Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism: The Globalization of Martyrdom

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Why has suicide bombing been effective in some conflicts while in others terrorist organizations have rejected or abandoned it? What motivates organiza- tions to employ this tactic, and how does suicide terrorism inflame or respond to public opinion?

By understanding the dynamics of suicide bombing, we are better able to devise strategies to combat it. The increase in the number of attacks throughout the world, the proliferation of religious and secular groups using the tactic, and the increasing lethality of the improvised explosive devices themselves require further investigation and understanding. We can define suicide bombing as a violent, politically motivated attack, carried out in a deliberate state of awareness by a person who blows himself or herself up together with a chosen target.

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The premeditated certain death of the perpetrator is the precondition for the success of the attack Schweitzer Suicide bombing is not, however, a uniform phenomenon Crenshaw , but rather a subset of terrorism addressing issues relevant to the study of ethnic conflict and asymmetric warfare. Thus, its study provides insight into the larger theoretical issues of ethnic conflict, international security, and contentious politics. It is important to classify which groups employ suicide terror. Insurgent groups utilizing suicide bombing tend to alternate between different strategies and vary these tactics with more conventional strategies of warfare.

Suicide bombing is unique in the sense that the organizations which use this tactic reap multiple benefits on various levels without incurring significant costs. This adds a degree of legitimacy to the organization, which can claim the operative as its own, and use his or her dedication to inspire others. While each operation sacrifices one supporter, it enables the organization to recruit many more future bombers.

The perpetrator is dead and so can never recant his or her decision.


Finally, any potential negative costs associated with an attack like the deaths of civilians are mitigated by the logic that argues that the brutal state is so horrendous that its victims the perpetrators of violence have no other means of expressing their anger and no other avenues to channel their grievances than this ultimate sacrifice. Suicide bombing has an additional value: that of making yourself the victim of your own act, and thereby putting your tormentors to moral shame.

The idea of the suicide bombing, unlike that of an ordinary attack, is, perversely, a moral idea in which the killers, in acting out the drama of being the ultimate victim, claim for their cause the moral high ground Margalit Suicide terrorism is sometimes used effectively as a form of targeted assassination. Suicide bombing as a tactic encompasses attacks of military targets that are immune via ordinary insurgent strategies, the assassination of prominent leaders who would ordinarily not be accessible by any other means , and the attack of large numbers of civilians—mimicking indiscrimination—in order to create generalized fear.

Although a suicide attack aims to physically destroy an initial target, its primary use is typically as a weapon of psychological warfare intended to affect a larger public audience. The primary target is not those actually killed or injured in the attack, but those made to witness it. Atran a: The obvious audience is the enemy side.

Using violence may also be a way to prevent defection from within their own ranks for not being sufficiently steadfast and aggressive or for appearing weak.

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In order to survive, succeed, and achieve political power, insurgent terrorist groups need to mobilize supporters and maintain these support bases constituencies. If they lose this support, then they are likely to be found, arrested or killed by the opposing government. The terrorist organizations that recruit suicide bombers are identifiable by their constituent population. It is also crucial for their survival that the organizations can continue to replenish lost fighters by mobilizing and recruiting new cadres.

Mobilization cannot proceed [without] necessary strategies; coalitions must be formed; the response of the adversary—the state, the opposed ethnic group, the in-group dissenters—must be anticipated.

SUICIDE TERRORISM FOR SECULAR CAUSES | Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism | Taylor & Francis Group

And many would join such mobilization, when it has acquired some momentum and chance of success. The origins of.

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Supporters are needed to provide food, safe houses, recruits, and ultimately political power hence the significance of public opinion. In order to raise funds, the insurgents may require the support of external communities, their Diaspora, international sympathizers, or foreign patrons.

The Social Psychology of Suicide Terrorism

Insurgent groups that are not financially independent must search for funds either internally or externally. If the terrorists engage in activities hostile to the population, their support will dry up. The insurgents provide social services or other benefits to the members of their society to shore up their popularity and increase support. The provision of social services is especially salient when there is little external funding, few weapons from the outside, and the insurgents need to convince the larger population that their cause is just. This situation is particularly difficult under occupations when the provision of such basic needs by the occupying state is limited or nonexistent.

Such conditions create an environment hospitable for the terrorist organizations to recruit and mobilize public support but the poverty of this situation necessitates finding funding to underwrite the costs of the struggle. If the insurgent group is forced to search for money externally from a Diaspora or foreign patron, it will chose tactics that maximize publicity, while garnering greater attention to its cause and. Thus, there are different incentives to resort to suicide bombing, depending from where the bulk of funding comes. Suicide bombing works when it pays. In the war for public support, when the bombings resonate positively with the population that insurgent groups purport to represent, they help the organization mobilize support.

If suicide bombing does not resonate among the larger population, the tactic will fail. If it is applauded, it will flourish. The pattern that emerges from the case studies is that militant groups are more likely to adopt suicide bombing as a strategy, and the tactic is more likely to resonate positively with the population, after other strategies have been tried and failed. When competition is especially intense, multiple organizations have occasionally vied with one another to claim responsibility for a particular bombing and identify the bomber as their operative.

According to Scott Atran,. The bombings do not occur in a vacuum. In fact, all suicide-bombing campaigns co-exist with regular insurgent tactics non-suicidal bombings, shooting ambushes, stabbings, assassinations, etc.

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The organizations that adopt suicide terror do not abandon the other tactics but use it as part of a range of strategies in their arsenal against their real or perceived enemies. In fact, even in the most extreme example of a country under virtual siege Israel , the other traditional insurgent tactics are far more numerous than suicide terror, yet it is the suicide attack that garners the most press and public attention.

Suicide terror plays a greater role in ethnic disputes when the perpetrators and victims belong to different groups. Targeting the other side is easier when its members are of a different race, ethnicity, religion, or nation since the key issues revolve around the control of territory rather than political or party affiliation. The differences between the insurgents and the state may be an amalgamation of ethnicity, language, and religion. Under conditions of hyper segregation, ideas. Suicide terror, like other forms of atrocity, is successful against civilians when the group employing this tactic is not trying to win over members of the target civilian populace to their ideology or beliefs.

The terrorist organizations do cost-benefit analyses. Their own community provides needed material and support—money, safe houses, recruits—and the terrorist organizations require a hospitable environment in order to survive. There are potential negative rebound effects from killing members of your own group. The density of connections between the people and the members of the terrorist groups are more complex within this boundary than across it. This puts constraints on the insurgents as to who should be killed and who should not.

Beslan caused a self-examination and reconsideration of violence throughout the Muslim World. However, suicide terror does not occur exclusively as part of ethno-nationalist conflicts. And while it is a mistake to assume that only religious groups use suicide terror, it is equally faulty to view suicide terror as devoid of any religious content. True, many of the groups engaged in equivalently lethal campaigns are decidedly secular and yet in such cases the leadership is canonized to such an extent that they are akin to living gods on earth.

But it is also not merely a direct response to occupation. Suicide attacks in Iraq have been carried out by Saudi nationals.

The Social Psychology of Suicide Terrorism

Attacks in Kashmir are carried out by non-Kashmiris there is an excep- tion in when a student from Srinagar drove a truck laden with explosives and crashed into the Badamibagh Cantonment gates. The suicide attacks carried out by Jihadis from Pakistan belong to the Lashkar-i-toiba or the Jaish-e Mohammed.

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Kashmir is unique in that suicide missions are executed by non-Kashmiris dying for a perceived Kashmiri cause. Arguably, suicide attacks in Kashmir are religious and not national Chandran In most cases, the organizations fund their activities through a combination of internal and external mechanisms, both legal and illegal. If the local population is paying, they may demand a greater say in who is a legitimate target.