"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Saturday, February 04, 2006

He Blowed Up Real Good

I found well-credentialed University of Chicago poli-sci prof Robert Pape somewhat interesting when he was doing interviews hawking his book Dying to Win some months back. His comprehensive statistical study of suicide bombers and explanatory narrative met little skepticism in the mainstream media (and that includes Fox News). It fit a conventional wisdom, that it's our own fault: People blow themselves up and a lot of other people with them because they came from countries "occupied" by another power, namely us. Plus, he had a lot of numbers like 460, 333, 95%, and many others as well. Can't argue with professors who have numbers.

After hearing him out, all I could wonder is how such a smart man missed the facts that a) he mixed a helluva lot of the Marxist-Leninist Hindu Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka with Islamists, as if tactics equal essence, b) that attacking the US/UK if we had forces in their country makes perfect sense since we are the major impediment to the "morally pure" crazies taking over and terrorizing their own people, and c) Islamicism provided a perfect rationale for self-destroying types, who in other cultures might find other ways of doing themselves in.

Dear Mom and Dad, and Fatima, too,

You always loved Abdul better. But now I'm a holy martyr, and he's still just a computer salesman, so screw you, and especially you, Fatima. I'm in heaven with 72 virgins who are pleasuring me very pleasurably and now a poster of my face is on the wall next to your shop. You all always said I couldn't do anything right, but I blowed up real good and took some Americans or bad Muslims or Jews with me. (They didn't tell me exactly who I would be blowing up. Security reasons. But I still get all those virgins, Fatima, and you're stuck with Abdul, who snores.)

But I forgive you all and hope you cry every day while you miss me now that I'm gone. I miss me, too, already.

Yours truly,
Ali


Michael Totten, who is doing breathtaking work traveling about the Muslim world talking to everybody, wrote a riposte some months back to Prof. Papes. Like the man says, read the whole thing.

I yield Mr. Totten the final word. He foresaw the nonsense we hear lately:

Robert Pape thinks we should withdraw from the region completely and secure our interests in oil, as he put it, from a distance. If we take his advice, we won't end the threat from our enemies. We'll give them military victories for free. And we'll throw our liberal Muslim friends to the Islamist wolf. It's the most disgraceful and despicable thing we could possibly do, not to mention one of the dumbest. Empowered liberal-democratic Muslims with guns will defeat the Islamists in the end. We can't do it without them, and they can't do it if they're languishing in mass graves and dungeons.

12 comments:

Pastorius said...

Good post, TVD. It seems to me that it is very likely that our presence in the Middle East is the only thing that secures the free flow of oil through the markets of the world. Without us protecting the lands and the ports and the oceans, a certain few tyrants would take control of all the oil resources, prices would skyrocket, and many third-world countries would be brought to their knees as they would not be able to afford even a drop of oil.

Meanwhile, all the money would be hoarded by just a few, who would then use it to gain even more global power.

That's the world Mr. Pape desires, apparently.

James Elliott said...

Never mind that, for example, the US gets something like only 15% of its oil from the Middle East. We get more oil from Nigeria and Venezuela than any individual Middle Eastern nation.

Michael Simpson said...

Doesn't anyone know how an oil market works? Suppose that Saudi Arabia produces, oh, 25% of the world's supply. (Just a figure for argument). If they stop producing or stop shipping to the West, it won't matter that we only get 15% of our oil from the Middle East - ALL prices will go up and dramatically so. After all, do you think the Mexicans will sell us oil at $70 a barrel if Italy will buy it at $80? Nope.

Pastorius said...

Wow, Michael Simpson. Very impressive argumentation.

The only problem is, there are no nations that produce anywhere near 25% of the oil.

All of this worry about Iran screwing up the oil market is a complete joke.

Iran only produces about 4% of the world's oil.

And, if the freaking libs would let us drill off our coast and in Alaska, we would be more than self-sufficient.

The United States produces far more oil than Iran already. And, we have so much more that we could produce.

Look it up.

Pastorius said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pastorius said...

Michael Simpson,
I looked at this again, and realized you were not trying to say what I thought you were saying. So, sorry about my reaction.

Anyway, the reason I get frustrated on that subject is because of the constant bombardment of the Iran oil meme. So many people seem to be under the illusion that attacking Iran will send oil up 30-40%.

James Elliot's point is actually important, in that most people think that we get MOST of our oil from the Middle East. Additionally, it seems that most people think that most of the oil in the world comes from the Middle East.

This is not true.

The Middle East is a big player, but not that big.

And, I don't think OPEC will stand with Iran. Now, that's my opinion, but we have seen it time after time. I don't think the ME countries like each other very much. They have a very hard time cooperating.

James Elliott said...

It fit a conventional wisdom, that it's our own fault: People blow themselves up and a lot of other people with them because they came from countries "occupied" by another power, namely us.

I think, Tom, that you may be interpreting Papes' point too broadly. After all, the suicide attacker has his roots in Shia tradition, dating back to the Crusades. The occupier need not be the United States. This is why he includes the Tamil Tigers without separating them from Islamic terrorists: His book is a study on the last twenty years of suicide bombing, not Islamic extremism. He further demonstrates this with his section on the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and with some damning statistics, which you apparently hold in contempt but are fairly persuasive nonetheless.

Since Papes limits himself to the last twenty years, he leaves out a very telling example: The Jordanian occupation of territory claimed by the Palestinians. Jordan faced a rash of suicide bombings and terrorist acts until they began taking radical counterterrorist measures: killing the families of suicide bombers in retribution. Papes does not discount the roles religious fulfillment and revenge may play, as you seem to contend. He acknowledges their power as secondary motivators: he simply has the evidence to indicate that they are not the principal motivators popular thinking portrays them as.

Further, his conclusion does not call for withdrawal as the magic silver bullet that will protect America. Totten's thinking is rather haphazard: Free-thinking Muslims will defeat the fanatics in the end, but if we pull out, they all of a sudden won't have the chance to put up a fight? Hogwash, and not borne out by either the evidence of the past or the current political climate within the Middle East. As Ms. Mercer noted in your previous post, the power structures within the Middle East are often more moderate than the "street."

Papes writes in the classic neorealist tradition of IR theory. He is not writing about democratizing the Middle East; he's writing about what the evidence presents as the best way to protect his country. Totten's critique - which comes from either a liberal or, more likely, neoconservative perspective - evaluates Papes' work from a completely different philosophical perspective, with a completely different goal in mind. His priority is "liberation." Just because he finds Papes' research or conclusions to be contrary to his priority doesn't make Papes' work wrong.

Matt Huisman said...

From the book description for Dying to Win at Amazon:

FACT: Ninety-five percent of suicide terrorist attacks occur as part of coherent campaigns organized by large militant organizations with significant public support.

FACT: Every suicide terrorist campaign has had a clear goal that is secular and political: to compel a modern democracy to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.

FACT: Al-Qaeda fits the above pattern. Although Saudi Arabia is not under American military occupation per se, one major objective of al-Qaeda is the expulsion of U.S. troops from the Persian Gulf region, and as a result there have been repeated attacks by terrorists loyal to Osama bin Laden against American troops in Saudi Arabia and the region as a whole.


I don’t disagree with any of the above observations by Mr. Pape. The thing that I’m not clear about is whether he thinks these groups have any objectives beyond the expulsion of modern democracies from their territories. It doesn’t strike me as likely that AQ, Hamas, et al will suddenly disband upon the departure of western imperialists and Israel from their lands. If you’re going to say that religious fulfillment and revenge are secondary influences in the operation of these organizations, why does ridding the Islamic world of the infidels (which sounds very religious to me) make better sense as their paramount objective?

Way back when, our entrance into the region provided some stability for numerous internal actors who did not necessarily have the best intentions of their people in mind. Doesn't it seem likely that the militants would be just as frustrated with the people who invited the infidels in to their land as they would be with the infidels themselves?

James Elliott said...

Doesn't it seem likely that the militants would be just as frustrated with the people who invited the infidels in to their land as they would be with the infidels themselves?

Hence al-Qaeda's opposition to the House of Saud.

But also, in Pape's defence, hence the Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence as insurgents target "quislings.

Tlaloc said...

"After hearing him out, all I could wonder is how such a smart man missed the facts that a) he mixed a helluva lot of the Marxist-Leninist Hindu Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka with Islamists, as if tactics equal essence,"

He wasn't writing about Islamists. He was writing about SUICIDE BOMBERS. i.e. a tactic. So he wrote about everyone who used that tactic and yes that means looking at maoists and islamists and others. What is so hard for you to get about that?



"b) that attacking the US/UK if we had forces in their country makes perfect sense since we are the major impediment to the "morally pure" crazies taking over and terrorizing their own people"

No the data shows we are the main FUEL for the crazies trying to take over their own people. Quick name one country that has been siezed by native fanatics where there was no outside colonial interference...



"c) Islamicism provided a perfect rationale for self-destroying types, who in other cultures might find other ways of doing themselves in"

While true it's also irrelevent. Again look at the data rather than relying on your incorrect biases.

Pastorius said...

There is no pleasing Al Qaeda. If we pull out, they will want Spain (Andlusia). Should we pull out of Spain?

If we pull out of the Middle East, they will simply ransack it, as the Taliban did to Afghanistan.

They do not have the mind for infrastructure.

And, the result of a pullout would be the destruction of the world's economy. The first people to suffer would be the third world nations, but it would go beyond that.

Tlaloc said...

"There is no pleasing Al Qaeda."

of course not and that was never the goal. The goal is to make the average arab not hate us so that he won't ever go over to Al Qaeda.



"If we pull out of the Middle East, they will simply ransack it, as the Taliban did to Afghanistan."

Good! And when they do the average arabs are going to start to detest Al Qaeda. When their base of support turns against them they are finished. That is how you defeat a terrorist organization.



"And, the result of a pullout would be the destruction of the world's economy."

I doubt it, it might cause a significant disruption but that'd actually be great since it would convince nations to change energy usag pattern before we run face first into oil depletion.