Michael Totten

Schooling Robert Pape

Robert Pape argued in his 2005 book, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, that “there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism… Rather what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.” He returns now with an updated version of the book called Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It.

Those of us who have spent enough quality time in Iraq, where the overwhelming majority of the victims of suicide terrorism were Iraqis rather than Americans, don’t need anyone to explain why Pape’s thesis is nonsense. And Pape himself shows that 196 suicide bombers killed themselves and others in Pakistan between 2006 and 2010—a country that not only isn’t occupied by any foreign country, but is not even entirely controlled by its own government.

I know how much work goes into writing a book, and I actually feel a little bit bad for him that so many years of research and labor can be dismissed in two sentences, but his is a dangerously wrong-headed thesis that needs to be knocked down. And Max Boot does such a thorough job of knocking it down before shooting it through the brain and the heart that his review in The Weekly Standard is your required reading this weekend.