Saturday, June 4, 2005
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June's Books of the Month
If last month's selection theme was books written by U of C faculty, this month's theme is threefold:
The international relations book for this month is my colleague Robert Pape's Dying to Win : The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Pape has collected data on all events of suicide terrorism over the past three decades and distills from that data several interesting hypotheses and policy recommendations. [Why not go into more depth?--ed. Because I've blogged about Pape's work on this subject before -- click here, here, and here for my thoughts about Pape's argument, methodology, and policy pronouncements.]
The general interest book for the month is... on the same topic -- it's Mia Bloom's Dying To Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror. In contrast to Pape, Bloom conducted field research in conflict zones where suicide terrorism took place -- including Israel and Sri Lanka. The assessment from Publisher's Weekly:
Combined, Bloom and Pape offer a lovely refutation to claims that the academic study of international relations does not care about policy relevant research.
Go check them out.posted by Dan on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM
I saw Mia Bloom speak at a conference hosted by the Air Force Academy a few years back -- her work and presentation were just inspiring, at least to this IR undergrad, and made all the theory I was learning seem more worthwhile. Thanks for the Amazon link, I can't wait to read her work in greater detail.posted by: Michael Flynn on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
But is she hot?posted by: Male on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
fareed zakaria wrote about this a couple years ago, contrasting the rise of chechen terrorism, with a decline from the PKK...
We treat suicide bombers as delusional figures, brainwashed by imams. But they are also products of political realities. There are many differences between the Kurds and the Chechens. But both are Muslim populations that have political grievances. In one case, the grievances and tactics grew more extreme and violent, culminating in suicide bombing. In the other, suicide bombing gave way to political negotiations and even coexistence. There is a lesson here.all you IR students might want to watch his show :D
cheers!posted by: glory on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
Thanks for the reading suggestions. My to-read list is now one mile long.posted by: Horatio on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
"Combined, Bloom and Pape offer a lovely refutation to claims that the academic study of international relations does not care about policy relevant research."
If so, a rare example indeed ... :-) ...
That said, they DO sound interesting ... thanks.posted by: Grok Your World.com on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
I still don't get it. Why is suicide considered a more horendous tool of war than the conventional means of war? Why is terror not war as we are willing to accept war? Especially when conventional war is now way out of most militias price range.If you want to revolt, your options are getting more and more expensive.. If suicide is symbolic or meant to mean something, it is certainly lost on the US which is so fascinated by it that all attention swings toward a static horror/ extasy. It sure as hell makes more interesting reading and watching than Darfur. Maybe those rebels should have some more suicides. Maybe the refugees should blow themselves up. They'd get attention then. The Tutsis should have done it in Rwanda during the "Genocide".
Media is drama and drama is media
that is all you know and all you need know.posted by: exclab on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
Harsh counterterror tactics seemed effective in countering Japanese kamikazes. Of course it took time, and by the end of the war Americans thought so little of Japanese lives that whole cities could be obliterated with few qualms.
Which points up one of the problems with suicide bombings and insurrections in general; those who indulge in tactics of this kind risk bringing fury down on their own people whether they win or lose. If they lose they are likely to lose completely, and if they win after descending to such a level of barbarism the regimes they establish afterwards are likely to be nasty and oppressive.
As a matter of fact, I was thinking the other day of examples of modern insurgencies in which the country the insurgents were fighting for wouldn't have been better off if the insurgents had given up and gone home right at the beginning. Jewish hostilities against the British in the postwar period were the only one I could think of. Cuban guerillas fighting the Spanish might be another, though this example is only marginally modern and the guerillas weren't the ones who kicked the Spanish out.
Really, all the average man gets at the end of a successful modern insurgency is the warm feeling of knowing his country's dictator is someone with the same color skin he has. Must be a pretty warm feeling to make you want to blow yourself up.posted by: Zathras on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
I still don't get it. Why is suicide considered a more horendous tool of war than the conventional means of war?
good question --- especially since we honor those who, in wartime, have undertaken "suicide missions" in pursuit of larger goals, and expect soldiers to go willingly to their deaths in pursuit of those goals.
Why is this distinction made between some soldiers who are "willing to die for their country" and others who are willing to make the "ultimate sacrifice"? Why are some "patriots" while others are "terrorists"?
I suggest that the focus on "suicide bombers" as a separate and distinct form of warfare is designed solely to dehumanize the enemy. "We" no longer need our soldiers to be "suicidal" and go to great lengths to protect them. Hell, we are going so far as to have people in Nevada killing people in Iraq by remote controlled drone aircraft. And we criticize the military hierarchy when it doesn't provide absolute protection for our soldiers.
The "other side", lacking our technological advantages, continue to pursue wars the old-fashioned way....with fighters who are willing to die for their cause. I guess this makes them "primitives", and thus somehow less worthy of the respect that we have traditionally provided those who sacrificed their lives for a cause...posted by: p.lukasiak on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
The distinction between "dieing for country" and "dieing for a cause" is extremely unclear but is made all the time. We asked to believe there is a world of difference. But there isn't. Was Churchill a terrorist when he bombed Dresden? Is he therefore odious? If a bomber in a market place who kills seven is bad, what does that make Kissinger? Does it make a difference if the soldier believed enough in his cause to die for it? Does that make it worse than Kissinger who bombed Cambodia without illwill and whose life was never threatened? Is detachement from death of oneself and others the virtue of the moral warrior?
If this is true then only the affluent countries can carry out a war by ethical means. (sic) And actually this may be as it should be. For it is not the correct side that decides the rules of war but he most powerful side.
Which is why Kissinger will not be appearing in the world court.posted by: exclab on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
The individual "dying for his country" generally directed his/her efforts at military targets under the command of a military structure that had some concept of rules of war and engagement (yes and there are a thousand exceptions no doubt).
Suicide bombers tend to target civilians for their own specific tactical and strategic reasons.
It is summer, maybe a good Elmore Leonard novel would be better.posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
Save the Rust Belt
I don't think the distinction is pertinent. And the exceptions are so many that if the distinction were relevant, it would be useless as the basis for a set of rules of engagement. It would be better to judge suicide bombers on their tactical application than their moral depravity.
Elmore Leonard? I find him a little facile. But then I adore James Elroy. For a good trashy read I enjoy Ian Rankin - I don't know if he is out in the States yet. He's scottish.posted by: exclab on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
The word suicide, as I understand it, refers to the taking of one's own life. Suicide bombers actually commit the act that ends their own life. Commonly, the term "suicide mission" is inappropriately applied to military operations in which death is certain, or at least very likely -- but which do not include the taking of one's own life.
There's a big difference between being killed by someone else and being killed by yourself. I think it's an interesting phenomenon to consider -- why do some people engage in missions in which there is absolutely no effort to even try to survive? Why, in a suicide bomber's mind, does the positive act of killing oneself contribute to the success of the mission?posted by: Andrew Steele on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
exclab and p.Jukasiak are taking a ride on the
What follows, then, is that defending oneselves
Do you two advocate that women who are being
I'm sorry Ted, I do not see why a woman who is being raped should not fight back based on as arguement I use in connection to violence. Of course women should fight back. But that is not a moral arguement. War is not a moral arguement either.Morality can not sustain the premises of war and therefore wars are better fought with out it. But I sense that your acusation of "Moral Equivalency" extends from a broader discussion of morality that is current at the moment. Personally I don't see the point in defending moral imperitives. All moral standards, on the putative left or right, seem relative to me. There are also many times when people quietly put morality to one side and ignore it. This will happen in all camps of the debate. Suddenly the moral question is simply not pertinent. This happens so often that I wonder why the issue of morality creates such heated debate. It is clearly a conditional and fungible concept.posted by: exclab on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
Suicide terrorism is a disturbing phenomenon on a number of levels. For a start, it is potentially more lethal than conventional terrorism since the attacker can approach his target and detonate at the optimal moment to cause maximum casualties. It may also increase the likelihood of success of an attack, all other things being equal. This is bad news if you are at all interested in saving innocent lives, since the victims of suicide attacks tend to be civilians, regardless of what the ultimate target is (usually still civilians).
But what is even more disturbing is the mind-set that it reveals. A suicide attacker is someone so full of hate that the sacrifice of his (or her) own life is a small price to pay for the chance to kill an enemy. In fact, I think the whole point is to convey a message of deep, limitless hatred. Understood this way, suicide bombing as a tactic make perfects sense. Terrorists use suicide as a weapon not to instill fear in people, but rather to make their enemies feel discouraged and hopeless. In fact, that's the only way terrorist can ever win in any conflict: by making their opponents give up hope. They use suicide bombing because they think it works, and we will find out over the next couple of decades whether they are right.
An important question we have to ask ourselves is this: can whole countries or societies (or at least important sections of these) can feel the same way and act like one big suicide bomber? What if the leaders of country X decide that the destruction of their own nation, or even their entire civilization, is a price worth paying to see New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Seattle incinerated? I fear that by the time we address this question seriously it will already be too late.
"Of course women should fight back."
Good for you. You allow an individual self-
You also state: "All moral standards,
Since it's all relative anyway, why should
I think you have confused the 'fire'
What a good thing it is for our civilization
Don't bother waking up, as you seem
I think you are missing my point.
It is laughable to me to hear people try to morally judge a group of people who have just bombed a building. There is no moral armature that can support an explanation for this. People think their appalled reation is a moral one. It's not. Its just a reaction. AlQueda does not share any moral intent with us. They are completely foreign to us. They can not be seen from the common moral standpoint in the US. Why does anyone try?
What a good thing it is for our civilization
civilization is based on the empowering, inspiring example of appalling violence. In history it is ussually the most violent race that defeats the less violent. So much of what we have today that we cherish and enjoy is a direct result of war, violence and crime. Are trying to say this isn't true? The US is a pecularlarly gentle hegemon but it has a blisteringly violent past just as any other civilized country does. And that violence is often the reason for its success. THere is almost no place on earth in which the original inhabitants were violently removed from their very homes by more powerful, more violent people.
Where is a moral absolute going to make its way in such a world?posted by: exclab on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
THere is almost no place on earth in which the original inhabitants were not violently removed from their very homes by more powerful, more violent people.posted by: exclab on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
I would add "Dying to Win" to that list.posted by: Paradox Valley on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
Ask yourself this ... would you rather live
Yes, the US is a particularly violent and
Have you finally come to the conclusion that
In fact, a truly non-violent human
We can name such people easily, since
So I still posit; and you haven't come any
While those who use violence to remove such
Tigerhawk has a post on Islamonline's coverage of Pape's book.
I'm curious. Is the book being malrepresented?posted by: John B. Chilton on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
exclab and p.Jukasiak are taking a ride on the "Moral Equivalency" train. Their logical
I can't speak for exclab, but I specifically avoided what you are doing here --- conflating "suicide bombers" with attacks on "civilian" targets. The discussion of "suicide bombers" is separate and distinct from that of "targetting civilians", and the failure to make that distinction is a demonstration of ideological blindness.
because the US won't count the people it kills, its impossible to tell exactly how many civilians have been killed by US bombs (ostensibly) aimed at "military" targets --- but I have read at least one estimate that twice as many civilians have been killed by US bombs than by the insurgents in Iraq. More to the point, the very fact that the US makes no effort to find out how many civilians are being killed through its own efforts suggests that the US is just as contemptuous of the lives of civilians as insurgents who target civilians are.
To claim that there is some vast ethical difference between "collateral damage" (blowing up a building filled with civilians because you suspect there is a sniper in that building) and "targetting civilians" (blowing up a building filled with civilians because you suspect there are "collaborators" in that building) show who is the true moral relativist here --- and its not me.
I think the distinction is pertinent. I just buried a mentor who gave up a peaceful life of nonviolence to put an end to Hitler, and there is a great moral difference from someone who blows up a bus shelter full of school kids or cops.
Leonard is facile, but on a beach with a couple of beers that is fine, besides someone from Detroit has to be successful. Based on your recommendation I will track down something by Ian Rankin.
We can't spend all of our time reading economics and politics, dullls the brain eventually.posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
Rustbelt and Ted
We are going to have agree to disagree. I am supremely dubious of any almost any war's practical necessity. Even WWII can be debated. We rid the world of one a bad man in the favor of a worse one. And Stalin was worse. But Churchill is still a hero of mine as are the badly led Russians outside Stalingrad who would not give in. I will not quibble. And I am worse than a moral relatavist, I am a moral situationist. Ow!
As for good trashy reads - I am reading Kyril Bonfiglioli who apparently wasted his life in dissolute living and writing a couple of really cool books. I am not sure he was aquainted with morality.posted by: exclab on 06.04.05 at 03:21 PM [permalink]
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