Debating Insurgency Movements

By Weedon, Emily | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2006 | Go to article overview

Debating Insurgency Movements


Weedon, Emily, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


The Middle East Institute's 59th Annual Conference, held Nov. 7-9 at the National Press Club, featured a panel including Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win; former CIA agent Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris; Zaki Chehab, who wrote Inside the Resistance; and Alberto Fernandez, of the U.S. State Department's Office of Press and Public Diplomacy. As the four men discussed the motivations of insurgency movements worldwide, focusing on the war on Iraq and the current administration's "War on Terror," their examination of the causes of insurgency movements developed into a broader debate over American foreign policy in Iraq.

Authors Pape and Scheuer argued that the all-encompassing nature of President George W. Bush's "War on Terror" is destroying the American military and economy while simultaneously strengthening insurgency movements. Maintaining that such policies are playing into the hands of America's enemies, Scheuer reminded the audience that "al-Qaeda has described how it intends to drive the United States out of the Middle East in two simple phases. First, lead the country to bankruptcy. second, spread out American military and intelligence forces."

According to Scheuer, remaining in Iraq is increasing the number of Islamic insurgencies-which, combined with the already massive U.S. presence in the Middle East, only hinders America's ability to defeat al-Qaeda.

For his book, Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism (available from the AET Book Club), Pape compiled a complete database of suicide bombings from 1980 through early 2004. He found that the overwhelming goal of these 462 attacks has been "to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces-I don't mean advisers, I mean tanks, fighter aircraft, APCs-from territory that the terrorists prize." Individuals who undertook suicide bombings, Pape noted, were 10 times more likely to come from an area where foreign combat troops were entrenched. His conclusion echoed Scheuer's: the growing American military presence worldwide is strengthening insurgency movements, particularly al-Qaeda, therefore adversely affecting American security. …

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