Suicide Terrorism: Are There Important Counterterrorist Lessons to Be Learned?

  • James E. Winkates


The examination of suicide terrorism has taken on more urgency in the past several years. What is decidedly different in the modern, global war on terrorism (GWOT) is that noncombatant civilians have become the most frequent and virtually exclusive target of violence. Increased resort to extremely violent forms of terrorism revived with the September 2000 inauguration of the Second Intifada, resulting in a tragically heightened number of suicide bombings mostly in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and followed 12 months later by the four suicide aircraft hijackings of September 11, 2001. The unprecedented loss of life in these suicide attacks spurred deep concern among governments and societies alike. In May 2002, FBI director Robert Mueller concluded that future suicide attacks on U.S. soil were “inevitable.”1 Similarly, then Homeland Security director Tom Ridge also agreed that domestic suicide bombings “may be inevitable.”2 Continued acknowledgment of likely further attacks and multiple U.S. vulnerabilities has punctuated policy appraisals and press reports virtually without pause since the 9/11 attacks.


Terrorist Attack Terrorist Organization Refugee Camp Israeli Defense Force Suicide Attack 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 6.
    Doron Almog, “Cumulative Deterrence and the War on Terrorism,” Parameters, vol. 34, no. 4 (Winter 2004–2005), 4Google Scholar
  2. 9.
    Ariel Merari, “The Readiness to Kill and Die: Suicidal Terrorism in the Middle East,” in Walter Reich (ed.), Origins of Terrorism; Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1998), 192–193.Google Scholar
  3. G. Lester and D. Lester, Suicide, Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1971.Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    David Van Biema, Jamil Hamad, Azdeh Moaveni, Amany Radwan, and Matt Rees, “Why the Bombers Keep Coming,” Time Europe, vol. 158, Issue 25 (December 17 2001), 31.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    “The only time that Arab arms have forced Israel to surrender territory,” observes Daniel Byman, “Should Hezbollah Be Next?” Foreign Affairs, vol. 82, no. 6 (November/December 2003), 55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 15.
    Brian Jenkins, The Likelihood of Nuclear Terrorism, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1985, 6.Google Scholar
  7. Bruce Hoffman, “The Contemporary Terrorist Mindset: Targeting, Tactics and Likely Future Trends,” Intelligence and National Security, vol. 11, no. 2 (1996), 207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 17.
    Walter Laqueur, No End to War; Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, New York: Continuum, 2003, 97.Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    Hilal Khashan, “Collective Palestinian Frustration and Suicide Bombings,” Third World Quarterly, vol. 24, no. 6 (2003), 1061CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Daphne Burdman, “Education, Indoctrination, and Incitement: Palestinian Children on Their Way to Martyrdom,” Terrorism and Political Violence, vol. 15, no. 1 (Spring 2003), 96–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 26.
    Samuel P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1968, 41Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    Jessica Stern, Terror in the Name of God; Why Religious Militants Kill, New York: Harper Collins, 2003Google Scholar
  13. Christoph Reuter, My Life is a Weapon; A Modern History of Suicide Bombing, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004Google Scholar
  14. Joyce M. Davis, Martyrs: Innocence, Vengeance, and Despair in the Middle East, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.Google Scholar
  15. 28.
    James Q. Wilson, “What Makes a Terrorist?” City Journal, vol. 14, no. 1 (Winter 2003–2004), 4.Google Scholar
  16. 29.
    Both polling data results are summarized in Assaf Moghadam, “Palestinian Suicide Terrorism in the Second Intifada: Motivations and Organizational Aspects,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, vol. 26, no. 2 (2003), 76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 36.
    Raphael Israeli, “Palestinian Women: The Quest for a Voice in the Public Square Through ‘Islamikaze Martyrdom,’” Terrorism and Political Violence, vol. 16, no. 1 (Spring 2004), 66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 37.
    Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God; The Global Rise of Religious Violence, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000, 165.Google Scholar
  19. 43.
    See Bruce Hoffman, “Holy Terror: The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol. 18 (October-December 1995), 271–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 51.
    Bruce Hoffman and Gordon H. McCormick, “Terrorism, Signaling, and Suicide Attack,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, vol. 27 (2004), 272.Google Scholar
  21. 52.
    A 2004 RAND study, for example, concluded that “Better cultural intelligence isneeded... (beyond) the relative lack of Arab specialists in military and intelligence positions [emphasis added].” Angel M. Rabasa, Cheryl Benard, Peter Chalk, C. Christine Fair, Theodore W. Karasik, Rollie Lal, Ian O. Lesser, and David E. Thaler, The Muslim World after 9/11, Santa Monica CA: RAND Corporation, 2004, xxvii.Google Scholar
  22. Youssef H. Aboul-Enein and Sherifa Zuhur, Islamic Rulings on Warfare, Carlisle Barracks PA: U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, October 2004.Google Scholar
  23. 58.
    James Fallows, “Success without Victory,” The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 295, no. 1 (January/February 2005), 84.Google Scholar
  24. 60.
    Robert A. Pape, “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” American Political Science Review, vol. 197, no. 3, August 2003, 133.Google Scholar
  25. 63.
    Dolnik, 32. He concludes that suicide terrorism as a tactic cannot be correlated easily with mass-casualty WMD scenarios. For a well-argued contrary view, see Graham Allison, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, New York: Times Books, 2004.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Michael T. Kindt, Jerrold M. Post, and Barry R. Schneider 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • James E. Winkates

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations