Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bush at the U.N.

President Bush actually gave a semi-decent speech today at the United Nations. One passage I found somewhat curious, however:

Imagine what it's like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform. You're 21 years old, and while your peers in other parts of the world are casting their ballots for the first time, you are powerless to change the course of your government.
While your peers in other parts of the world have received educations that prepare them for the opportunities of a global economy, you have been fed propaganda and conspiracy theories that blame others for your country's shortcomings.
And everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom.

Hasn't this thesis about the creation of suicide bombers been roundly disproven? Here's an interview with Prof. Robert Pape, from the University of Chicago, who's written a book about suicide attacks in the Middle East and their source. Takeaway point from Pape:

Over the past two years, I have collected the first complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. This research is conducted not only in English but also in native-language sources—Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Tamil, and others—so that we can gather information not only from newspapers but also from products from the terrorist community. The terrorists are often quite proud of what they do in their local communities, and they produce albums and all kinds of other information that can be very helpful to understand suicide-terrorist attacks.
This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think.

* * *
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.

Let me be clear about this: I think that the decrepit backwardness of most Middle Eastern countries feeds into anti-American sentiment and religious fundamentalism of the worst sort. But I separate that from the very different aim of bin Laden style jihadists, who use their soldiers as willing suicidal weapons in the battle against the West. Bush, apparently, does not.


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