Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The proof is in the bombing

In the 1890's David Emile Durkheim saw a spike in the suicide rate and saw it to be a symptom of a deep social change sweeping Europe. He reasoned that such a rash venture as to takes one's own life must have some deep cause, and could not happen by arbitrarily. To this end I am trying to synthesize Robert Pape's remarks on suicide bombing and nationalism in the 21st century. If nationalism is truly outmoded, why does it produce such violent affects? Take note all ye political theorists, it is significant.

In the mellifluous words of the poet Wu Tang KRS-1, "suicide, it's a suicide, suicide, it's a suicide." Maybe this set of suicides should prompt a similar line of questions as the former epidemic. Apparently Pape does address Durkheim specifically in his book, "Dying to Kill," but as he is an IR guy and not a theorist, it appears is if there ought to be a lot more work to be done to better explore this relationship, beyond simple psychoanalytic prescriptions for suicide, rather looking at the theoretical germ of the outbreak. (Brownie points for the person that shows me the article that already stumbled upon this.)

In Pape's words:
To clarify Pape's argument I decided to transcribe a particularly lucid and concise passage from his book.
The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any of the world's religions...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 terrorist consider to be their homeland. Religion is not the root cause, although it is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in other efforts of the broader strategic objective ("Dying to Win" by Robert Pape p. 4)


Yehuda said...

What makes you think that Muslim suicide bombers have anything to do with European nationalism?

Zev said...

Because Bob Pape said so. Read his book/article and he lectured at CIS:

Sam said...

I have nothing to say about suicide. But, that line is from '1-800-SUICIDE,' a Gravediggaz track, not Wu-Tang (and the guy saying "suicide, it's a suicide, suicide, it's a suicide" is KRS-1).

jacob said...

The law does not recognize expert scientific testimony if it is unexplained. I am going to draw on that principle and ask again what makes you think that Muslim suicide bombers have anything to do with nationalism besides the fact that Bob Pape said so? It certainly doesnt seem like that to me.

Zev said...

You're not a lawyer quite yet, sir. But I will entertain your request nonetheless.

I have not read Pape's book yet, so my comment will not be very lengthy. The post was more in the form of a question: Is there, in fact, a connection between Durkheim's work on suicide and Pape's? I know he mentions Durkheim's work on suicide in his book, but I believe it is only so much as a reference. But, to the point you raise, Pape argues that there appears to be a strong correlation between the use of suicide bomb tactics and nationalist struggles. The latter, obviously, does not necessitate the former, but he finds no cases, out of ~430, where suicide bombing is used for a motive other than nationalism (e.g. class. That is not to say that his thesis cannot be argued. There are many who would say that suicide bombing is a tactic particular to religious struggles, and that point can be debated, but I, for one, have not the inclination at the moment.) He then poses the question: Why do nationalist struggles prompt this particular type of tactic? And for this, at least as of his lecture at CIS, he had not answer for.

For the record, I did not, in fact, answer the question. I just elaborated Pape's response past, "because he said so."--an answer I always feel guilty about.

Zev said...

Prof. Pape was kind enough to reply to an email of mine informing me that, to his knowledge, no one has explored this connection between Durkheim and suicide bombing as of yet. That's grist for your mill.

Yehuda said...

Zev, I haven't read Pape's book either, so we're on equal footing on this. From your description, is sounded like Pape *assumed* that the motive for suicide bombings was nationalist and then had some trouble explaining how nationalism could cause that type of response. Perhaps his assumption is based on a questionaire that he sent out, looking something like this:

Would you do a suicide bombing?

If yes, would you do it for nationalist, religious, or class motivated reasons?

Too bad he can't ask those who already committed suicide.

Also, does he say anything about what nationalist aims people enganged in these activities are working for?

Well, if you're convinced by Pape, good for you. For my part, I'm still wondering, what are these people trying to accomplish

jacob said...

>but he finds no cases, out of >~430, where suicide bombing is >used for a motive other than >nationalism (e.g. class.

Really? what about religion? give him my email address. I may be able to find him some recent cases of suicide bombing having way more to do with religion than nationalism.

(I am not sure I am not a lawyer. I have a Juris Doctor. Whether or not NY allows me to practice is a question to be decided later this month)

Zev said...

CORRECTION: Pape did NOT say "he finds NO cases, out of ~430, where suicide bombing is used for a motive other than nationalism" but rather in EVERY (or just most?) instance he finds an element of nationalism. Big difference.