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The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism Author(s): Robert A. Pape Reviewed work(s): Source: The American

The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism Author(s): Robert A. Pape Reviewed work(s):

Source: The American Political Science Review, Vol. 97, No. 3 (Aug., 2003), pp. 343-361 Published by: American Political Science Association

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American PoliticalScience Review

Vol. 97, No. 3

August 2003

The

Strategic

ROBERT A.

Logic

of

Suicide

Terrorism

PAPE The Universityof Chicago

uicideterrorismis rising aroundthe world, but the most common explanations do not help us

theworldleaderinsuicideterrorismis

the Tamil Tigers in Sri

understand why.Religiousfanaticism doesnot explainwhy

Lanka, a group thatadheresto a

this

Marxist/Leninistideology, while existing

growingphenomenon, this study

strategiclogic,

one

2001, 188 in all. In contrastto the existing

specificallydesigned

pays.

Suicide

and the WestBank in 1994 and

psychologicalexplanations havebeencontradicted by the wideningrangeofsocio-economicbackgrounds

collectsthe

of suicideterrorists.Toadvanceour understandingof

universe of suicideterroristattacksworldwide from 1980 to

explanations, this study

to coercemodernliberaldemocraciesto make significant territorialconcessions. Moreover, overthe past

two decades, suicideterrorismhasbeen risinglargely becauseterroristshavelearnedthatit

terrorists sought to compel Americanand French militaryforces to abandonLebanonin 1983, Israeli

shows thatsuicideterrorism follows a

forces to leave Lebanonin 1985, Israeli forces to

1995,

government to grantautonomy to theKurdsin the

political causemademore gainsafter

democraciesshould pursuepolicies thatteachterroriststhatthelesson of the1980sand 1990sno

holds,policies

quit the Gaza Strip

theSri Lankan

government to createan

independent Tamilstate from 1990 on, and the Turkish

late1990s.In all butthecase of Turkey, theterrorist

operations thanit had before.Thus, Western

theresortto suicide

longer

whichin practicemay have more to do with improving homeland security than with

offensivemilitary action.

errorist organizations are increasinglyrelying on

suicideattacksto achieve

majorpoliticalobjec-

tives.For example,spectacular suicideterrorist

Palestinian

attackshave

groups in attempts to

Bank and Gaza, by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil

Eelam to compel the SriLankan government to accept

an independent Tamil homeland, and by Al Qaedato

pressure the UnitedStatesto withdrawfromthe Saudi ArabianPeninsula. Moreover, suchattacksareincreas-

ing bothin tempo andlocation.Beforethe early1980s,

suicide terrorismwas rare but not unknown

1968; O'Neill 1981;Rapoport 1984). However, since

the attackon the U.S.

suicideterrorist

there have been at least 188

separate attacks worldwide, in Lebanon,Israel, Sri Lanka,India,

Pakistan,Afghanistan,Yemen,Turkey, Russiaandthe United States.The rate has increasedfrom 31 in the

recently

been

employed by

forceIsraelto abandonthe West

(Lewis

embassy in Beirutin April1983,

1980s, to 104 in the 1990s,

to 53 in 2000-2001 alone

(Pape2002). The rise of suicideterrorismis

especially

remarkable,given

incidentsworldwidefell of 666in 1987to a low of

(Department of State 2001). What accountsfor the rise in suicide

pecially, the sharp escalationfromthe 1990sonward?

that the total numberof terrorist

during the period, froma peak

274in 1998, with348in 2001

terrorism, es-

Robert A.

Science, 5828 South University Avenue, The University of Chicago,

Chicago, IL 60637 (r-pape@uchicago.edu). I thank Robert Art, Mia Bloom, Steven Cicala, Alex Downs,

John

Weeden,

the

on

International

superb comments. I especially thank James K. Feldman and Chaim

D. Kaufmann for their

multiple drafts. I

would also like to acknowledge encouragement from the committee

for the Combating Political Violence

by the Institute for War and Peace Studies at Columbia University,

which selected an earlier version as a winning paper.

Pape is Associate Professor, Department of Political

Lynn-Jones,

Lisa

program

Daniel Drezner, Adria Lawrence, Sean

Mearsheimer, Michael O'Connor, Sebastian Rosato,

anonymous reviewers, and the members of the

Security Policy at the University of Chicago for their

excellent comments on

paper competition sponsored

Although

politics, wedo nothave goodexplanations forthe grow- ingphenomenon of suicideterrorism.Traditionalstud- ies of terrorismtend to treat suicideattackas one of

many tactics that terroristsuse and so do not shed

much light on the recentriseof this type of attack (e.g.,

Hoffman 1998; Jenkins 1985;Laqueur1987). Thesmall

numberof studiesaddressed explicitly to suicideterror-

ismtendto focusonthe irrationality oftheactofsuicide fromthe perspective of theindividualattacker.As are-

sult,they focuson individualmotives-either religious

indoctrination (especially Islamic Fundamentalism) or

psychologicalpredispositions that might driveindivid-

ual suicidebombers (Kramer1990; Merari 1990; Post

terrorismhas

long

been

part

of international

1990).

Thefirst-wave explanations ofsuicideterrorismwere

the 1980sand were consistentwith

developed during the datafromthat

as suicideattacks

mounted from the 1990s

creasingly evident that these initial explanations are

insufficientto accountfor which individualsbecome suicideterrorists and, more importantly,why terrorist

organizations are increasinglyrelying on this form of

attack (Institute forCounter-Terrorism 2001).First, al-

thoughreligious motives maymatter, modernsuicide

terrorismis not limited to IslamicFundamentalism. Islamic groups receive the most attentionin Western

media, but the

period.However,

onward, it has become in-

world'sleader in suicide terrorismis

actually the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),

a group

Tamil

andwhose ideology hasMarxist/Leninistelements.The LTTEaloneaccountsfor75 of the 186suicideterrorist

attacksfrom1980to 2001.Even

attacks,groups

about a

character-

istics of suicide attackers may someday help identify

who recruitsfrom the

population

predominantly Hindu

in northernand eastern Sri Lanka

Islamicsuicide

among with secularorientationsaccountfor

thirdof these attacks (Merari1990;Sprinzak

of the

personal

2000).

Second, althoughstudy

343

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StrategicLogic of Suicide Terrorism

to recruit

individualsterrorist organizations are

for this

over the last two decades

not be a in

perts

acterizedthem as

isolated,single

(Merari1990;

terroristscanbe college educatedor uneducated, mar-

riedor

grated, from

47

words,althoughonly

suicideterrorists,they comefroma broadcrosssection

of

in advance.

thefirst-wave explanations, thisarticle

shows that suicideterrorismfollows a

Even

cal,

of the terrorist

organization, suicide attacksare designed to achieve

specificpoliticalpurposes:

ment to

to mobilizeadditionalrecruits

and financial support, or both. Crenshaw

shownthatterrorismis best understoodin termsof its strategicfunction; the same is true for suicideterror-

ism.In essence,

whatThomas

irrationality," in

vidualattackersismeantto

democraticaudiencethatstillmoreand

greater attacks

aresureto come.As such, modernsuicideterrorismis analogous to instancesof internationalcoercion.For

states,

are not. Viewed from the

likely

purpose,

the vast

spread

of suicideterrorism

that there may

ex-

suggests

singleprofile.

Until

recently, the leading

psychologicalprofiles of

suicideterroristschar-

uneducated,unemployed,socially

early

20s

men in their late teens and

Post

1990).

men or

age 13to

age

a

Now we know that suicide

numberof

people

single,

women,socially isolatedor inte-

(Sprinzak2000). In other

become

tiny

lifestyles, andit may be impossible to pick themout

Incontrastto

strategiclogic.

suicideattackersareirrationalor fanati-

if many

the leadershipgroups thatrecruitanddirectthem

perspective

changepolicy,

to coerce a

targetgovern-

(1981)

has

suicideterrorismis anextremeformof

Schelling(1966)

rationality of

whichan actthatis irrationalforindi-

calls"the

demonstrate credibility to a

air

andeconomicsanctionsareoften the

(George

et al.

power

preferred coercivetools

1997).

1972;Pape1996,

Forterrorist groups, suicideattacksarebecom-

ing

of suicide terrorism,

thisarticlecollectstheuniversesuicideterroristattacks

how terrorist

organizations have assessedthe effectivenessof these attacks, andevaluatesthelimitsontheircoercive utility.

worldwidefrom 1980 to 2001,

the coerciveinstrumentof choice.

To examinethe

strategiclogic

explains

Five

principalfindings follow. First, suicideterrorism

majority of suicideterroristattacks

individualfanatics

by

part of a largercampaign

specificpolitical

to achieve a

suicideterrorism consistently an-

is strategic. Thevast

are not isolatedor randomacts

but,rather, occurinclustersas

by an organizedgroup

goal. Groupsusing

nounce specific political goals and stop suicide attacks when those goals have been fully or partially achieved. Second, the strategic logic of suicide terrorism is specifically designed to coerce modern democra- cies to make significant concessions to national self- determination. In general, suicide terrorist campaigns seek to achieve specific territorial goals, most often the withdrawal of the target state's military forces from what the terrorists see as national homeland. From Lebanon to Israel to Sri Lanka to Kashmir to Chechnya, every suicide terrorist campaign from 1980 to 2001 has been waged by terrorist groups whose main goal has been to establish or maintain self- determination for their community's homeland by

344

August 2003

compelling an enemy

cide terrorist campaign since 1980 has been

targeted

govern-

ment. Third,during the past

been steadilyrising becauseterroristshavelearnedthat

American

it

andFrench military forcesto abandonLebanonin 1983,

Israeliforces to leave Lebanonin 1985, Israeliforces

to quit

to

withdraw. Further,every sui-

20 years, suicideterrorismhas

compel

against a state that had a democraticformof

pays.

1995,

Suicideterrorists sought to

the Gaza

Strip

andthe WestBankin 1994and

the Sri Lankan government to create an inde-

to

grant autonomy

to the Kurdsin the

in all these cases. However, in all but the

Turkey, the

terrorist political causemademore

operations thanit had

afterthe resortto suicide

consistently

many

given

thatotherobserverswithinthe terror-

community, neutral analysts, and target

agreed

operations

acceleratedor causedthe concession.

making concessionsto suicideterrorist

the

past

two decadeshas

probably

campaigns.

pendent Tamilstate from 1990 on, and the Turkish

government

late 1990s.Terrorist groups did not achieve their full

objectives

case of

gains

before. Leadersof terrorist groups have

creditedsuicide

gains. Theseassessmentsare hardly unreasonable given

of the conces-

sionsand

thatsui-

ists' national

government leadersthemselvesoften

cide

the timing and circumstancesof

operations with contributing to these

This pattern of

organizations over

encouraged terrorist groups to pursue even more am-

bitioussuicide

Fourth,although moderatesuicideterrorismled to

these more ambitioussuicide

moderate

terrorist campaigns arenot likely to achievestill greater

gains

cide terrorismrelies on

mediumlevelsof punishment on civilians.In othercir-

punishment has rarely caused surrender significantpolitical

cumstances, thislevel

modernnationstatesto

goals, partly willing to countenance high costsfor

partly

mitigate

adjustments. Suicideterrorismdoes not

efforts

ism

to

but suicide attackscan overcome a

tion's

civiliancosts. Accordingly, suicideterror-

concessions,

may

well fail

of

and

completely.

the threat to inflict low to

In

general,

sui-

because modernnation states are often

high

interestsand

becausemodernnationstatesare often able to

civiliancosts

by making

economicand other

willingness to trade high

change a na-

highcosts,

interestsfor

country's

the

punishment that is

mitigate

may marginally increase

inflictedand so make

target likely to surrendermodest

nationssomewhatmore goals, but it is unlikely

to compel states to abandon important interests re- lated to the physical security or national wealth of the state. National governments have in fact responded aggressively to ambitious suicide terrorist campaigns

in

tions.

to contain suicide

terrorismis to reduce terrorists'confidence in their abil-

ity to carry out such attacks on the target society. States that face persistent suicide terrorism should recognize that neither offensive military action nor concessions

alone are

nificant resources in border defenses and other means

of homeland security.

and should invest sig-

recent years, events which confirm these expecta-

Finally,

the most

promising way

likely

to do much

good

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American PoliticalScience Review

Vol. 97, No. 3

THELOGICOF SUICIDETERRORISM

Most suicideterrorismis undertakenas a

fortdirectedtoward achievingparticularpoliticalgoals;

it is not

an expression of fanaticalhatreds.Themain purpose of

suicideterrorismis to use the threatof punishment to

coercea

targetgovernment to changepolicy,especially to cause democraticstates to withdrawforces from

territory

recordof suicideterrorismfrom1980to 2001exhibits

tendencies in the

strategiclogic irrationalor fanaticalbehavior.

of attack

thatareconsistentwiththis

strategic ef-

simply

the product of irrationalindividualsor

terrorists view as their homeland. The

timing,goals, and targets

butnot with

Defining Suicide Terrorism

Terrorisminvolvesthe use of violence

by an organiza-

tion otherthana national government to causeintim-

idationor fear among a target audience (Department

of State 1983-2001; Reich 1990; Schmidand

Jongman

1988). Although one could broadenthe definitionof

terrorismso as to includethe actionsof a national gov-

ernmentto cause terror

tion, adopting such a broad definitionwould distract

attention from what

by subna-

tional

it could also

create analytic confusion.Terrorist organizations and

state governments have differentlevels of face differentkindsof incentives, and are

to different

susceptible

resources,

to know:how to combat the threat posed

among an opposingpopula-

policy makers would most like

security.Further,

groups

to state

types

of

pressures.Accordingly, the de-

to be the

terminantsof their behaviorare not

same

tions. In general, terrorismhastwo

porters andto coerce

both

emy

port or the terroristscause

gaining an edge over rival groups

movement (Bloom 2002). However, there are trade-

offs betweenthese

purposes-to gainsup-

likely

and,thus,requireseparate theoretical investiga-

opponents. Mostterrorismseeks

often aiming to affect en-

goals to some extent, calculationswhile

simultaneouslymobilizingsup-

and, in some

cases, in the same social

even

important

objectives and terroristscan strike

variousbalancesbetween them. These choices repre-

sent differentformsof terrorism, the most

of which

directed mainly at gain-

terrorism.

are demonstrative,destructive, and suicide

Demonstrativeterrorismis

ing publicity, for any or all of three reasons: to recruit more activists,to gain attention to grievances from soft- liners on the other side, and to gain attention from third parties who might exert pressure on the other side. Groups that emphasize ordinary, demonstrative terror- ism include the Orange Volunteers (Northern Ireland), National Liberation Army (Columbia), and Red Brigades (Italy) (Clutterbuck 1975; Edler Baumann 1973; St. John 1991). Hostage taking, airline hijacking, and explosions announced in advance are generally in- tended to use the possibility of harm to bring issues to the attention of the target audience. In these cases, terrorists often avoid doing serious harm so as not to undermine sympathy for the political cause. Brian

Jenkins

tive terrorismwith his

ists

dead."

(1975,4) captures

the essence of demonstra-

well-known remark,"Terror-

aggressive,seeking

wanta lot of people watching, not a lot of people

to

Destructiveterrorismis more

coerce opponents as well as mobilize support for the

cause. Destructiveterroristsseek to inflictreal harm

on membersof the

sympathy fortheircause. Exactly how groups strikethe

balancebetween harmand

natureof the politicalgoal. For instance, the Baader-

Meinhoft

industrialists, which

German

in the 1970s often

possible,fully alienating Jewish society

ingsympathy fromMuslimcommunities.Other

groups

that emphasize destructiveterrorismincludethe Irish

RepublicanArmy, the Revolutionary Armed Forces

of Colombia (FARC),

Anarchists (Elliott 1998; Rapoport 1971; Tuchman

target audienceat the riskof losing

sympathydepends

on the

assassinatedrich German

segments

of

groupselectively

society

alienated certain

but not others.Palestinianterrorists

sought

to kill as many Israelisas

but still evok-

and the

nineteenth-century

1966).

Suicideterrorismis the most

aggressive formof ter-

rorism,pursuing coercionevenatthe expense of losing

supportamong the terrorists'own community. What

distinguishes a

not expect to survivea missionand often employs a

methodof attackthat requires the attacker'sdeathin

orderto succeed

a suicide vest, or ramming an airplane into a build-

ing). In essence, a

same time that he kills himself.1In principle, suicide

terroristscouldbe usedfor demonstrative purposes or

couldbe limitedto targeted assassinations.2In

however, suicideterroristsoftenseek simply to killthe

largest numberof people.Although thismaximizesthe

coercive leverage thatcanbe gained from terrorism, it

does so at the greatest cost to the basisof

the terroristcause.

killedalienatesthosein the target audiencewho might

be

suicide creates a debate and often loss of

among

nity,

ements. Thus, while coercionis an element in all ter-

rorism, coercionis the paramountobjective of suicide terrorism.

support moderate segments of the terrorists'commu-

suicideterrorististhatthe attackerdoes

(such as planting a car bomb,wearing

suicideterroristkills others at the

practice,

support for

Maximizing the numberof enemy

terrorists cause, whilethe act of

radicalel-

sympathetic to the

even if also

attractingsupportamong

1 A suicide attack can be defined in two ways, a narrow definition limited to situations in which an attacker kills himself and a broad

definition that includes any instance when an attacker fully expects

example that fits the broad

killing Palestinians at

was killed, who

family indicating

research relies on the narrow

in the literature

and partly because there are so few instances in which it is clear that

others that adding this category

of events would not change my findings.

2

an attacker expected to be killed by

definition, partly because this is the common

that he did not expect to return.

had no plan for escape, and who left a note for his

the February 1994 Hebron Massacre until he himself

to be killed definition is

by others during an attack. An

Baruch Goldstein, who continued

My

practice

ordinarily considered is to evoke understand-

ing and sympathy from the target audience, and not to cause terror

(Niebuhr 1960).

acts of terrorism, because their main

Hunger strikes and self-immolation are not

purpose

345

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StrategicLogic of SuicideTerrorism

TheCoercive Logic of SuicideTerrorism

At its core, suicide terrorism is a strategy of coercion,

a means to

Sui-

cide terrorism attempts

opposing society

ing

feature of all

suicide terrorist

ment on the

in cir-

cumstances that cannot lead to

victory.

time event but often occurs in a series of suicide attacks.

leverage

panic civilian punishment in the

associated with each

As such, suicide

both from the immediate

compel a target government to change

logic

of this

strategy

is

simple:

to inflict

enough pain

on the

policy.

The central

to overwhelm their interest in resist-

The common

campaigns is that they inflict punish- either

directly by killing

battlefield

rarely

coercive

a one

the terrorists demands and, so, to cause either the

population

to revolt

government to concede or the

against

the

government.

opposing society,

civilians or indirectly by killing militarypersonnel

meaningful As we shall see, suicide terrorismis

terrorism generates

attack and from the risk of

future.

Suicide terrorism does not occur in the same cir-

cumstances as military

these structural differences help

of the strategy. In virtually all instances of interna-

tional militarycoercion,

and the target is the weaker state; otherwise, the co-

ercer would likely be deterred or simply unable to ex-

(Pape 1996).

two main coercive

by raising the costs or risks

that overwhelms the value

to

of the interests in dispute. Denial seeks to coerce by

demonstrating to the not win the

coercion

used by states, and

to explain the logic

the coercer is the stronger state

military operations

coercers have a choice between

and denial.

ecute the threatened

In these circumstances,

strategies, punishment

target state that it of its level of

Punishment seeks to coerce

the

target society to a level

simply can-

effort, and

therefore fighting to a finish

because the coercer has the ability to conquer the dis-

puted territory.Hence, although coercers may initially

rely on punishment, they create a formidable threat to

deny the opponent victory

battle and, if necessary, to achieve a brute force mili-

in

tary victory if the target government refuses to change

its behavior. The Allied bombing of Germany in World

War II, American bombing of North Vietnam in 1972,

and Coalition attacks against Iraq in 1991 all fit this

pattern. Suicide terrorism (and terrorism in

general) occurs

under the

rorism, the coercer is the weaker actor and the target

is the stronger. Although some elements of the situa-

tion remain the same, flipping the stronger and weaker sides in a coercive dispute has a dramatic change on the

relative feasibility of punishment and denial. In these circumstances, denial is impossible, because military conquest is ruled out by relative weakness. Even though some groups using suicide terrorism have received im- portant support from states and some have been strong enough to wage guerrilla military campaigns as well as terrorism, none have been strong enough to have serious prospects of achieving their political goals by conquest. The suicide terrorist group with the most significant military capacity has been the LTTE, but

reverse structural conditions. In suicide ter-

dispute regardless

is pointless-for

example,

often have the resources to

346

August 2003

it

of the homeland that it

Northern Provinces of Sri Lanka.

As a result, the suicide terrorists is

of "suicide"is novel and the

often

egy of suicide used

logic

economic sanctions to

mounting

interest

terrorism is

has not had a real

prospect of controlling

claims, including

the whole

Eastern and

only coercive strategy available to the element

inflicted on civilians is

the heart of the strat- same as the coercive

when they employ air power or

adversary: to cause

state's

target cause it to

punishment. Although

pain

spectacular and gruesome,

the

an

by

states

punish

civilian costs to overwhelm the

in the issue in

is

expectation

political,

and so to

dispute concede the terrorists' political demands. What creates

the

be

economic or

all

specific tar-

gets

are

as the

coercive leverage

of

not so much actual

military or civilian,

destroy the

opposing society

damage

but

they

future damage. Targets may

in

cases the main task is less to

than to convince the

that

vulnerable to more attacks in the future. These features

also make suicide terrorism convenient for retaliation,

generally terrorists and the defending government (Crenshaw

1981).

The rhetoric of major suicide terrorist groups reflects

the

of Al Aksa

a leader

linked

a tit-for-tat interaction that

occurs between

logic

of coercive

punishment. Abdel Karim, a militant

Martyrs Brigades, to Yasir Arafat's Fatah

group said the goal of his

movement,

group was "to increaselosses in Israel to a point at

which the Israeli

public

would demand a withdrawal

fromtheWestBankandGaza Strip"(Greenberg2002).

The infamous fatwa signed by

others

against

the United

Osama Bin Laden and

States reads, "The ruling

and

to kill the Americans and their allies-civilians

an individual duty for every Muslimwho

military-is can do it in

in orderto liberatethe al-AqsaMosque and the holy

anycountry in whichit is possible to do it,

mosque [Mecca] from their grip,

and in order for their

armiesto move out of all the landsof Islam, defeated

and unable to threaten any Muslim" (World Islamic Front

1998).

Suicide terrorists' willingness to die magnifies the

coerciveeffectsof punishment in three ways.First, sui-

cide attacks are

generally terrorist attacks. An attacker who is

more destructive than other

willing to die is

much more likely to accomplish

causemaximum damage to the target. Suicideattackers

the mission and to

can conceal weapons on their own bodies and make

last-minute adjustments more easily than ordinary ter-

rorists. They are also better able to infiltrate heavily

guarded targets because they do not need escape plans

or rescue teams. Suicide attackers are also able to use

certain especially destructive tactics such as wearing

ramming vehicles into targets. The

188 suicide terrorist attacks from 1980 to 2001 killed an

average of 13 people each, not counting the unusually large number of fatalities on September 11 and also not counting the attackers themselves. During the same period, there were about 4,155 total terrorist incidents worldwide, which killed 3,207 people (also excluding September 11), or less than one person per incident. Overall, from 1980 to 2001, suicide attacks amount to 3% of all terrorist attacks but account for 48% of total

"suicide vests" and

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American PoliticalScience Review

Vol. 97, No. 3

deathsdue to

(Department of

especiallyconvincing

way

suggests

that the attackerscould not have been deterred

threatof

suicide attacks can also

circumstancesaroundthe death of a suicideattacker

to increasefurther expectations of futureattacks.This

canbecalledthe"artof

moresuicideterrorists justify theiractionson the basis

of religious or

of abroadernational community, themorethestatusof

terrorist martyrs is elevated,

becomesthatotherswillfollow in their

cide

cultivate"sac-

symbols

andritualsto markan individualattacker'sdeathas a contributionto the nation.Suicideattackers'families also often receivematerialrewardsboth fromthe ter-

rificial

terrorism,againexcludingSeptember 11

State

1983-2001).

come,

be-

by a

Second,

to

suicideattacksare an

signal

the likelihoodof more pain to

costlysignal,

one that

cause suicideitself is a

costly retaliation. Organizations that sponsor

deliberately

orchestratethe

martyrdom"(Schalk1997). The

ideological motivesthatmatchthebeliefs

andthe

more plausible it

Sui-

footsteps.

terrorist organizationscommonly

myths"

that include elaboratesets of

rorist organizations andfromother supporters. As a re-

sult, the artof

the

that suicide attacks

establishesthe foundationfor credible signals of more

attacksto come.

martyrdom elicits popularsupport from

moralbacklash

and so

terrorists' community,reducing the

might

otherwise

produce,

Third,

suicideterrorist organizations are better po-

sitionedthan other terroriststo increase

expectations

about

normsin the use of violence.

ing thresholdsof

damage,bybreaching taboosconcern-

ing legitimatetargets, and by

to confound expectations aboutlimitson the number

of

increase the

suggests that

the

reason for some confidencethat others with similar

political views might be deterred, the deaths of the

11

September would have to

that futureAl Qaeda attackers

did not, because Americans

escalating futurecosts by deliberatelyviolating

They

cando this

by

cross-

broadening recruitment

terrorists.Theelementof suicideitself helps

because it

credibility

of future

attacks,

attackerscannot be deterred. Although

and convictionof

TimothyMcVeighgave

hijackers

expect

die.

possible

capture

wouldbe equallywilling to

The

to 2001

Recordof Suicide Terrorism, 1980

To characterizethe nature of suicide terrorism, this

study identified

to 2001 that could

database of world news media (Pape 2002).3 Exam-

be found in Lexis Nexis's on-line

every

suicide terrorist attack from 1980

3 This

which the attacker killed

by a state and carried out by the state

Iranian human wave

The

dents were

survey sought

openly

to include every instance of a suicide attack in

himself except those explicitly authorized

apparatus (e.g.,

government

attacks in the Iran-Iraq war were not counted).

claimed

by

the

especially

but this did

survey is probably quite reliable, because a majority of the inci-

sponsoring terrorist organizations. nearly all cases, reported multiple if not always in the U.S. media. To

Even those that were not were, in

times in

regional news media, even

probe for

in

attacks, such as Afghanistan in the 1980s,

additional cases, I interviewed experts and officials involved

prone to suicide

not yield more

what some might consider conflicts

ination of the universeshows that suicide terrorism hasthree properties thatareconsistentwiththe above

strategiclogic

havior:

organized, coherent

domly

terrorist campaigns are directedat

whatthe terroristssee as theirnationalhomelandter-

ritory,specifically at ejectingforeign forces fromthat

target selection-all

campaigns in the last

democracies,whichmake more suitable

the terrorists'

that face nondemocratic opponents have not resorted

to suicideattackas a meansof coercion.

Timing.

aratesuicideterroristattacksbetween 1980and 2001.

Ofthese,179,or95%,were

nine were isolated or random

campaigns, while only

events.Seven

presence ofAmericanandFrench

forces in

and Gaza, the independence

Sri Lanka, the independence of the

Turkey, Russian occupation of Chechnya, Indianoc-

cupation of Kashmir, and

forces on the SaudiArabianPeninsula.

ever, there have been 16 distinct

in certain disputes the terroristselectedto

response cessionsor for otherreasons.Eleven of the

campaigns haveendedandfivewere ongoing asof theendof 2001.

The

by

cooperatinggroups as inthe ongoing "second intifada"

in

attacks comprising each campaign were organized

erationsone or more times eitherin

but not with irrationalor fanaticalbe-

all suicideattacksoccurin

(1) timing-nearly

campaigns, not as isolatedor ran-

timed incidents;(2) nationalist goals-suicide

gaining

controlof

suicideterrorist

two decadeshavebeen aimedat

targets

from

of view. Nationalistmovements

sep-

territory; and (3)

point

As Table 1indicates, therehavebeen188

parts of organized, coherent

separatedisputes haveled to suicideter-

of the Tamil

regions

Kurdish region of

the

presence

of American

Overall, how-

campaigns, because

suspendop-

to con-

a set of

rorist campaigns: the

Lebanon,Israeli occupation of West Bank

of

the same

terrorist group (or, sometimes,

specifiedpoliticalgoal, relatedto that

by

leadersof

timing

Israel/Palestine), clusteredin time,publicallyjusti-

anddirected

fied in termsof a

againsttargets

The most important indicatorof tation of suicideterroristsis the

goal.

the strategic orien- of the

suspen-

sion of campaigns, whichmostoftenoccursbasedon a

strategic

tions that furtherattackswouldbe

to theircoercive purposes-for

by

full or

terrorists'politicalgoals. Such suspensions are often

justify the

state to the

decision

partial

the terrorist organiza-

counterproductive

target

instance, in response to

the

that

concessions

accompaniedby public explanations

decisionto opt for a "cease-fire."Further,the terror-

ist organizations' discipline is usually fairly good; al- though there are exceptions, such announced cease- fires usually do stick for a period of months at least, normally until the terrorist leaders take a new strategic decision to resume in pursuit of goals not achieved in

incidents.

incident where an

Afghan

dying

happened, though

some of their attacks were a little hare-brained and could have been

important that Afghans never even

considered suicidal. I think it's

example they never tried

to blow up the Soviet Embassy in Pakistan."

took their war outside their borders-for

According

to the CIA station chief for Pakistan from 1986

single

to 1988 (Bearden 2002), "I cannot recall a

launched himself

against

a Soviet target with the intention of

things

ever

in the process. I don't think these

347

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StrategicLogic of SuicideTerrorism

TABLE1.

Suicide Terrorist Campaigns, 1980-2001

Date

1.

Apr-Dec 1983 Nov 1983-Apr 1985

July

Apr

Apr

Oct 1994-Aug 1995

Feb-Mar1996

1990-Nov 1994

1995-Oct 2000

1994

Mar-Sept 1997

June-Oct 1996

Mar-Aug 1999

2.

3. June 1985-June 1986

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

Terrorist Group

Hezbollah

Hezbollah

Hezbollah

LTTE

LTTE

Hamas

Hamas

Hamas

Hamas

PKK

PKK

Terrorists'Goal

CompletedCampaigns

U.S./Franceoutof Lebanon Israeloutof Lebanon

Israel outof Lebanon

security SriLanka accept Tamilstate SriLanka accept Tamilstate Israelout of Palestine

Israelout of Palestine

RetaliationforIsraeli assassination Israeloutof Palestine

zone

Turkeyaccept Kurd autonomy

Turkey release jailed

leader

No.of

No.

Attacks Killed

6

6

16

14

54

2

7

4

3

3

6

384

96

179

164

629

15

65

58

24

17

0

OngoingCampaigns, as of December2001

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

Totalincidents

1996-

2000-

2000-

2001-

2000-

No. in

No. isolated

campaigns

Source: Pape(2002).

aTobe determined.

AlQaeda

Chechen Rebels

KashmirRebels

LTTE

Several

188

179

9

U.S. out of Saudi Peninsula

Russia out of

Indiaoutof Kashmir

Sri

Israeloutof Palestine

Tamilstate

Chechnya

Lanka accept

6

4

3

6

39

3,329

53

45

51

177

August 2003

Target Behavior

Complete withdrawal Partialwithdrawal No change

Negotiations

No

Partialwithdrawal

change

fromGaza

Partialwithdrawal

fromWest Bank

No change

Hamasleader

released

No change

No

change

TBDa

TBD

TBD

TBD

TBD

the earlier

terroristleadersand theirrecruitsare sensitiveto the

consider

compel withdrawfrom towns in the WestBank Hamaslead- deliberately withheld attackingduring the spring

ers

Hamas'ssuicide attacksin 1995 to

campaign. This pattern

of a suicide

summer in order to

indicatesthat both

campaign,

Israel to

PLO

negotiations

coercivevalueof the attacks.

As an

example

and

early with Israel an However, when

believe that Israel was

drawal, Hamas launched a

Israel accelerated the which Hamas ended the

a Hamas leader in Gaza, announced, following the ces- sation of suicide attacks in October 1995:

give

opportunity to finalize a withdrawal.

in

early July,

Hamas leaders came to

with-

attacks.

backsliding and delaying

series

of suicide

pace of its withdrawal, after campaign. Mahmud al-Zahar,

Wemustcalculatethebenefitandcostof continuedarmed

goals without violence, we

to

includethe establishmentof an Islamicstate insteadof

Israel Wewillnever

thata trucecould prevail betweenus for

years.(Mishal andSela 2000,71)

If suicide terrorism we would

goals were not articulated

operations. If we canfulfillour

willdoso.Violenceisa

means, nota goal.

Hamas'sdecision

aims, which

adopt

self-restraintdoes not contradictour

recognizeIsrael, butit is possible

days,months, or

were mainly a much different

expect

irrational or even

pat-

disorganized, tern in which

either political

(e.g., references in

news reports to "rogue" attacks)

348

or the stated

the same conflict.We wouldalso

be eitherrandom or,perhaps,event-driven, in response

to

other

over issues in dispute that the terrorists

wantto influence.

Nationalist Goals.

strategy, one thatwould only

group

as a last resort. The reason is that suicide terrorism

maximizescoercive

among sustainedover time

highdegree

of recruits.Themost

support

negotiations

goals

varied

considerably

expect

the

even within

timing to

the

progress of

high-cost

particularlyprovocative or infuriating actions by

but little if at all relatedto the

side,

Suicide terrorismis a

make

strategic sensefora

and, even then,

expense

of

community

when

high

interestsareat stake

leverage

at the

the terrorists'own

community and so can be

already exists a potentialpool

only of commitment among the

importantgoal

its

independence of

of

when there

thata

canhaveis the

homeland (popula-

influence

or control.As

is most likely to be used to achievenationalist goals,

such as

theirnationalhomeland territory and expellingforeign

military