David Aaronovitch (The Australian, 3/12/2008) appears to have accepted the pernicious myth that ideology is the key factor driving Muslim terrorists. But the most important cause of terrorism – and suicide terrorism in particular – is foreign occupation.
This has been shown comprehensively by University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape in his book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Pape’s work has been reviewed in leading political science journals in America and has met with much acclaim. Until someone is prepared to demonstrate flaws in Pape’s data, we should consider the possibility that actions do have consequences; that the favourable light in which we perceive our own governments is not how residents of other countries perceive them.
In that sense, much of the terrorism we see today – although perhaps not the Mumbai attack, because Pape’s thesis is restricted to suicide attacks – is indeed the ‘fault’ of the United States and Britain, countries which have a history of occupying other countries. It is imperative that we try and move beyond speculative assertions about the causes of terrorism, and consider the empirical data.