Entries Tagged "military"

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Causes of Suicide Terrorism

Here’s an absolutely fascinating interview with Robert Pape, a University of Chicago professor who has studied every suicide terrorist attack since 1980.

RP: This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

….TAC: So if Islamic fundamentalism is not necessarily a key variable behind these groups, what is?

RP: The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign — over 95 percent of all the incidents — has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.

….TAC: If you were to break down causal factors, how much weight would you put on a cultural rejection of the West and how much weight on the presence of American troops on Muslim territory?

RP: The evidence shows that the presence of American troops is clearly the pivotal factor driving suicide terrorism.

If Islamic fundamentalism were the pivotal factor, then we should see some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world, like Iran, which has 70 million people — three times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabia — with some of the most active groups in suicide terrorism against the United States. However, there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Iran, and we have no evidence that there are any suicide terrorists in Iraq from Iran.

….TAC: Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders also talked about the “Crusaders-Zionist alliance,” and I wonder if that, even if we weren’t in Iraq, would not foster suicide terrorism. Even if the policy had helped bring about a Palestinian state, I don’t think that would appease the more hardcore opponents of Israel.

RP: I not only study the patterns of where suicide terrorism has occurred but also where it hasn’t occurred. Not every foreign occupation has produced suicide terrorism. Why do some and not others? Here is where religion matters, but not quite in the way most people think. In virtually every instance where an occupation has produced a suicide-terrorist campaign, there has been a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied community.

….TAC: Has the next generation of anti-American suicide terrorists already been created? Is it too late to wind this down, even assuming your analysis is correct and we could de-occupy Iraq?

RP: Many people worry that once a large number of suicide terrorists have acted that it is impossible to wind it down. The history of the last 20 years, however, shows the opposite. Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop — and often on a dime.

Pope recently published a book, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Here’s a review.

UPDATED TO ADD: Salon reviewed the book.

Posted on July 18, 2005 at 8:10 AMView Comments

The Adaptability of Iraqi Insurgents

This Newsweek article on the insurgents in Iraq includes an interesting paragraph on how they adapt to American military defenses.

Counterinsurgency experts are alarmed by how fast the other side’s tactics can evolve. A particularly worrisome case is the ongoing arms race over improvised explosive devices. The first IEDs were triggered by wires and batteries; insurgents waited on the roadside and detonated the primitive devices when Americans drove past. After a while, U.S. troops got good at spotting and killing the triggermen when bombs went off. That led the insurgents to replace their wires with radio signals. The Pentagon, at frantic speed and high cost, equipped its forces with jammers to block those signals, accomplishing the task this spring. The insurgents adapted swiftly by sending a continuous radio signal to the IED; when the signal stops or is jammed, the bomb explodes. The solution? Track the signal and make sure it continues. Problem: the signal is encrypted. Now the Americans are grappling with the task of cracking the encryption on the fly and mimicking it—so far, without success. Still, IED casualties have dropped, since U.S. troops can break the signal and trigger the device before a convoy passes. That’s the good news. The bad news is what the new triggering system says about the insurgents’ technical abilities.

The CIA is worried that Iraq is becoming a far more effective breeding ground for terrorists than Afghanistan ever was, because they get real-world experience with urban terrorist-style combat.

Edited to add: Link fixed.

Posted on June 25, 2005 at 7:30 AMView Comments

Disarming Soldiers

Airplane security is getting surreal:

…FAA regulation that requires soldiers — all of whom were armed with an arsenal of assault rifles, shotguns and pistols — to surrender pocket knives, nose hair scissors and cigarette lighters.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted on June 20, 2005 at 3:04 PMView Comments

Battlefield RFID Listening Rocks

From the Financial Times:

The US military is developing miniature electronic sensors disguised as rocks that can be dropped from an aircraft and used to help detect the sound of approaching enemy combatants.

The devices, which would be no larger than a golf ball, could be ready for use in about 18 months. They use tiny silicon chips and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that is so sensitive that it can detect the sound of a human footfall at 20ft to 30ft. The project is being carried out by scientists at North Dakota State University, which has licensed nano-technology processes from Alien Technology, a California-based commercial manufacturer of RFID tags for supermarkets.

This kind of thing has been discussed for a while. One of the best discussions is still Martin Libicki’s paper from the mid-1990s, “The Mesh and the Net: Speculations on Armed Conflict in a Time of Free Silicon.” (It’s available as a book, and online.)

Posted on June 2, 2005 at 8:14 AMView Comments

Wi-Fi Minefield

The U.S. is laying a minefield in Iraq that can be controlled by a soldier with a wi-fi-enabled laptop. Details via AP.

Put aside arguments about the ethics and efficacy of landmines. Assume they exist and are being used. Given that, the question is whether radio-controlled landmines are better or worse than regular landmines. This comment, for example, seems to get it wrong:

“We’re concerned the United States is going to field something that has the capability of taking the man out of the loop when engaging the target,” said senior researcher Mark Hiznay of Human Rights Watch. “Or that we’re putting a 19-year-old soldier in the position of pushing a button when a blip shows up on a computer screen.”

With conventional landmines, the man is out of the loop as soon as he lays the mine. Even a 19-year-old seeing a blip on a computer screen is better than a completely automatic system.

Were I the U.S. military, I would be more worried whether the mines could accidentally be triggered by radio interference. I would be more worried about the enemy jamming the radio control mechanism.

Posted on April 18, 2005 at 11:15 AMView Comments

News

Great moments in security screening

The U.S. government’s cybersecurity chief resigned with a day’s notice. I can understand his frustration; the position had no power and could only suggest, plead, and cheerlead.
Computerworld
Washington Post
FCW.com
CNet

North Korea had over 500 trained cyberwarriors, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry. Maybe this is true, and maybe it’s just propaganda–from either the North or the South. Although certainly any smart military will train people in the art of attacking enemy computer networks.
channelnewsasia.com

Posted on October 18, 2004 at 9:23 PMView Comments

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.