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Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism Paperback – Jul 25 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (July 25 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812973380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812973389
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"'One of the most important books on suicide terrorism.' New York Review of Books" --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Robert A. Pape is professor of political science at the University of Chicago, where he teaches international politics and is the director of the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism. A distinguished scholar of national security affairs, he writes widely on coercive airpower, economic sanctions, international moral action, and the politics of unipolarity and has taught international relations at Dartmouth College and air strategy for the U.S. Air Force’s School of Advanced Airpower Studies. He is a contributor to The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, and The Washington Post and has appeared on ABC’s Nightline and World News Tonight, National Public Radio, and other national television and radio programs.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa37dd30c) out of 5 stars 69 reviews
151 of 179 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa36a89a8) out of 5 stars Original--A Major Contribution to Understanding July 12 2005
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The University of Chicago is an extraordinary institution--the author, employed there, lives up to their reputation for methodical, scholarly, useful reflections grounded firmly in the facts. This work significantly advances our understanding of terrorism and of the three forms of suicidal terrorism: egotistic, altruistic, and fatalistic. The author documents his findings that most suicidal terrorists are altruistic, well-educated, nationalistically-motivated, and fully witting and dedicated to their fatal mission as a service to their community.

Of the 563 books I have reviewed--all in national security and global issues, and all but four among the best books in the field--this new work by Professor Pape stands out as startlingly original, thoughtful, useful, and directly relevant to the clear and present danger facing America: an epidemic of suicidal terrorism spawned by the "virtual colonialism" of the US in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and now Iraq as well as other countries.

I will not repeat the excellent listing of facts in the Book Description provided by the publisher--certainly that description should be read carefully. If you are a Jewish zealot, don't bother, you will not get over the cognitive dissonance. Everyone else, including Muslim, Protestant, and Catholic contributors to Congressional and Presidential campaign funds, absolutely must read this book.

There are many other books that support the author's key premises, all well-documented with case studies and the most complete and compelling statistics--known facts. I am persuaded by the author's big three:

1) Suicidal terrorism correlates best with U.S. military occupation of specific countries that tend to be undemocratic and corrupt, where the U.S. in collusion with dictators and one-party elites are frustrating legitimate national aspirations of the larger underclass and middle class;

2) Virtually all of the suicidal terrorists comes from allies of the U.S. (at least nominally--they actually play the U.S. as "useful idiots") such as Saudi Arabia, rather than Iran;

3) The three premises shared by Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda, the Tamil Tigers, and now the Iraqi insurgency, are all accurate and will continue to be so if the U.S. does not pull its military out of the Middle East, Pakistan, Indonesia, and other locations:

a) Occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and virtual colonialism everywhere else, demand martyrdom operations;

b) Conventional inferiority mandates self-sacrifice (not only suicidal terrorism, but other asymmetric attacks including the death of a thousand cuts against key energy, water, and transportation nodes in the USA; and

c) The US and its European allies are vulnerable to coercive pressure. The withdrawal of the Americans and the French from Viet-Nam and then Lebanon, of the Israelis from the West Bank, and other concessions itemized by the author, have all made the case for suicidal terrorism. It works and it will explode.

I will mention several other books to support this author, but wish to stress that alone, his work is spectacularly successful in documenting the fallacies of the U.S. national security policy.

Among the books that support him are
Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror
The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century
Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Tactics of the Crescent Moon: Militant Muslim Combat Methods
Understanding Terror Networks
The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future - and What It Will Take to Win It Back
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People

This is a core reading for every officer at STRATCOM and SOCOM, and for anyone who wishes to be effective at either Public Diplomacy or Strategic Communication or Information Operations. This author should be an invited distinguished funded speaker at every single war college in the Western democracies. We cannot win without listening to him. Military withdrawals, combined with energy independence, are essential. Without them, we not only will not fully defeat the current crop of suicidal terrorists, but we will, in attempting to deal with the current threat with old counter-productive and heavy-handed means, give birth to hundreds of thousands in the next generation of suicidal terrorists.

There are not enough guns in the world to win this one, even if we had competent intelligence at the neighborhood level, which we do not. In keeping with the author's recommendations, it is clear that moral capitalism, informed democracy, equanimity toward bottom up movements for national liberation and an end to corruption, an honest policy process in Washington, D.C.--these are the keys to victory.

This is a towering accomplishment and a major contribution to strategic thinking.
159 of 189 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa36ab750) out of 5 stars Throwing Stones is Throwing Stones June 6 2005
By Sidney Frieden - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Pape's book takes a flinty-eyed look at the data and presents us with inarguable conclusions that many readers will not like. (Witness the ideological hatchet job below, masquerading as a reader review.) If you can't make yourself believe that US foreign policy (and the foreign policies of other powerful democracies) might somehow be a contributing factor in the proliferation of suicide bombing campaigns we are witnessing today, then don't bother reading this book. If you have to let yourself believe that Islam is the source of most suicide bombing in the world, even if the data shows that it isn't, then don't waste your time reading this book. But if you're tired of not understanding why hundreds of billions of dollars of military hardware, intelligence infrastructure and foreign aid, and hundreds of thousands of US soldiers posted overseas, seems only to buy us more suicide bombers, then perhaps you'd be interested in a fresh idea why this is the case. You may not like Pape's conclusions. You may not be happy about them. But you can't deny that they are based on the data, and that his analysis of the data is manifestly non-ideological in the best sense of that term. If we are going to win the war on terrorism, we had better be prepared to stop thinking ideologically from time to time, and take a look at the facts.
153 of 185 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa36afce4) out of 5 stars Insightful, Groundbreaking Work. + rebuttal to 1-star review June 16 2005
By John K - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This new work by Robert Pape is a long awaited step forward in the understanding of the phenomenon of suicide terrorism that presently faces the Western world. In it, Pape makes his case in a straightforward and airtight argument based on his study of the global experience of suicide terrorism from 1980-2003. And by no means is this any run-of-the-mill examination. It is by far the most comprehensive, thorough, and methodical look at suicide terrorist attacks, the terrorists themselves, the societies that support them, the democracies that bear their cost, and the political circumstances surrounding them.

Pape lays out his ideas in what he terms as the "Nationalism Theory of Suicide Terrorism." One sees, through his analysis, that almost all suicide terrorist attacks since the advent of the tactic have had several similarities. 1) They exist as part of a larger organized campaign 2) they target democracies 3) they seek a strategic political objective (national liberation). This is a cursory explanation of the author's ideas that are elucidated in the book. He then concludes with recommendations stemming from his study's findings.

These ideas are simply novel, well thought-out, and groundbreaking. If they do not find wide acceptance in short order they will certainly be the subject of important debate and any future scholarship will be obliged to address them. The author and all those that worked with him did a great job.

The concluding prescriptions for future foreign policy decisions are quite reasonable and based on sound footing, but, of course, always debatable. Foreign policy has to be one of the most convoluted and difficult issue areas in any field and it is a matter of dire importance because, unlike in domestic policy, you only get one chance.

That is the end of my review. I would like to take a minute to address a previous 1-star review entitled "A Misleading Work" June 6, 2005 by "Anonymous."

Though the anonymous reviewer's complaints about the book lacked coherence and organization, though probably not more than their thought process, there seems to be three main issues in Pape's study that they object to:

1) Too much reliance on graphs/statistics, along with statistical errors

2) The LTTE (Tamil Tigers) existing as a statistical outlier

2a) All other suicide terrorist attackers were Muslims

3) Definition of foreign occupation too broad

3a) Al-Qaeda organization does not fit into Pape's model

I will briefly show that these objections are faulty.

1) Too much reliance on graphs/statistics, along with statistical errors

"Pape provides 14 pages of charts..."

The author conducted the largest study of the subject in history and drew his conclusions from the data. It is obviously necessary to use those facts/statistics to present the argument.

"...factoring 315 suicide terrorists into a billion people is just foolishness..."

There are roughly one billion Muslims in the world, Pape did not use this statistic in his analysis. There were a total of 315 suicide attacks during the period covered by the study, 48-57% were secular and even less were Muslim. (Pape 210)

"...with such a small set --only 15 total campaigns over 30 years -- one group can easily flood the average."

There have been only 18 campaigns in the 23 years covered in the study. 13 have been completed, five are ongoing, and all are included. The "small set" is comprised of all suicide terrorist campaigns in modern (relevant) history.

2) The LTTE (Tamil Tigers) existing as a statistical outlier

2a) All other suicide terrorist attackers were Muslims

"...if they are excluded, it is clear from Pape's own charts that every single other suicide attack since 1980 was committed by a Muslim."

The LTTE is the most prolific suicide terrorist organization in history and has succeeded in assassinating the two highest ranking officials through suicide attacks (heads of state). Any study that did not include the organization would be seriously flawed. It is just plain false that all other attacks were committed by Muslims. Did you read the book?

3) Definition of foreign occupation too broad

3a) Al-Qaeda organization does not fit into Pape's model

"The definition, however, is too broad to be useful."

Pape's definition is apt, especially in the minds of the people living in the countries in question. Your definition may differ but that is irrelevant.

"If a risk can only be calculated by taking into account a potential enemy's subjective experience..."

Understanding the "subjective experience" of the people in question is the ultimate purpose of the book. Achieving that understanding is necessary for calculating risk, developing strategies, and making decisions.

" isn't at all obvious that al Qaeda, the group we are really concerned about, qualifies."

Based on your definition of occupation, whatever that may be, the group may not qualify. However, Pape shows that this is exactly how Osama bin Laden defines it. It is the foundation of his organization's propaganda and mobilization efforts and, as is shown in the book, 95% of people in Saudi Arabia agree with him. (Pape 82)

The errors in your analysis and criticism reveal several things about you. You have an entrenched view of Muslims as terrorists, you don't understand anything about Islam or the Middle East (in either contemporary or historical terms), and you apparently do not understand that not all people in "Muslim" areas/countries are Muslims. You are also suspicious that Pape is some sort of liberal/socialist despite the non-political nature of his book (he does not use George Bush's name once). Finally, you are likely a conservative, a fact which is disheartening and embarrassing for a proud neo-con like myself due to your sub-par presentation and mistaken/uniformed positions.

In conclusion, I would just like to say, don't listen to that person. They don't know what they are talking about and the book does not deserve the 1-star review. It's a great book, go read it.
36 of 46 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa36b30cc) out of 5 stars It is all about the data June 6 2005
By Plan to use this to to teach - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is the first really good book on suicide terrorism. The book's immense strength is that it is based on the world's only really good database of suicide terrorist attacks, complete through the end of 2003. Neither DOD nor CIA has equally good data, at least not unclassified.

The book is admirably well structured, proceding inexorably from data to theory to conclusions to policy advice. But as another reviewer pointed out, you don't really have to trust the author's conclusions -- the data are all in there, and they speak eloquently by themselves.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa36b31b0) out of 5 stars Understanding how to prevent suicide terrorism Sept. 6 2005
By I. Chalmers - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The world's most comprehensive database on suicide-terrorist attacks has been assembled by Professor Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. He has drawn on his analyses of the database in this recently published book.

In a recent interview for The American Conservative (11 July), Professor Pape explained that: "The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign - over 95 percent of all the incidents - has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw...

"...Not every foreign occupation has produced suicide terrorism. Why do some and not others? Here is where religion matters, but not quite in the way most people think. In virtually every instance where an occupation has produced a suicide-terrorist campaign, there has been a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied community. That is true not only in places such as Lebanon and in Iraq today but also in Sri Lanka, where it is the Sinhala Buddhists who are having a dispute with the Hindu Tamils."

The approaches currently being used by governments and others in attempts to prevent suicide attacks are eroding civil and human rights, and sometimes promoting racism. The importance of this book is that makes clear that these policies are unlikely to succeed because they fail to address the root causes of suicide attacks.