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Suicide Terror

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Author: George Lopez
Presentation 05

Dealing with suicide terror

Three main issues:

  1. What is the motivation?
  2. Is suicide terror successful? What does success mean? (ABC News)
  3. Is suicide terror unending? What can be done to discourage or end this behavior?



15 minutes…groups of 3 people

Find an answer to each of the main issues raised above that the government can make “actionable”!!


What is the “conventional wisdom” about suicide terrorism?

  • Who
  • Why – what causes
  • What it means for the war on terror…in Iraq or elsewhere?

What should any literate person know about suicide bombings?

  • Root causes lie in attitudes not circumstances; networks that offer a way to act under regimes deemed repressive or anti-religious
  • Exploring those attitudes reveals an anti-US, anti-Western sentiment regarding foreign policies in Muslim societies
  • We need to correct policies without ‘rewarding the suicide bombers’ agenda’
  • We need to break the link between the sponsor of suicide and the attacker themselves (remember the key is organization – the characteristics of the individual bomber matter much less).
  • The predominant mode of policy for doing this is not ‘top down’, not military, and not based on allying ourselves with repressive governments (really a clarity problem for the US).
  • Understand that Muslims and other extremists need to have choices to work out themselves.


Then the process based on ideas of transformative conflict resolution (and new ideas of peace) kick in; they bring forth or stimulate:

  • mediating voices and institutions (religious communities).
  • clarity that their cultural values (and religious beliefs) are not under assault, yet can still evolve.
  • the separation of those who can change and evolve non-violently from the ‘spoilers‘ (i.e. those who won’t renounce violent means)


And, of course, how to translate this into policy?

  • Lessen the ‘footprint’ of involvement of outsiders
  • Understand that the forces that shape, sustain, and can bring change are essentially local
  • Recognize the limited utility a military response has in the midst of a struggle that is dominated by suicide terrorism


Resources: Articles/Books & Databases


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