Archive for Robert Pape

Anti-Muslim and Faux Liberal Sam Harris to Debate Dr. Robert Pape Soon?

Posted in Feature, Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2012 by loonwatch

Sam Harris, considered one of the “four horsemen” (now perhaps the “three horsemen” after the death of Christopher Hitchens) of the cult of new age atheism may be set to debate Dr. Robert Pape, or so he claims on his website:

Almost invariably, I am urged to read the work of Robert A. Pape. Pape is the author of a very influential paper, “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” (American Political Science Review 97, no. 3, 2003), and the book Dying to Win, in which he argues that suicide bombing is best understood as a strategic means to achieve certain well-defined nationalist goals and should not be considered a consequence of religious ideology. No one has done more to convince my fellow liberals that if we just behaved ourselves on the world stage, our problems with Islam would go away. I am happy to say that Pape has agreed to discuss these issues with me on this page in the coming weeks. Stay tuned…

I don’t believe Sam Harris belongs on the same stage or platform with Pape discussing these issues. He has no study in the field of “suicide terrorism,” he is a novice going up against an academic who has researched and critically analyzed the issue from various angles, and whose work has been the subject of intense scrutiny and peer review.

The tone and tenor in which Harris discusses his possible future encounter with Pape is revelatory in the sense that it exposes the fact that Harris’s mind is already made up. He is not interested in a real dialogue or conversation nor does he seem to be open to the possibility of changing his mind. Harris, like all dogmatists, has already arrived at his conclusion, he is entrenched in his belief that suicide terrorism is largely, if not completely a “consequence of religious ideology.” This is mostly the case because “suicide terrorism” being linked to religious ideology is vital to his claim that Islam is “uniquely” violent and should be held to a different level of scrutiny than other religions.

This recalls a prescient point Reza Aslan made in his interview with us when questioned about his encounter with Sam Harris:

There is no doubt Sam Harris is a smart guy, he has a PhD in neuro-science. You can be a smart guy and be ignorant about particular topics and issues. The problem with Sam Harris is that he tends to write about the things he is ignorant about, (laughs) I think Sam Harris should stick to writing about neuro-science, I think his last book was great. When Sam Harris writes about neuro-science, in other words his expertise, I think it’s great, I love reading his work. When he talks about religion, a topic he knows nothing about, that he’s never studied as an academic discipline, that he’s done no field research in whatsoever, and in which he frankly is unqualified to opine about, that’s the problem. I don’t write about nero-Science because I’m not a neuro-scientist.

Either way, it seems Pape has accepted Harris’s request to debate and it will be interesting to see the correspondence between the two. For Harris it may turn into a similar humiliation as the one he received when going head-to-head with Scott Atran:

******************************************

Lastly, I want to say a few words about the article in which Harris reveals he may be debating Pape. Harris titled the article, Islam and the Future of Liberalism, in it he essentially repeats many of his common, uncritical, and by now, well worn attacks on Islam and Muslims.

Like the predictable Islamophobe that he is, he illustrates his post with this image:

Orientalism 101 anyone?

Yes Sam, Afghan women in burqas is a really great way to illustrate the “threat” of  liberalism accommodating “evil Islam.” Can somebody send Harris, Edward Said‘s Covering Islam? He’s got some readin’ to do.

Harris writes,

I appear to have left many viewers with the impression that I believe we invaded Afghanistan for the purpose of rescuing its women from the Taliban. However, the points I was actually making were rather different: I think that abandoning these women to the Taliban is one of the things that make our inevitable retreat from Afghanistan ethically problematic. I also believe that wherever we can feasibly stop the abuse of women and girls, we should. An ability to do this in places like Afghanistan, and throughout the world, would be one of the benefits of having a global civil society and a genuine regime of international law.

Here is another instance of Harris posturing as an expert on an issue that he is wholly unprepared to discuss, mostly due to his lack of understanding.

Here are some facts for Sam to ponder: 1.) Afghanistan is a tribally based culture, following tribal customs and norms that are ingrained within society and which formed over thousands of years, you are not going to transform that over night, and you are definitely not going to do so with ‘smart bombs’ 2.) Who did the US replace the Taliban with? Northern Alliance war lords, many of whom are the most egregious violators TO THIS DAY of women’s rights. When they ruled before the Taliban child rape was endemic, as it has become once again today. 3.) Changing attitudes towards women can only happen from within society, unless Harris is advocating the removal of women and girls from their husbands, fathers and brothers? Oh wait, he has pondered such stupidity in the past.

Harris is not finished with the inanities, he writes,

Recent events in Afghanistan demonstrate, yet again, that ordinary Afghans grow far more incensed when a copy of the Qur’an gets defaced than when their own children are accidentally killed by our bombs—or intentionally murdered. I doubt there is a more ominous skewing of priorities to be found in this world.

Excuse me for how inarticulate I am about to become, but this must be said: Sam Harris is a S**THEAD. Harris dehumanizes Afghans, to him they are a bunch of dirty savages who cannot even properly mourn or balance their outrage. Regardless of what Harris says, yes, Afghans are very upset that they are being occupied and murdered by an invading foreign nation. The recent protests were not only in response to Qur’an burnings as Harris would have us believe, but as we noted: the murder, maiming and jailing of innocent Afghan civilians!

Harris continues the Islamophobic, anti-Muslim drivel in the rest of the article. He pushes the myth about the silent “millions” of moderate Muslims who are too “afraid” to speak out against violence in the name of their faith. He says that he finds the concept of a Jewish State “obnoxious,” but he immediately contradicts himself writing, “But if ever a state organized around a religion was justified, it is the Jewish state of Israel, given the world’s propensity for genocidal anti-Semitism.”

Profound double standards but that is something Harris has in common with the rest of his Islamophobic buddies in the anti-Muslim movement and hence comes as no surprise.

Richard Dawkins: “Islam” is an “Unmitigated Evil”

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2011 by loonwatch

Richard Dawkins, well known biologist and pop-atheist-guru (add goofball) recently brought up thequestion of whether or not atheists should support Christian missions in Africa. (hat tip: Rob)

He believes the answer is “still no,” (he doesn’t say why) but since Islam according to him is an “unmitigated evil” and atheism is not going to be making any inroads into Africa anytime soon it is a question worth “raising.”

His logic is based on a crudely partitioned breakdown of religious affiliation in Africa designed by aChristian site:

(Isn’t Dawkins supposed to question these sorts of things?)

Dawkins also believes ‘supporting missions’ may be justified on the basis that ‘the enemy of our enemy is our friend.’ That’s the extent of profundity provided by Dawkins! Such crass and cynical sentiments expose the bankruptcy of ideas and strategy in the leadership of the so-called New Atheists.

The statement is similar to “exposed as a fraud” Ayaan H. Ali’s call for Christian missionaries to evangelize Muslims. Such a call is really just a variation on the well worn Crusader-esque theme best expressed by the likes of Anne Coulter, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” (Or the recent statement by Christian Evangelical Bryan Fischer, “Muslims can either convert, or die”).

Don’t you love how some of these loony-out-for-a-buck-and-some-notoriety atheists are so quick to compromise their principles and sit at the table with the most hardcore Bible Thumpers out there? Does anyone think George Carlin would stand for that? Or Tariq Ali? Or As’ad Abu Khalil? Or Cenk Uygur? It just goes to show you that where you are born, your culture and history do have an impact on the decisions and positions you take, no matter how much you claim to be “objective” and motivated by “reason,” and the “scientific method.”

As for his comments that it is a “given” that Islam is “an unmitigated evil in the world today”…wow. First of all, what does that mean about the practitioners of Islam? Does it mean that they are all or mostly or significantly practitioners of “evil?” Because that is the import of Dawkins’ statement, I mean who else puts into reality what Islam is other then the followers of Islam?

Secondly, is anyone else taken aback by the quasi metaphysical language used here by Dawkins? “Unmitigated evil,” is the type of phrase one would expect in the sermon of a Puritan minister or perhaps as one commenter on Dawkins site asks,

Is the Professor now auditioning for a guest shot on Pamela Geller’s website for the barking mad and openly hostile? Very few things in this world are ‘unmitigated evils’: of all the things that might be unmitigated evils, I can absolutely guarantee that a major world religion practiced in a thousand different ways in a thousand different social and cultural contexts is not one of them. The chances of no good at all coming out of such a diverse multiplicity of contexts and forms of practice (that is, of any ‘evil’ not being mitigated) are almost zero. — CallumM

Thirdly, piggy-backing off of the “multiplicity” mentioned by the commenter, is Dawkins totally oblivious to the Arab Spring for instance? You know that thing sweeping the Middle East for the past 5 1/2 months, that many, including Dawkins’ friend Christopher Hitchens thought would fail or sizzle out?

Is it “unmitigated evil” when protesters in Tahrir Square mobilized in the hundreds of thousands, inspired by and chanting the Quranic verse, “God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves?” Was it “unmitigated evil” when they withstood the worst kinds of state violence and barbarity in prayer together, shoulder to shoulder? Was it “unmitigated evil” when Christians and Muslims united to protect each other?

Dawkins is out of touch with current events, and lets just say he won’t be playing in any Philosophy World Cups any time soon. The man’s field is Biology, he doesn’t know much about anthropology, sociology, history, comparative religions, or philosophy, that is why he and his buddy Sam Harris get their arse handed to them by real intellectuals such as Scott Atran and Robert Pape.

Maybe it is time for Dawkins to spend a little more time humbly learning about Islam and Muslims, engaging with critical intellectuals instead of rabid Islamophobes and probably dissecting a frog or two in the lab he’s been neglecting while pontificating on matters he has no grasp over.

Robert Pape: What Drives Suicide Terrorists?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2010 by loonwatch

Robert Pape’s studies are starting to be taken more seriously in the government but the media and popular perception creators haven’t gotten the message yet.

What really drives suicide terrorists?

By Robert Pape / December 9, 2010

Chicago

From the 9/11 hijackers to the double agent whose suicide attack in Afghanistan killed seven CIA employees last December, many people want to know what drives some Muslims – many of whom are middle class and well educated – to kill themselves in attacks on Americans and others in the West.

After examining 2,200 suicide attacks around the world since 1980 – the most comprehensive analysis ever conducted – I’ve concluded that the answer is both simple and disturbing. What drives them is deep anger at the presence of Western combat forces in the Persian Gulf region and other predominately Muslim lands.

Popular accounts of these suicide terrorists give the impression that most of them are globe-trotting extremists radicalized by militant networks to strike outside their homeland for religious or other transnational causes. These accounts are false.

Five key members of Al Qaeda in Yemen (AQAP)

What the evidence shows

In the 2,200 suicide attacks since 1980, over 90 percent of the attackers carried out strikes in their home countries, often just miles from their homes, to resist foreign occupation of land they prize.

Hence, Lebanese carried out the suicide attacks against Israel’s occupation of Lebanon; Turkish Kurds carried out the suicide attacks by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party against the Turkish military presence in their home areas; and Iraqis, Saudis, Syrians, Kuwaitis, and Jordanians carried out the suicide attacks against America’s military occupation of Iraq and the US threat to countries adjacent to Iraq.

Afghanistan is a prime example. We can identify 93 suicide attackers who have killed themselves to strike targets, mostly US and Western troops, in Afghanistan in recent years.

More than 90 percent are Afghan nationals and another 5 percent are from border regions of the country, while only 5 percent are from areas of the world beyond the immediate zone of conflict.

In other words, suicide terrorism in Afghanistan is not part of some global jihad looking for a place to land, but regional opposition to foreign military presence.

We’re missing the real threat

Transnational suicide terrorists do exist. But, they are exceptions to the rule. Understanding that transnational suicide attackers are “black swans” has important implications for explaining their existence. For years, many have sought to explain how an individual becomes a transnational terrorist by seeking to track points along a spectrum of radicalization.

The basic idea is that there is a large pool of potential extremists who become progressively radicalized either through elite manipulation (religious leaders in mosques) or through social and economic alienation. Hence, policymakers embrace the idea of eavesdropping on many thousands of Muslims in the United States and Europe. This has done little to find terrorists, but a lot to scare many loyal citizens.

The fundamental problem with the “spectrum of radicalization” approach is that it is looking for many “white swans” that do not exist, while missing the rare black swans that might.

Consider the London suicide attacks in July 2005. Even if we restrict the pool of potential extremists to the 1.6 million Muslims living in Britain then, the spectrum of radicalization approach would expect more “homegrown” suicide attackers by orders of magnitude. After all, tens of thousands of British Muslims had met fundamentalist leaders in mosques, lost their jobs, or faced social difficulties that they might view as related to their ethnic or religious backgrounds. But just four men launched the attack.

Further, after a year-long investigation, MI5 found little evidence that any of the four London bombers were economically or socially alienated in significant ways. Mohammad Khan, the leader, was a mentor at a primary school with an exemplary employment record. Shezhad Tanweer drove his own red Mercedes to work in one of his father’s several businesses and was a trophy-winning cricket player. Another was known for going to night clubs and talking about girls and cars. None had a history of outbursts or violence, or other signs of significant opposition to British life.

What they did share was deep anger at Western occupation of kindred Muslim populations. Mr. Kahn and Mr. Tanweer left martyr videos to explain their motives.

“Your … governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world,” Khan said. “Until we feel security, you will be our targets.”

Recent so-called homegrown terrorists in the United States also reveal little social alienation, but deep anger at foreign occupation. Faisal Shahzad, who was sentenced to life in prison for planning the failed May 1 Times Square car bomb, cited US military activity in his family’s native Pakistan and the presence of US troops in various Muslim countries as reasons for his desire to kill American civilians.

While religion contributes in many cases to increased feelings of loyalty toward a kindred community that may be oceans away from an individual’s country of citizenship, the primary cause of these horrible phenomena is foreign occupation.

US approach is counterproductive

The US approach in countering this threat has done more harm than good. By simultaneously occupying two Muslim countries and cracking down on Muslim Americans, the US has angered elements of an entire population and made it more likely that they would feel more loyalty to their kindred communities abroad.

Further, aggressive surveillance missed the one behavior trait that the American and British transnational terrorists had in common: self-initiated efforts to communicate with representatives of Al Qaeda and other known terrorist groups to receive approval for their actions.

Counterterrorism operations should focus on what makes these rare events dangerous – that is, the point at which politically active groups seek detailed information and actual materials for lethal action, commonly from international terrorist organizations or their local representatives.

Top 5 attacks linked to Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki

Law enforcement attempts to track large numbers of young Muslim men would incorrectly profile and target an entire community. Such manpower takes resources away from the most productive counterterrorism measure: the search for specific preparations for violent acts.

Robert A. Pape is professor of political science at the University of Chicago and co-author of “Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It.”

 

It’s the Occupation, Stupid

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2010 by loonwatch
U.S. military occupations are causing terrorism

Glenn Greenwald, citing the work of University of Chicago scholar Robert Pape, describes how it is the United States’ occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as America’s support for tyrannies in the Middle East that have led to an upsurge of terrorism. This flies in the face of the proclamations made by pseudo-scholar Robert Spencer and co., who endlessly claim that terrorism is due to Muslim fanatics following Islamic texts and teachings. The obvious evidence staring these bigots in the face is apparently not enough, even when a Muslim extremist, like Faisal Shahzad, says things like “Muslims must defend themselves from ‘foreign infidel forces,’” who have invaded their countries. No, it is much easier (and profitable) to just blame a whole religion for the acts of a few of its misguided followers.

They hate us for our occupations (Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald)

In 2004, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld commissioned a task force to study what causes Terrorism, and it concluded that “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies”:  specifically,“American direct intervention in the Muslim world” through our “one sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan” (the full report is here).  Now, a new, comprehensive study from Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political science professor and former Air Force lecturer, substantiates what is (a) already bleedingly obvious and (b) known to the U.S. Government for many years:  namely, that the prime cause of suicide bombings is not Hatred of Our Freedoms or Inherent Violence in Islamic Culture or a Desire for Worldwide Sharia Rule by Caliphate, but rather.  . . . foreign military occupations.  As summarized by Politico‘s Laura Rozen:

Pape. . . will present findings on Capitol Hill Tuesday that argue that the majority of suicide terrorism around the world since 1980 has had a common cause: military occupation.

Pape and his team of researchers draw on data produced by a six-year study of suicide terrorist attacks around the world that was partially funded by the Defense Department’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency. They have compiled the terrorism statistics in a publicly available database comprised of some 10,000 records on some 2,200 suicide terrorism attacks, dating back to the first suicide terrorism attack of modern times – the 1983 truck bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 241 U.S. Marines.

“We have lots of evidence now that when you put the foreign military presence in, it triggers suicide terrorism campaigns, … and that when the foreign forces leave, it takes away almost 100% of the terrorist campaign,” Pape said in an interview last week on his findings.

Pape said there has been a dramatic spike in suicide bombings in Afghanistan since U.S. forces began to expand their presence to the south and east of the country in 2006. . . . Deaths due to suicide attacks in Afghanistan have gone up by a third in the year since President Obama added another 30,000 U.S. troops. “It is not making it any better,” Pape said.

Pape believes his findings have important implications even for countries where the U.S. does not have a significant direct military presence, but is perceived by the population to be indirectly occupying.

For instance, across the border from Afghanistan, suicide terrorism exploded in Pakistan in 2006 as the U.S. put pressure on then Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf “to divert 100,000 Pakistani army troops from their [perceived] main threat [India] to western Pakistan,” Pape said.

Imagine that.  Isn’t Muslim culture just so bizarre, primitive, and inscrutable?  As strange as it is, they actually seem to dislike it when foreign militaries bomb, invade and occupy their countries, and Western powers interfere in their internal affairs by overthrowing and covertly manipulating their governments,imposing sanctions that kill hundreds of thousands of Muslim children, and arming their enemies.  Therefore (of course), the solution to Terrorism is to interfere more in their countries by continuing to occupy, bomb, invade, assassinate, lawlessly imprison and control them, because that’s the only way we can Stay Safe.  There are people over there who are angry at us for what we’re doing in their world, so we need to do much more of it to eradicate the anger.  That’s the core logic of the War on Terror.  How is that working out?

* * * * *

Akbar Ahmed, the Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, was onBloggingheads TVyesterday with Robert Wright discussing convicted attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, and said this:

Take the case of Faisal Shahzad.  He seems to be, if you put him in a category . . .  he grows up with the reputation of being a party guy, a party boy in the tribal areas [in Pakistan]. . . . He then comes to America and all the pictures are of a modern young man. . . . He changes, but he changes, again, for interesting reasons. The media would have us believe that it’s the violence in the Koran and the religion of Islam.  But hear what he’s saying.  He’s in fact saying:  I am taking revenge for the drone strikes in the tribal areas.  So he’s acting more like a tribesman whose involvement in Pashtun values . . .  one of the primary features of that is revenge, rather then saying I’m going to have a jihad or I’ve been trained by literalists . . . .

That is confirmed by mountains of evidence not only about what motivated Shahzad but most anti-American Terrorists as well:  severe anger over the violence and interference the U.S. brings to their part of the world.  The only caveat I’d add to Professor Ahmed’s remarks is that a desire to exact vengeance for foreign killings on your soil is hardly a unique attribute of Pashtun culture.  It’s fairly universal.  See, for instance, the furious American response to the one-day attack on 9/11 — still going strong even after 9 years.  As Professor Pape documents:  ”when you put the foreign military presence in, it triggers suicide terrorism campaigns . . . and that when the foreign forces leave, it takes away almost 100% of the terrorist campaign.”  It hardly takes a genius to figure out the most effective way of reducing anti-American Terrorism; the only question is whether that’s the actual goal of those in power.

 

US Bases Abroad Trigger Suicide Terrorism

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , on October 5, 2010 by loonwatch

Steve Clemons: US Bases Abroad Trigger Suicide Terrorism

Can it be that American military bases abroad, usually thought of as “stabilizers” in tough neighborhoods, are really the primary cause of radical terrorism against the US and its allies? That is what Robert Pape and James K. Feldman compellingly argue in their new book released this week titled Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It.

Most war planners and geo-strategists conceive of US military bases abroad as if they are anchors of stability in unstable regions. Over the last six decades, while there have been occasional protests, sometimes violent, targeting these foreign bases by rebellious students or groups affiliated with socialist or communist parties in governments hosting these US troops, most of the political system in these respective governments strongly support the American bases, usually as a cheap way to deter aggression from neighbors.

But what once worked in Germany, Japan, Turkey, the Philippines, South Korea, the UK doesn’t seem to be working so well in the Middle East or South Asia today and frankly may be eroding even in these traditional base-hosting countries where jihadist terrorism hasn’t been a factor.

When terrorist tracker and New America Foundation Counter-Terrorism Initiative directorPeter Bergenwas invited to interview Osama bin Laden in 1997, bin Laden told Bergen point blank that America had become an arrogant nation in the wake of its victory in the Cold War and that the basing of American troops in Saudi Arabia, the home of the two Holy Mosques, had made the US a target for al Qaeda. It is also true that the Saudi government invited in and agreed to host on a temporary basis US forces in order to help deter Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. But after ten years, the phrase “temporary bases” actually shifted in then Defense Secretary William Cohen’s remarks to “semi-permanent.”

The shift was noticed by media, government officials, and incensed Islamists throughout the region – though hardly noted at all by American strategists that only saw one side of the cost-benefit ledger.

War planners have tended only to consider the upside opportunities in projecting force through foreign-deployed military bases rather than calculating downsides as well. During the Cold War, the seven hundred plus US military installations abroad helped give the United States unparalleled capacity in intelligence and power projection that no other nation in the world other than the Soviet Union could match. And with the collapse of the USSR, America stood unrivaled, reifying a core belief that this global network of foreign bases had in part been vital to American success and strength.

While Bergen was tracking down bin Laden and taking the pulse of an increasingly restless Middle East, I was watching growing protests and anti-American anger take hold in another part of the world where American bases had long been situated – Japan and South Korea. Believing that the US was impeding normalization efforts between North and South Korea and had been a supporter of military crackdowns against pro-democracy efforts, students directed violent, flame-throwing protests at American military installations in South Korea.

In Japan, the situation was less violent but politically more severe. In September 1995, three American military servicemen brutally raped a 12-year old Okinawan girl. The senior US Commander in the region remarked that the soldiers should have just procured a prostitute triggering the largest anti-American protests in Japan since 1960. Okinawa, Japan’s poorest prefecture, nonetheless hosts the majority of America’s military capacity in Japan – with 39 distinct U.S. military facilities on the island. During the Cold War, the sacrifice made by Okinawa in “carrying the burden” of hosting these bases and US personnel was more easily justified. Since then, the rationale has shifted from everything from deterring North Korea to being a bulwark against growing Chinese power – anything to keep the huge land assets of the Pentagon in the Pacific in place.

When I spoke to South Koreans and Okinawans at the time, I regularly heard comments that they felt “occupied”. Indeed, before a revision in security guidelines between the US and Japan after the rape incident, the US controlled more than 80% of Okinawa’s air space. One senior activist told me that while the protests of the Okinawans would be peaceful for the most part, the US had to worry in the long run about groups self-organizing and possibly beginning to throw Molotov cocktails at US trucks and installations – and threatening personnel and their dependents. This didn’t happen, or hasn’t happened yet, but counting on docility ‘permanently’ may be a major blind spot of Pentagon planners.

What was brewing in Okinawa was not suicide terrorism – but the impulse to reject the logic of large-scale, long term basing of US troops on Japanese soil was growing.

In parts of the world less accustomed to US military personnel, the reaction has been more virulent.

Robert Pape, a professor at the University of Chicago and the director of the new website mega-data base on suicide terrorism titled the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism (CPOST) and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, has been putting on a lot of United Airlines miles between DC and Chicago not because progressives and liberals who might have a thing against America’s global network of foreign military bases want to hear him – but the highest levels of America’s military and intelligence bureaucracies are seeking him out.

The Pentagon’s leadership prides itself on hearing not just material that supports its current course but is open to alternative scenarios to consider military threats – and the Pentagon is most easily convinced by solid empirical data.

Pape and his co-author Feldman have broken down every recorded suicide terrorist incident since 1980 and noted an eruption of such incidents since 2004. From 1980-2003, there were 350 suicide attacks in the world, only 15% of which were anti-American.

In the short five-year period since, from 2004-2009, there have been 1,833 suicide attacks, 92% of which were anti-American.

Pape argues that the key factor in determining spikes of suicide terrorism is not the prevalence or profile of radical Islamic clerics or mental sickness but rather the garrisoning of foreign troops, most often US troops or its allies, in these respective countries.

Pape and Feldman show for example that even in war-torn, beleaguered Afghanistan, suicide attacks surged from just a handful a year to more than 100 per year in early 2006 when US and military deployments began to extend to the Pashtun southern and eastern regions of the country beginning in late 2005. Pakistan also deployed forces against Pashtun sections of western Pakistan, which Pape and Feldman note also saw large spikes in suicide attacks.

Pape is not a pacifist and is not calling on the US government and Pentagon to appease dictators and terror masters, but he is making an argument that a new, better strategy is needed. He and his co-author make a compelling case – much like Donald Rumsfeld once pondered in his famous memo on terrorism – that we are creating much of our own problem and animating and feeding fuel to the enemy of America’s and its allies’ interests.

I once asked Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott whether he thought that America would have problems managing its empire of bases and whether those nations hosting them would feel the burden too heavy in a post-Soviet world. Talbott responded that he believed – as did most of the national security community – that “US bases are anchors of instability in unstable regions.”

This may not be the case any longer — or at least not to the same degree as used to be the case.

Pape and Feldman, in their new book Cutting the Fuse, suggest that the US military would better secure its key foreign policy interests with a posture of “offshore balancing” – relying on military alliances and “offshore air, naval, and rapidly deployable ground forces rather than heavy onshore combat power.”

I bet Pape’s first calls were from the Air Force and Navy — but their interests aside, Pape sees that the future needs to be more high flex, smaller footprint, more nimble — and less toxic and anti-body generating than the large-scale, clunky, unsuccessful force deployments that characterize America’s deployments to Afghanistan today.

Robert Pape is working from the data upward in formulating a smart strategy for military organization – rather than working from the top down and repeating mistakes made by those whose thinking is conventional, incremental, and who tie what they do tomorrow much by what they did yesterday.

Pape sees a chance to neutralize the forces that could otherwise yield another generation of hardened terrorists, many of whom are willing to engage in suicide attacks.

I know the Pentagon is listening — and this impresses me. Others should be too.

– Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington NoteClemons can be followed on Twitter @SCClemons

 

The Allegedly Growing Domestic Muslim Threat

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on December 17, 2009 by loonwatch
Glenn GreenwaldGlenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald has a very interesting article in Salon.com, on the recent surge in talk all over the media about the so-called “rise” in threat from homegrown radical “American Muslims.”

The Allegedly Growing domestic Muslim Threat

There is clearly a concerted effort by the Government to claim loudly that the threat posed by radicalized American Muslims is increasing.  Last week, The Los Angeles Times published a lengthy, scary story under the headline ”U.S. sees homegrown Muslim extremism as rising threat,” claiming that “Anti-terrorism officials and experts see signs of accelerated radicalization among American Muslims.”  Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned this month:  ”Home-based terrorism is here.”  When justifying his Afghanistan escalation at West Point, Obama warned of “extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror.”  And strangely, on Saturday, two articles with virtually identical storylines appeared — one in The Washington Postand the other in The New York Times — warning that American Muslims, for the first time, are now becoming a radicalized threat in the way European Muslims are.

At least from all appearances, these claims are being made exclusively on the basis of a handful of recent episodes involving American Muslims accused of having links to Al Qaeda and/or the Taliban.  There is no data whatsoever offered to corroborate the claim of a “trend.”  Given the obvious dangers inherent in trumpeting threats from internal sources — as well as the motives the Government generally has in disseminating such warnings and the motive it specifically has when escalating a war — far more than a few anecdotes ought to be required before any of this is believed.

What’s most striking about these “warnings” is that they virtually never examine thereasons why this would be happening.  Why, after all this time, would American Muslims suddenly be more willing to engage in violence against the U.S.?  To his credit, Scott Shane devoted several paragraphs of his NYT article to addressing this question, and what he finds is both highly significant and highly unsurprising:

[T]he continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the American operations like drone strikes in Pakistan, are fueling radicalization at home, [terrorism expert Robert Leiken] said. “Just the length of U.S. involvement in these countries is provoking more Muslim Americans to react,” Mr. Leiken said . . . .

Like many other specialists, [Georgetown University terrorism expert Bruce] Hoffman pointed to the United States’ combat in Muslim lands as the only obvious spur to many of the recent cases, especially those with a Pakistani connection. “The longer we’ve been in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said, “the more some susceptible young men are coming to believe that it’s their duty to take up arms to defend their fellow Muslims.”

A few analysts, in fact, argue that Mr. Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan — intended to prevent a terrorist haven there — could backfire.

Robert A. Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist, contends thatsuicide attacks are almost always prompted by resentment of foreign troops, and that escalation in Afghanistan will fuel more plots. “This new deployment increases the risk of the next 9/11,” he said. “It will not make this country safer.”

The evidence proving this causation is now so overwhelming as to be undeniable.  Waging wars, occupying, and dropping bombs in Muslim countries is the single most counter-productive step that can be taken to combat Islamic extremism (indefinitely imprisoning them without charges is a close second).  It’s akin to advising a lung cancer patient to triple the quantity of cigarettes he smokes each day.  Yet we continue to do it over and over, and then point to the harms we cause as reasons we need to continue doing it.  Our “counter-terrorism” campaign basically consists of three steps repeated endlessly:

(1) Interfere in or otherwise act aggressively in the Muslim world.

(2) Provoke increased anti-American sentiment and fuel terrorism as a result of Step 1.

(3) Point to the increased anti-American sentiment and terrorism as a reason we need to escalate our interference and aggression in the Muslim world.  Return to Step 1.

The coordinated campaign to hype the alleged “growing domestic Muslim threat” at exactly the time we are escalating our conventional war in Afghanistan and our covert Predator war in Pakistan is a perfect illustration of this process.   Basically, what Shane’s article reveals is the shocking truth that waging war and otherwise interfering in Muslim countries for more a full decade radicalizes Muslims and drives some of them to want to return the violence.  Who would have guessed?