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Driven to Death: Psychological and Social Aspects of Suicide Terrorism [Hardcover]

Ariel Merari

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Book Description

June 18 2010 0195181026 978-0195181029
Suicide attacks are the definitive form of terrorism. More than any other terrorist tactic, they convey the ruthless willingness of present day terrorists to kill themselves for killing others. Since September 11, 2001 the number of suicide attacks around the world has risen dramatically, causing on average far more fatalities per attack than other forms of terrorism. What drives a person to kill himself for killing others, in the name of a political or religious cause? This book is the first to report a series of studies in which failed suicide bombers and organizers of suicide attacks were subjected to systematic clinical psychological interviews and tests and were compared to non-suicide terrorists. This direct psychological examination enabled a first-hand assessment of the personality characteristics and motivation of suicide bombers. Additional interviews conducted by seasoned area specialists provided a comprehensive picture of the ways by which the suicide bombers were recruited, prepared and dispatched to their planned death, as well as how they felt and behaved along this road. This information was supplemented by data derived from interviews with the families of suicide bombers who died carrying out their attacks. The psychological makeup of suicide terrorists is put into context in other chapters of the book, so as to provide an inclusive understanding of this phenomenon, which takes into account public atmosphere and the ways in which terrorist groups influence the suicide candidates. The book examines the characteristics of suicide terrorists in light of the most influential theories of suicide and offers a critical and innovative analysis of current explanations of suicide terrorism.

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"With Driven to Death, Ariel Merari, who has studied terrorism for more than thirty years, offers a crucial advance in our understanding of the causal mechanisms behind suicide missions thanks to groundbreaking research on a sample of incarcerated Palestinian would-be suicide bombers... In this sense, overall the book is successful in providing a more adequate articulation of our view of the phenomenon. It forms a very important basis for new empirical research on (suicide) terrorism, which can be successful only if it is inspired by a genuine multidisciplinary perspective." -- European Journal of Social Sciences


"In 'Driven to Death,' Ariel Merari brings together insights accumulated over a more-than-40-year career as one of the world's top academic experts on terrorism and its suicide variety. Overall, Mr. Merari's "Driven to Death" is highly recommended as an insightful treatment of suicide terrorism and the factors that drive it." -- Joshua Sinai, The Washington Times


"No one has studied suicide terrorists longer than psychologist Ariel Merari, who has had the advantage of working in Israel during three decades in which suicide terrorism has been all too common. It is impossible to summarize the rich evidence and insight in this book... Every chapter puts the reader in touch with the perspective of an author with unmatched experience in studying suicide terrorism... there can be no doubt that future research on suicide terrorism will build on this book." -- Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko, Terrorism and Political Violence


"The author, a clinical psychologist, is one of the world's preeminent experts on suicide terrorism, and a long-time adviser to Israeli governments on these issues. In this important book, the author discusses the psychological, cultural and political factors that drive individuals to intentionally kill themselves in order to kill others on behalf of their political or religious cause. In the case of Palestinian suicide bombers, the author's findings are based on empirical data gathered by a team of Israeli researchers (including Dr. Anat Berko), who interviewed Palestinian prisoners who had 'failed' to carry out their suicide attacks. The result was a first-hand assessment of the personality characteristics and motivation of such suicide bombers." -- Joshua Sinai's Top 150 Books on Terrorism and Counter-terrorism article in Perspectives on Terrorism


About the Author

Prof. Ariel Merari has studied terrorism and political violence for more than 30 years. He has been a faculty member of Tel Aviv University's Department ofPpsychology, established the terrorism research program at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, a visiting professor at Berkeley and Harvard, and a Senior Fellow at the Kennedy School's International Security Program. He has published widely on terrorism and was interviewed by all major television networks.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's about time! Oct. 10 2010
By Soft Power - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Most of us have been waiting for this book for years. Merari's unique access and insights into suicide terrorism are the culmination of decades of research on this subject. The book is excellently written and accessible to experts and non experts alike.
2 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful but Severely Flawed in Context Nov. 19 2010
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I read a great deal and below offer an alternative recommendation to this book. A careful look through the "Inside the Book" elements, including the Index (Pape is not there) and the Conclusion, confirm that this is a book that seeks to place all the blame on the suicide terrorists without regard to the extreme deprivations being placed upon them by dictators and occupying powers. I give this book a fourth star because it serves a useful purpose--this is a valuable study in and of itself, but it loses a star for failing to be honest about the larger context. Below are a few books that provide that context.

The key conclusion that this book does not do enough to highlight is that there is a direct correlation between suicide terrorism and a specific country being occupied or a specific ethnic groups being severely and harshly repressed. Stop the occupations, genocides, and other attrocities, and most of the suicide terrorism will stop as well.

The primary purpose of this intervention is to point to the below books and my summary reviews of each.

Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism

Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025

Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror

Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude

The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World

See also at Phi Beta Iota under Remixed Reviews:

Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Negative) where 40 lists of reviews are provided sorted under the causative revolution categories of political-legal, socio-economic, ideo-cultural, techno-demographic, and natural geographic, will all links live.

Terrorism is a boil. We choose to lance that boil by shooting it off while driving a car on a winding road. It should not come as a surprise when we drive the car over the cliff as a result of our poor choice of tools and bad decisions.
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