Ron Paul

Occupation Causes Terror: Who Knew?


Politico reports on the results of a new study from Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political science professor and former Air Force lecturer:

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 comprising 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, which 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 percent 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. While there were a total of 12 suicide attacks from 2001 to 2005 in Afghanistan when the U.S. had a relatively limited troop presence of a few thousand troops mostly in Kabul, since 2006 there have been more than 450 suicide attacks in Afghanistan — and they are growing more lethal, Pape said.

Deaths due to suicide attacks in Afghanistan have gone up by a third in the year since President Barack Obama added 30,000 more U.S. troops. "It is not making it any better," Pape said.

Andrew Sullivan gives a blog post that also links to this same Politico story an appropriate headline: "Ron Paul Was Right."

Pape and James K. Feldman have a book out soon on this topic, Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It.

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  1. Have to admit, for a long time I wasn’t sure how direct the link was between “presence” and “OK kids, time to die for Allah.”

    Don’t know if the science is settled, but tThe evidence is there, isn’t it?

    Thanks for posting this – interesting stuff.

  2. Shorter Robert Pape:

    “When terrorists have reasons to commit acts of terrorism, they commit acts of terrorism.”

    Thank you for this valuable information.

  3. This will cause loud caterwauling from the “They Hate Us For Our Freedom!” crowd. They’ll start gibbering about “caliphates” and whatnot again.

  4. Imagine my surprise.

  5. So when you fight terrorists and other enemies of America, they fight back? No way!

    1. That is 1/2 the story. The other half is that when you occupy foreign territories, you create new enemies.

      The only exception seems to be in the case of unconditional surrender.

      1. *throw down weapons and raise hands in the air*

        OH! Haha! Sorry! We thought that was a command! Haha…don’t mind us!

      2. And unconditional surrender is a result of overwhelming force, which is the missing ingredient from America’s campaign’s in the ME.

        1. Kill them all, then you have peace.

          1. Dead terrorists + dead supporters of terrorism = peace. So yes.

      3. The other half is that when you occupy foreign territories, you create new enemies.

        Occupation-fighting troll is fighting the occupation.

      4. robc, that is an important exception. It was the case in Japan, Germany, and Italy. It’s not that we can’t stop terrorism with military force, it’s that we can’t stop terrorism with half hearted military campaigns. If we’re going to put one military personal at risk in a country, we have to send enough to do the job properly.

        Violence went down in Iraq during the Surge, now that we’re planning to move out, the Iraqi awakening is turning against us. Instead of sending the number of reinforcements that the generals requested to Afghanistan, Obama sent a smaller force that allowed him to present himself as a moderate for political gain. We have to decide as a nation to either stay out of a country of go in to win.

  6. somebody tell bill old riley.

  7. Could someone please send this study to the many Muslims who have been killed by suicide bombers and other extremist attacks in Pakistan and other Muslim countries? Apparently they are occupying themselves and this is somehow causing otherwise peaceful Islamic extremists to do bad things. (World as seen through Dohertyvision)

    1. who cares about “the many Muslims who have been killed by suicide bombers and other extremist attacks in Pakistan and other Muslim countries”? what does that have to do with my taxpayer dollars being taken and spent on hundreds of thousands of u.s. troops occupying foreign land? the empire is coming to an end. be bery afraid.

      1. That isn’t my point. My point is these cultures are intrinsically violent and the actions taken by terrorists are a product of that culture, not America’s military supremacy.

        Also, how can ‘the empire’ end when it never existed?

    2. Were muslims in Pakistan and Iraq blowing each other up en masse before American invasions tore those countries apart? Pakistan’s destabilization is a direct result of NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan

      1. When did we invade Pakistan? Drone strikes != an invasion

      2. And Pakistan is complicit in the development of the Taliban. Pakistan funded (with help form the Saudi) where Afghan refugee children were indoctrinated with the nasty Deobandi school of thought and later became the Taliban. The ISI then funded and tried to control the Taliban for years and now they’ve created a monster.

        1. We’re talking about suicide terrorism. And my point was that the NATO invasion of Afghanisan has led to Pakistan’s disintegration – I am fully aware we haven’t “invaded” Pakistan

      3. Pakistani Muslims were conducting terrorist attacks in Kashmir for 6 decades. India faces terrorist attacks from both Communist and Muslim terrorists. Read through the Times of India for a while. You’ll learn that the World does not revolve around American policy.

  8. One can also conclude that if only we hadn’t been occupying Manhattan, then they wouldn’t have attacked us there. (And our foreign policy had done more to protect Muslims, like in Bosnia and Kosovo, than invade in the previous decade to the attack.)

    The next question is whether the attacks in Afghanistan/Iraq are substitutes for each other, and for attacks here. Perhaps the attacks in Afghanistan rose because of the attacks in Iraq declining– which would only apply to the small percentage of crazy “international men of explosion” as opposed to natives who decide to be suicide bombers. Considering that prior studies have shown that rather a lot of suicide bombers come from educated, technical middle-class backgrounds, and that suicide bombers do tend to be pretty weird to start with, the idea is not entirely crazy.

    Depending on that, I expect that a substantial portion of people would prefer to redirect bombing attacks to another country if it meant decreasing them here.

  9. Residents of a territory will fight its invaders. In other headlines: Pope Dons Funny Hat; Study Shows Bears Crap in Woods. I mean… no shit, gang. Has anyone ever denied this? Does anyone think that the suicide bombings in Israel are completely unrelated to status of the occupied territories? Does anyone deny that Osama bin Laden attacked America in part because of America’s military presence in Saudi Arabia?

    The only reason for raising the totally obvious point that America’s foreign policy is a cause-in-fact of terrorism is to make the implicit argument that said foreign policy should be changed. And sure, that’s a debate worth having. But it’s dumb to disguise it.

    There’s going to be resistance and blowback to anything that the US does overseas. Yes, that response should be part of the calculus when deciding whether to act. But the mere existence of an occupation-stoked insurgency is not conclusive proof that an occupation is unwise or unjust.

    1. Does anyone deny that Osama bin Laden attacked America in part because of America’s military presence in Saudi Arabia?

      Looks like John Thacker does because he attributes it to our “occupation of Manhattan”.

    2. What royally sucks is bin Laden should have taken it up with the Saudi government because they allowed us to be there. We have never been an occupying force in Saudi Arabia. We used it as a guest to temporarily engage an adjacent third party. It is unacceptable for al Qaeda to be allowed to live, not because they are crazy homeland defenders but because they are aggressors.

      (Disclosure: This doesn’t mean I think any of our actions in the last 10 years have been the right method. Just saying the resistance/blowback is expected or understandable a lot of the time but not with respect to al Qaeda.)

      1. Bin Laden was pissed that the Saudi government chose the most powerful human force on Earth over his merry band of fighters to deter a possible Iraqi attack. Can you really blame him?

      2. Thank you and this. There is nothing imperial about foreign military bases, even lots of them. That’s not to say that I like most of these bases. And I HATE the House of Sod.

        1. If USA bases were the root cause of terrorism, the majority of countries would be launching terrorist attacks against us. I do think we should start dismantling our foreign bases, but that’s just because I don’t think we should subsidize the security of other nations.

      3. What royally sucks is bin Laden should have taken it up with the Saudi government because they allowed us to be there.

        Yes. Bin Laden decided that attacking the Saudi government was to dangerous, so he attacked America instead.

        This year, Al Qaeda promoted an American Muslim to a leadership position. He said that Al Qaeda must attack America, because of the injustices against Muslims in the Balkans and in Chechnya. We saved Muslims in the Balkans. As a result the population of Kosovo is very Pro-America (and pro-Israel by the way). They even erected a statue of Bill Clinton. The injustices in Chechnya are Russia’s doing, but the USA is a much easier target than Russia.

    3. Does anyone think that the suicide bombings in Israel are completely unrelated to status of the occupied territories?

      I do. Muslims have been lynching Jews for over 1,000 years. Israel has existed for only 60 years. How do you explain the Muslim lynchings of Jews prior to 1948?

      1. Lynchings are not suicide bombings.

        1. Terroism is attacks on civilians for political goals. The KKK lynched Blacks to intimidate them from voting. (By the way, the KKK also lynched any Jews they could get their hands on.) Muslims lynched Jews prior to 1948 to enforce the second class status of Jews. Lynching, like suicide bombings, is a form of terrorism.

          However, I can understand why you make a distinction between lynching and suicide bombings and only concern yourself with the latter. Your family never faced a risk of lynching.

  10. Occupation certainly creates more target availability for extremists, but it doesn’t exactly prove that occupation isn’t useful or necessary, or that it creates extremism and terrorism.

    Prior to Iraq/Afghanistan, we had attacks on soft targets (African embassies; tourist hotels and clubs in indonesia, egypt, etc.; the World Trade Center in 1994 and 2001). With military occupation, generally there are more attacks on hard targets, i.e., military, which are there drawing attacks away from the soft targets.

    Whether the so-called “fly paper” strategy works, or is worht the trade off in blood/treasure/risk/reward requires more study and analysis than was presented here.

  11. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if the people in these photos were Americans. The policy would have changed immediately. But they’re not Americans, so we can keep doing this to them while we think about whether or not it’s “working.”…;mggal=6

    1. Why don’t the MSM report this?

      1. Because it’s probably some kind of bullshit.

    2. Is the US targeting civilians? Does the Taliban and its allies (Haqqani Network, Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami)?

    3. Killing civilians =/= war crime. We didn’t start this so you can park your moral outrage with the Taliban/AQ, where it belongs.

    4. This is one out of many war crime cases committed by the US troops in Afghanistan over the past few years. The number of innocent civilians killed since Obama took office in Jan.21, reaches to 300 and his so-called “new” strategy for Afghanistan and surge in number of troops has resulted in more such terrible tragedies.

      Actually, about 2,000 Americans die each year from the War on Drug Users and that federal policy shows no sign of changing after decades of war.

      Why did protesters work so hard to end the War in Vietnam but failed to end the War on Drug Users? Because the average protestor had no fear of dying from the War on Drug Users.

      Why did the Vietcong shoot at the USA and the South Vietnamese? Because they thought it would further their political goals. Why did was a third of Cambodia murdered? Partly because Pol Pot saw that killing freedom minded people worked in Vietnam.

      We did remove our military from Lebanon in the 1980’s. The violence there steadily increased. Now our military is back there as part of an international force, and they are in a much riskier position, because the pro-America segment of the population has been battered by Hezbollah for 3 decades.

  12. How would you guys react if China….

    -built military installations in Canada and Mexico, with missiles aimed at us
    -gave military/political aid to a country, let’s say Cuba, that occupied part of our territory (let’s say Florida)
    -gave military/political aid to an extremely unpopular/corrupt/repressive government here at home

    And then, when some Timmy McVeigh types decided to go 9/11 on the Chinese, the Chinese invaded us and installed a Marxist government?

    1. Suicide terrorism targeting civilian targets is never acceptable. I think suicide terrorism targeting military targets can be justifiable.
      Your analogy also tries to make a moral equivalence between Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban and the US. Do you really believe that Al-Qaeda in Iraq or the Taliban are fighting JUST to expel the US?

      1. Do we really have business there? Do we really have a responsibility to be the policeman of the world?

        1. That’s a different question than what Ryanxxx’s analogy was presenting.
          I think there are times that are appropriate for the United States to intervene in. The US didn’t act as a third party interloper in Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan never happens without the Taliban granting Al-Qaeda a base from which to attack us.

        2. Bookworm, we don’t have the responsibility to police the World. If someone wants to present a detailed plan to withdraw our military from every nation then I’m ready to listen to it. What most people suggest is a policy of withdrawing our military only from the few nations where their are massive terrorist attacks. That strategy will increase terrorism in the long run by showing that terrorism works.

      2. Do you really believe that Al-Qaeda in Iraq or the Taliban are fighting JUST to expel the US?

        There’s no reason to suggest otherwise. Even Rumsfeld’s research concluded that they hate us for our policies, not our freedoms. They’ve said so, explicitly. It’s important to listen to your enemy when he explains why he’s trying to kill you.

        1. So the foreign fighters in Iraq were doing their patriotic duty? If you think Al-Qaeda’s ideology is based on anti-imperialism, you should probably research Islamic extremism.

          1. What they plan to install once they drive the infidels out is none of their business. And the “foreign fighters” were always a minuscule part of the Iraqi insurgency that were hyped-up for propaganda purposes

            1. I meant none of “our” business. Dammit

        2. Les, bin Ladin’s list of policies that he objects too includes the Christian conquest of Spain more than 500 years ago. By your logic we can expect peace in the year 2510 if we completely withdraw from the Middle East today.

      3. You didn’t answer my question. And yes, to many around the world the American government has caused as much suffering as Saddam’s Iraq.

        And my analogy included Chinese support for a corrupt domestic government, like the support we give the Egyptians/Saudis

        1. You are constructing bullshit moral equivalencies. America > China. America is basically a free democratic nation. Only free democratic nations have rights. China and Iraq have no rights and therefore America has the right to invade, occupy, or annex these unfree nations. That’s no to say we should.

          And these assholes who think the American government is as bad as Sadaam hate America for being successful. They are fucking stupid and that’s their problem.

        2. And my analogy included Chinese support for a corrupt domestic government, like the support we give the Egyptians/Saudis

          I agree that we should not support Egypt and Saudi Arabia, because they are dictatorships. However, China props up North Korea, and we don’t see North Korean’s committing terrorist attacks against China.

    2. We would probably look the other way. This year China started invading tiny islands that it’s neighbors own. Reason didn’t even report about it, and Obama, Clinton, and Biden did not say a word of protest. You, Ryanxxx were completely unaware of that fact, because don’t read the newspapers from that region.

      1. Oh, and Obama, Clinton, and Biden are turning a blind eye towards China’s aggression for the same reason they accepted Russia’s invasion of Georgia. Both Russia and China are very big.

  13. What is the “foreign military presence” in India and Sri Lanka to account for the suicide bombings there?

    1. There has to be a way to blame American foreign policy for when the Tamil Tigers used suicide belts. There just has to.

    2. Not all suicide attacks are over occupation, just most of them.

      1. Not all suicide attacks are by Muslims, just most of them.

      2. Also, what explains the terror coming out of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc., where we have no troops? And the lack of suicide bombings in Germany, Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Japan, Spain, Portugal, South Korea, the Netherlands, and wherever else, where we do?

        Gee, it’s almost as if terror correlates with something else….


  14. As (another) counter-example – terrorist bombings and attackes by Hamas against Israeli civilians increased after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. It was only after the devestating Operation Cast Lead (for which Israel has been condemned ever since by the international community) that the random rocket attacks against civilian populations finally ended.

    1. The very fact that Israel is occupying Palestine and creating more settlements in the West Bank is enough to stir resentment among the Palestinians.

      1. I agree that resentment is understandable, but suicide attacks of civilians are never an excusable manifestation of resentment.

        1. It’s also important to note that the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, before there were any “occupied territories” other than Israel itself.

      2. In the 1920’s the very fact that Jews breathed while living in Jerusalem was enough to get Muslims to kill them. I’ve got to use the terms Jews and Muslims here, because if you check any news report from the 1920’s or earlier, “Palestinian” refers to the Jews living in Israel.

    2. + 10, the other alan.

  15. This is sort of dumb. Of course the reaction to an overwhelmingly superior military force is the kind of attack that tends to negate that advantage.

    1. Good point, TallDave.

  16. Suicide terrorism was not an issue in Afghanistan for 3-4 years, and it seems the Afghan insurgents (at the least) paid attention to what was happening in Iraq, and more likely, there was some coordination. If I may copy a paste a portion of a paper I wrote:
    Furthermore, the average number of incidents skyrocketed from 44 per month in 2003 to 573 in 2008. The tactics of the insurgent groups have also evolved over the life of the insurgency, taking strategies developed by insurgents in Iraq. Suicide bombings have risen from one in 2002 to twenty-seven in 2005 to 140 in 2007. Moreover, from 2005 to 2006, the period in which the insurgency mushroomed, remote detonated attacks more than doubled from 783 to 1,677 and armed attacks, including IEDs, almost tripled from 783 to 1,677.

    1. Very true, Esteban. To paraphrase, it’s the anti-Bush protesters’ fault.

  17. dating back to the first suicide terrorism attack of modern times ? the 1983 truck bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 241 U.S. Marines.

    So, now targeting military targets in a war zone is terrorism? It is becoming hard to keep track what terrorism is.

  18. This isn’t about “excusing” terrorist attacks. People who say that are holding up a strawman. Obviously such tactics against civilians are despicable and deserve retaliation.

    The point is to show cause and effect. Violence begets violence. It is also to counter all those demagogues on talk radio, cable news, and in the government who say this is about “defending our way of life”. It isn’t – it’s about defending our foreign policies that enrage muslims

    1. The trouble is that it’s remarkably easy to enrage some Muslims. Do you oppose the worldwide Caliphate? Kaboom!

      1. Want to draw pictures of Mohommed? Die!
        Want to be Salmon Rushdie or one of his translators? DIE.

        Of course I’m sure that they were somehow imperialisty imperialists…or something.

    2. Ryanxxx, if I disagree with many USA foreign policies in the Middle East, but and changes in those policies must be based on a consistent application of our core values. Addressing the grievances of only those countries that have terrorist attacks will encourage more terrorist attacks. If you want to present a list of all the Middle Eastern countries that we should stop harassing, that would be a good point to start the debate.

  19. Pape’s research is rigged, using cherry-picked data and depending upon gross equivocations between military presence, and exclusion of contrary cases.

    For instance, he counts the LTTE’s suicide-bombings so he can deny that most suicide-bombers were Islamic, but the LTTE was a domestic insurgency against the Sri Lankan government. There was no foreign occupation of Sri Lanka. And he omits the fact that the LTTE learned suicide bombing from Hezbollah, who pioneered it in Lebanon.

    Occupation means martial law, soldiers policing the streets, etc. The US has never done that in Saudia Arabia, therefore it’s not a case of US military occupation, merely a case of US miliary presence. As for the claim that US military presence causes suicide terrorism, the US has military presences in many countries which have never had any suicide terrorism against the US (e.g., South Korea). Nor are these all countries in which there has been unconditional surrender, as the example of South Korea shows (just to name one of many).

    The fact is that there have been plenty of foreign military presences, even occupations, in countries which have never led to any suicide terrorism, even if they have led to terrorism in some cases. E.g., the British occupied Northern Ireland, and there was terrorism against the Brits by the IRA, but never any suicide terrorism. The Israelis occupied the West Bank & Gaza from 1967 until 1987 before there was any Palestinian terrorism from the disputed territories, and even then it wasn’t until the early 1990s that there was any Palestinian suicide terrorism (by Hamas, which was controlled by Iran, which also controlled Hezbollah, who invented the tactic in Lebanon in the 1980s).

    1. I should’ve just skipped to this. Doherty gets his shit ruined.

  20. This was a poorly designed study that looked at only half the curve. I saw the results of a much better study, and they made sense on an individual scale too. In that study, the researchers looked at all nations with totalitarianism as the independent variable and the amount of terrorism as the dependent variable.

    The resulting curve was shaped like a hill. Free nations and tyrannies had few terrorist attacks while moderately authoritarian nations had the maximum number of terrorist attacks. For example, China, Cuba, North Korea, Syria, and Iran experience very few terrorist attacks. The same is true about Iraq under Saddam Hussein. In those nations, the dictators have completely crushed the citizens to the point of extinguishing their will to fight. On the other end, free societies don’t give citizens much reason to fight and provide them with non-violent ways to address their grievances. Moderately unfree societies are unjust enough to upset citizens with no peaceful route to protest and free enough to allow citizens to plan and implement attacks.

    This result has two important ramifications. First, giving up our freedoms will likely make us less safe by moving us closer to the moderately unfree zone. Second, it is very difficult to change a nation from unfree to free without it collapsing into violence.

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