks only after these other forms of armed rebellion have failed . . . or so it seems (Pape isn't clear on this point).
4) And finally --- as his statistical testing of the theory reveals at the very end of chapter 6 --- there's a lack of noticeable concessions by the occupying power to the occupied people's desires for national self-determination, in which case suicide-terrorist groups will very likely materialize. If, though, concessions are offered that the locals judge as ensuring local autonomy or holding out a prospect of it in the future --- even though the local autonomy will fall short at times of full-fledged national independence and sovereignty --- suicide terrorism will either not occur or fizzle out.
Oops: Almost Forgot That a 5th Variable Sneaks In the Pape Theory
Specifically, at the very end of chapter 6, Pape adds a 5th independent or estimating variable to his theory --- or more accurately, to his logit model. Small wonder. It is entered there in order to deal with a big regression problem: his classified results show that what is called in logistic regression the "sensitivity of prediction" --- which is strictly technical statistical term that has nothing to do with prediction of future events or behavior of any sort --- is a mediocre 50%. That is, the reported logit results placed in a 2x2 classification scheme --- which we'll set out in Part Two --- has been able to classify correctly when suicide terrorism will occur given the influences of the original four independent variables on it is no better than flipping a coin. Not that he tells us this, mind you.
What Pape does then --- which is acceptable enough in any regression modeling --- is seek to improve the estimated outcome here by running adding a new independent variable to the new logit model: called "concessions", it's another coarse category (to use a statistical term) that Pape estimates from . . . well, it's not clear. He cites several other studies as sources, but nothing more. In fact, the new variable is introduced at the very bottom of p. 99, clarified in lickety-split manner on p. 100, and that's that..
What does emerge when Pape codes the new 5th variable is that when democratic occupying powers offer concessions of some sort to actual or would-be suicide terrorist groups, they are then highly likely to cease their suicide attacks. Despite this, we are left with no clear idea at all of what level of concessions generally is needed to deal with suicide terrorist groups and appease them. The whole thing seems very ad hoc, an effort to salvage a regression model. And true enough --- again, leaving aside all the other problems that beset Pape's logit model that will be pinned down in Part two --- the revised logit model using the 5th variable improves the "sensitivity of prediction" regarding when suicide terrorism occurs is upped to 100% and the resulting logit estimates overall results are able to account for 56 of the 58 individual case-study data-points (observations) in his data-set.
A Schematic Diagram of the Pape Theory
On p. 96 of his book, Pape provides us with a diagram of his full-fledged theory's causal pathway. He allows for an alternative pathway running in the opposite direction as a control. What follows is taken directly from that page.
Pape's Model of Suicide-terrorism 1) Solid arrows represent the theory proposed in this book.
2) The dashed arrow --- running from rebellion to nationalism --- represents a casual path
that sometimes influences the production of national identity;
but that plays little role in determining when suicide-terrorism campaigns occur.
3) The dotted arrow represents a causal path that al-Qaeda and perhaps other terrorist organizations
hoped will occur,but that has not done so.
BEFORE WE GET TO PAPE'S STATISTICAL WORK TO TEST HIS NATIONALIST THEORY OF SUICIDE TERRORISM, HERE ARE SOME BUGGY COMMENTS ON REGRESSION MODELING
Enter Logit (Logistic) Regression
To test his theory, Pape specifies a logit (non-linear) regression model and runs it on a data-set that he himself assembled.
The aim of any regression model, linear or non-linear, is to estimate statistically those factors --- called independent or explanatory or estimating variables (which can be manipulated) --- that influence the behavior of the dependent or outcome variable using probability analysis.
In Pape's logit model, the independent variables --- or estimators or (a strictly technical term used in logistic regression) "predictors" --- are established by his nationalist theory of suicide terrorism, and the dependent or outcome variable is the probability of suicide terrorism occurring or not, given the influence of the independent or explanatory variables. As the diagram at the end of Part One showed clearly, those independent variables are nationalist rebellion against a democratic occupying power, religious conflicts between the occupied nationals and the foreign occupier, and --- as he tells us on p. 99 --- these two "causal" variables working in tandem. And, to repeat, the dependent or outcome variable is whether suicide terrorism occurs or not, given these three explanatory or estimating variables when the entire regression model and its variables is run on a data-base that Pape has himself assembled.
Why Pape Can't Use Classic Linear Regression
(i.) Qualitative Outcome Variables
Look over what prof bug just said about Pape's dependent or outcome variable. It's strictly qualitative and, more specifically, a binary (or dichotomous) one: suicide terrorism either occurs when Pape applies his logit model to his data-set or it doesn't.