[Paleopsych] suicide bombings

Michael Christopher anonymous_animus at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 11 22:57:55 UTC 2005

Christian says:
>>Following Steve's comment "killing civilians may 
make perfect sense". I want to add that killing
civilians is not an "evil" strategy that resistance
fighthers would not use hadn't they been infiltrated
by terrorists. The strategy makes sense.<<

--I think the major reason suicide bombings are used
is that they result in high levels of media coverage,
regardless of whether the tactic "works" in any
strategic context. It works for groups that want
increased status in pro-terrorist circles, it gets
them fame and says, "We are a force to be reckoned
with". But that's also a risk, if an attack is too
outrageous and results in the terrorists being labeled
murderers rather than martyrs in the Islamic and
Arabic press. Dishonor is worse than death to a
suicide bomber, and the best way to marginalize
terrosists is to dishonor them, to stain their
reputation in the eyes of the audience they seek to
influence. Making them look ineffective is one way to
do that, referring to them as apostates and murderers
rather than martyrs is another.

It's safe to say that, at least in the eyes of the
victims, suicide bombings are "evil" if the word has
any meaning. Most soldiers are taught to demonize and
dehumanize their enemy in order to kill without
guilt-induced paralysis, but those who deliberately
attack civilians are going a level beyond, and it
should be noted that "what works" and "what is
permissible in a civilized world" are two different
things. The message must be sent that terrorism fails,
backfires, draws shame upon the groups that rely on it
as a tactic. It should be equated with child
molestation, not with the courage of conventional
soldiers up against a greater force. Ideally,
nonviolent resistance groups should be given
opportunities to be seen as effective and powerful at
the same time, increasing their status. The message
should be, "Reject terrorism and repel an occupying
government by appealing to the conscience of its
people, rather than their fear". This makes pragmatic
sense -- when Americans or the British are afraid,
they tend to want to feel powerful, and that means not
giving in, not backing down. But both groups have high
levels of compassion and would easily support a
Palestinian nonviolence movement, or an Iraqi movement
to end occupation through nonviolent resistance. If we
saw Israeli tanks rolling over Palestinians on a daily
basis, we'd all be demanding an end to the occupation,
divesting from Israel and denouncing Israel's
leadership. But if suicide bombings are on the front
page, nobody will even notice if a tank rolls over a
nonviolent protester.

Regarding the "terrorists are driven to do it"
argument that comes up pretty often, it possible to
explain the behavior of anyone, from an Israeli
soldier to a Palestinian suicide bomber to a serial
killer or child molester in any nation, in terms of
cause and effect -- as long as one is consistent (i.e.
all behavior is caused by something, regardless of the
perpetrator). But, in a paradox, one side's basest
behavior is often framed as a product of another
side's provokations, while the other side's behavior
is assumed to be uncaused and therefore inexcusable.
"Palestinian suicide bombers are driven to do it...
Israelis are the real terrorists" is a common example.
More consistent would be to say "Members of both sides
are driven to do what they do". Palestinian suicide
bombers and abusive Israeli police (as opposed to
conventional Palestinian fighters and ordinary Israeli
police) are both driven to do what they do, and both
should be marginalized so that their actions gain them
no status or respect. Whatever the cause of suicide
bombings, the effect should be the total and
unambiguous rejection of terrorist tactics by every
nation on earth. The alternative, sending the message
that "terrorism works" is intolerable. The
consequences of sending that message would be
equivalent to rewarding urban gangs by withdrawing
police patrols from their "turf", or excusing police
brutality on the grounds that cops "have bad days and
are entitled to let off a little steam".

>>If civilians are the only targets they can reach 
then that's what they will hit.<<

--So here's a catch-22. Should Israel and the US make
their soldiers easier to kill in order to discourage
attacks against civilians, or should they leave, with
terrorist groups getting a corresponding increase in
status for having repelled the occupiers? If terrorism
succeeds in Spain AND Britain, every group that wants
*anything* will consider it an effective option. If
the US withdraws from Iraq and Iraqi moderates are
terrorized out of power, the results will also be
pretty intolerable. So the question for any military
power that finds itself up against decentralized
terrorism is "How do we reinforce the message that
terrorism fails and is rejected by all civilized
people, while rewarding groups that reject terrorism
as a tactic." 


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