Ye Olde Natural Philosophy Discussion Group

Reviews and comments on
Robert A. Pape: Dying to Win: The Strategic
Logic of Suicide Terrorism

Our group agreed that Robert Pape proved his central thesis, "the nationalist theory of suicide terrorism", or that the "taproot of suicide terrorism is nationalism". In yet other words, suicide terrorist attacks are a desperate response by people who have no other means of resistance, to a foreign occupation. We pretty much agreed with his other main points as well: that a religious difference between an occupying power and the populace of the occupied country or region is an important causal factor leading to suicide terrorism, as is the fact that the occupier is a democracy at home.

Pape explains however that by "democracy" all he really means is that the occupying country has elections at home, and therefore those who favor suicide terrorism in the occupied country can hope to influence those elections and lead to an eventual withdrawal of the invaders.

Many of us thought the book was excessively repetitious. Scott thought this derived from a need to disabuse a resistant audience of the notion that has been drummed into their heads by the American media, that all this suicide terrorism stuff is part of some sort of Muslim irrationality, or the like. But this repitition makes the book somewhat tedious for those not indoctrinated with that false theory. Kevin disliked the writing style in general, and the structure of the book.

But on the more positive side, Ron pointed out that there is a lot of good research in the book. Rosie and our group in general thought that Pape made a real effort to be fair and consider objections to his theses, and to address them. He has a lot of data, charts and tables which back up his conclusions.

Despite our general agreement with Pape's analysis of suicide terrorism, some of us had major disagreements with his prescriptions for how to deal with the problem. Pape did suggest withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, since the U.S. presence is on his analysis a major factor generating more suicide terrorists. We all agreed with that! But Pape also favors schemes such as building a huge Israeli-style barracade fence along the whole U.S.-Mexico border. Kevin liked that idea, but Kirby strongly objected to it, and pointed out that no known "terrorists" have entered the U.S. from Mexico in the first place! Some have entered from Canada, but no one is suggesting building one of these monstrous super fences on that border. That suggests the whole plan is motivated by completely different considerations (such as racism?).

Scott objected to Pape's whole imperialist point of view, that it is "OK" or "necessary" for the U.S. to control Mideast oil and the world in general. Pape understands (unlike many members of the U.S. Establishment) that the U.S. occupation of other countries is the main factor leading to terrorist attacks against this country in the first place, so he favors the "off-shore" strategy for controlling other countries and their resources without actually stationing U.S. troops there. Scott seems to think that the world should belong to all the people of the world, and not just to the U.S. ruling class. What a radical idea!

Our group gave this book an average rating of 7.0, which is fairly positive. You should especially read it if you still really think that Muslim fanaticism is the fundamental problem leading to terrorist attacks against the U.S. and its agents.

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