Friday, January 09, 2004

The Economist - Suicide Terrorism

The Economist has an insightful article up on the rationality of suicide terrorism: in summary, terrorists adopt it because it works, at least against democracies. This may seem an obvious point, but there are many who would either deny this, or claim that those, like the Palestinians, or the Tamil Tigers, who practice such behavior are driven by Western "oppression" or "imperialism."

There is one point the Economist article fails to probe sufficiently - the benefits of suicide bombing as seen from the viewpoint of the "martyr." Granted, some volunteers for such missions are motivated by personal grudges or religious propaganda, but by no means all are, and one has to wonder how it is that so many people could be persuaded to throw away what ought to be their most precious assets - their own lives - in scenarios in which there isn't even the prospect of material or status rewards to one's kinfolk to justify such action. No "realist" take based on inclusive fitness or other such concepts can explain away such behavior.