Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Why Haven’t Robert Pape’s Results Received More Attention?

Perhaps way back in the 60s and 70s there was something like a "liberal bias" in the media, although I think of it more as a "common sense" bias. But with Reagan's repeal of the "Fairness Doctrine", the broadcasts of Rush Limbaugh et. al. and the rise of Rupert Murdoch's Fox "News" there is clearly a pseudo-conservative bias in the media today. If you doubt this try this thought experiment: imagine what would have been said about Bill Clinton if he had done the types of things George W. Bush has done. Clinton was nearly crucified by the media and the Radical Right for losing $200,000 in a land investment BEFORE he was president. They spent 75$ Mil, took 7.5 years and four different "Independent" Counsels to investigate this investment loss until they finally found something that had NOTHING to do with it, his affair with Lewinsky. George W. Bush has done just about every bad thing a president can do and the media still treats him quite respectfully. The media certainly did not treat Clinton with anything like the respect they accord Bush even though several experts on the history of the U.S. presidency have opined that George W. Bush is likely one of the four or five worst presidents in American history(See the exchange attributed to Robert Dallek and David Donald on p. 616 of Kitty Kelly, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty).

Here is a glaring example of what I see as pseudo-conservative media bias that has a critical bearing on the most significant foreign policy issues of our day, the "war on terror". Robert Pape’s Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism at University of Chicago put every case of suicide terrorism from 1980 to 2003 into a database (315 attacks in all including 71 al-Qaeda attackers) and studied them intensively. His results were published in Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. This must be the most exhaustive, empirical, and methodologically sound study of suicide terrorism available. Given our current preoccupation with the “war on terror” the relevance of this study could hardly be greater. The book has received many good reviews but the fact that it addressed most of the important questions about the sources of suicide terrorism should have made its results much more widely publicized. Perhaps Pape’s conclusions were not what the powers that be wanted to hear. (Please see my post from yesterday for more of Pape's conclusions.)

Pape looked directly at the question of whether Islamic fundamentalism was the primary source of the kind of terrorism involved in the 9/11 attack. In his chapter, “Demystifying al-Qaeda”, after careful statistical examination of his data, he concluded (p. 125): “Examination of al-Qaeda’s pool of suicide terrorists and its mobilization appeals shows that American military policy is stronger than Islamic fundamentalism in recruiting individuals willing to carry out suicide terrorist operations against the United States (emphasis added). Truly transnational al-Qaeda suicide terrorists are few, while the overwhelming majority emanate from a narrow range of Muslim countries, those with American combat troops stationed on or immediately adjacent to their soil and those that received substantial backing from the United States.”

Let us examine that last sentence more carefully. Pape’s results show that the stationing of American combat troops was the most important factor in accounting for suicide terrorism. But in a secondary analysis he found that many terrorists, where American combat troops were not a factor, came from countries with whom the U.S. had a close alliance including the granting of substantial amounts of economic and military aid to the government in power. He stated (p. 116): “The striking result from this analysis is that nineteen (79 percent) of al-Qaeda’s transnational suicide terrorists—those not associated with American military presence—are from four Muslim countries [Egypt, Pakistan (post-2001), Indonesia and Morocco] all of which have regimes that are close allies of the United States and all of whose suicide terrorists are associated with the cause of national liberation in their own countries. This suggests that al-Qaeda’s truly transnational appeal for martyrdom is thin and springs mainly from nationalist causes (emphasis added).”

This suggests that either the stationing of American military troops or America’s financial and military aid are the most significant factors in explaining al-Qaeda’s terrorism. Has this been widely publicized in the media? Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention but I haven’t seen a lot about this. It is dramatically different from the analyses of the sources of terrorism I’ve heard on the media.

Pape continued (p. 125): “American military policy in the Persian Gulf was the pivotal factor leading to September 11. Although Islamic fundamentalism mattered, the stationing of tens of thousands of American combat troops on the Arabian Penninsula from 1990 to 2001 probably increased the risk of al-Qaeda attack against Americans, including the events of September 11, 2001, ten to twenty times…. This finding also has important implications for American policy toward Iraq: the longer American combat forces remain in the country, the greater the risk that Iraqi suicide terrorists will seek to mount operations to kill Americans in the United States.”

This careful study contradicts what we are told many times each day: that Islamic fundamentalism is THE source of suicide terrorism. Why hasn't this study received more attention?????

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