Michael Barone has written a RealClearPolitics column about a series of worldwide Pew polls. Trends indicate that majorities in most countries express satisfaction with the quality of their personal and economic lives and dissatisfaction with the way their countries are headed.
One small and somewhat tangential detail of Barone’s column caught my eye, and that was this:
…the Pew Global survey showed sharply reduced numbers of Muslims saying that suicide bombings are often or sometimes justified as compared with 2002. That’s still the view of 70 percent in the Palestinian territories. But that percentage has declined from 74 percent to 34 percent in Lebanon, from 43 percent to 23 percent in Jordan, and from 33 percent to 9 percent in Pakistan.
That’s quite a trend. What does it represent?
My theory is quite simple: the targets of suicide bombings have changed since 2002. Back then, during the height of the Second Intifada, suicide bombings were mainly directed against Israel. Now their victims are mostly Arabs.
I’m unable to find a website detailing the exact figures comparing the demography of suicide bombing targets, then and now. And, of course, it depends on how one defends “suicide bombings.”
In a certain sense, 9/11 was a suicide bombing (or at least a suicide attack), but it’s not usually conceptualized that way. The term, and the public perception of it, is usually limited to the sort of modus operandi that was popularized by the Palestinians vis a vis the Israelis: explosives in a backpack or strapped to the body, or an explosion-laden car with driver still in it, detonated in a crowd of innocent people in a public or semi-public place, destroying both the victims and the perpetrator in one horrific moment of carnage designed to strike fear and trembling into the heart and mind.
Back in 2002 we were treated to statements by public figures such as Egyptian psychiatrist Dr. ‘Adel Sadeq, chairman of the Arab Psychiatrists Association and head of the Department of Psychiatry at ‘Ein Shams University in Cairo, who glorified the “ecstasy” of suicide bombers and praised them as a tool of the defeat of Israel (watch the video here to view Sadeq’s peculiar affect, and see my previous post about him here, containing a fuller transcript of his words).
That was then; this is now. Israel’s security fence is in place and has had its intended effect: a tremendous drop in the number of suicide bombings in Israel in the last few years.
But suicide bombings haven’t died out, to coin a phrase. Strangely enough, in a move that most did not predict back in 2002, their targets have shifted—not to Western nations such as the US or Britain, nor to Bali or Australia or other countries that have had isolated but well-publicized and horrific incidents—but to the Arab world itself.
In particular, Iraq has become the home of the suicide bomber, with Pakistan coming up behind. Apparently, old habits die hard—plus, of course, the logistics are easier. The intended targets are Arabs and Muslims, as are the perpetrators. This is Arab on Arab (and/or Muslim on Muslim) violence (not an unusual occurrence, historically speaking), and designed to further the political aims of factions in that world who don’t see their actions as a cause of possible Arab/Muslim backlash.
I have no way of knowing whether I’m correct, but I hope the results of this poll represents that backlash. It would be even better if the backlash extends to the use of suicide bombers as a tool against Israel and the US, although I very much doubt it.
[ADDENDUM: See also my post on suicide bombing: explanations vs. excuses.]