Thinking About Suicide Bombers.
Remember the 1996 movie Independence Day? One of the characters was a grizzled old fighter pilot who had been kidnapped and degraded by the alien invaders years before. He flew his plane into the alien spaceship when his air-to-air missile jammed, causing the spaceship to explode. Everybody in the movie, as well as the audience, considered this suicide bomber a hero.
What's the difference?
Partly it's which side you're rooting for, but mostly it's that the pilot defended his planet by attacking the invaders. Terrorism targets innocents, and no one is a hero for killing innocents. Killing people who are invading and occupying your planet -- or country -- can be heroic, as can sacrificing yourself in the process.
This is an interesting observation in light of the previous post, where a professor makes the observation that the motivation of suicide terrorism is to repel what is perceived to be an occupation force.
What are the lessons here for Iraq? I think there are three. One, the insurgents (or whatever we're calling them these days) would do best by attacking military targets and not civilian ones. Two, the coalition forces (or whatever we're calling them these days) need to do everything they can not to be perceived as invaders or occupiers. And three, the terrorists should try to advance a worldview where there are no innocents, only invaders and occupiers. To the extent that the bombing victims are perceived to be invaders and occupiers, those who kill them defending their country will be viewed as heroic by the people.
There are no lessons for London. There was no invasion. Every victim was an innocent. No one should consider the terrorists heros. [Schneier on Security]
Schneier seems to miss what seems to me a rather obvious point--the assumption so far has been that the London bombings really were in retaliation for the invasion of Iraq. Perhaps that will turn out not to be the case, but at present I've seen nothing that suggests otherwise.
The problem is that the terrorists were sinking to the level of those they supposedly opposed. By indiscriminately blowing up people who had not directly harmed them, they are just as bad in principal as those who decided to indiscriminately blow up people (in Iraq) who had not harmed them.