The Culture of Death: Terrorist Organizations and Suicide Bombing Ami Pedahzur National Security Studies Center University of Haifa Harrington Fellow Department of Government University of Texas, Austin E-mail: email@example.com Prepared for Presentation at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars February 17th, 2005.
What is Suicide Bombing? • Similar to other manifestations of terrorism, suicide bombing aims at destroying or damaging a specific target. • However, in most cases, the real intention is to create an atmosphere of terror. • As the terrorists perceive it, public pressure in the wake of this collective anxiety should also be translated into political gains. • The principal difference between suicide bombings and other types of terrorism (including earlier manifestations of suicide terrorism), is embedded, in a tactical perspective. • The terrorist’s death, by means of the detonation of an explosive charge, is an integral part of the execution of the operation and constitutes an essential condition of its success.
Suicide Bombing as a Growing Modern Phenomenon Suicide bombing is steadily growing throughout the world.
Suicide Bombing in the Middle East and other Parts of the World Over the last few years suicide bombing has become predominantly a Middle Eastern Phenomenon.
Is Suicide Bombing Motivated by Religion or Culture? • Suicide Bombing is not solely an Islamic phenomenon. • The LTTE, which until recently initiated the majority of suicide attacks, is a radical Tamil organization. • The Fatah is predominantly a nationalist organization. • The ideology of the Kurdish PKK is Marxist Leninist. • Hence, religion cannot be treated as independent variable.
Is Suicide Bombing a Rational Organizational Phenomenon? • Recent studies in the field treat leaders of terrorist organizations as rational actors and the suicide bombing phenomenon as a strategy or a tactic. • According to Pape (2003) 95% of suicide attacks worldwide were initiated by organizations. The organization will use this strategy only as long as it serves its purpose. • In order to carry out a successful suicide campaign there is also a need for individuals who will perpetrate the acts and a community which will support them. • Hence, the organizations make efforts to glorify suicide missions and to instill a ‘culture of death’ within the community.
Campaigns of Suicide Bombings (per year) Suicide bombings usually appear in waves, or campaigns. A campaign rarely lasts more than three years.
The Study of Personal Motivations • The first generation of scholars in the field focused on the socio-demographic characteristics and the psychological motivations of the suicide bombers. • Most of these studies came to the conclusion that suicide bombers exhibit no distinct features, especially with regard to their psychological traits. • The second generation of studies emphasized the role of social networks and the surrounding community in supporting the phenomenon.
Types of Individual Motivations Individual Motivations can vary. • Two types are prominent: Crisis and Commitment • Communal Crisis – results from continuous repression of a group to which the individual belongs. • Personal Crisis – mostly results from pain inflicted by the enemy, it can also be an outcome of social problems. • Commitment within a social or family network. • Commitment within and organizational framework. • These motivations are not mutually exclusive. • Crisis can lead to commitment.
The Palestinian Case • Prior to the Intifada most of the suicide bombers had a similar social profile. • They all belonged to a totalistic organizational environment. Often these organizations operated from Israeli jails. • During the Intifada years the profile of the suicide bombers changed. • Their stories indicate that most of them suffered a crisis prior to the attack. Many of them approached activists and volunteered for suicide missions. • Another group of suicide bombers (over 25%) came from local, loosely organized networks which were based on kinship and social ties. • These networks replaced the organizational frameworks which fell apart.