Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 190
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Ahmad, Akhlaq 2016. The Ties that Bind and Blind: Embeddedness and Radicalisation of Youth in One Islamist Organisation in Pakistan. The Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 52, Issue. 1, p. 5.

    Allen, Michael A. Bell, Sam R. and Clay, K. Chad 2016. Deadly Triangles: The Implications of Regional Competition on Interactions in Asymmetric Dyads. Foreign Policy Analysis, p. orw026.

    Bodea, Cristina Elbadawi, Ibrahim and Houle, Christian 2016. Do Civil Wars, Coups and Riots Have the Same Structural Determinants?. International Interactions, p. 1.

    Braithwaite, Alex and Johnson, Shane 2016. Global Dynamics.

    Buts, Caroline and Du Bois, Cind 2016. Military deployment and international terrorism: do location and mission type matter?. Defence and Peace Economics, p. 1.

    Calafato, Trevor 2016. The similarities between Lombroso’s theories on political crime and contemporary terrorism issues. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, p. 1.

    Chenoweth, Erica and Dugan, Laura 2016. The Canadian way of counterterrorism: introducing the GATE-Canada data set. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, p. 1.

    Choi, Seung-Whan and Piazza, James A. 2016. Ethnic groups, political exclusion and domestic terrorism. Defence and Peace Economics, Vol. 27, Issue. 1, p. 37.

    Du Bois, Cind and Buts, Caroline 2016. Military support and transnational terrorism. Defence and Peace Economics, Vol. 27, Issue. 5, p. 626.

    Filote, Andra Potrafke, Niklas and Ursprung, Heinrich 2016. Suicide attacks and religious cleavages. Public Choice, Vol. 166, Issue. 1-2, p. 3.

    Ghatak, Sambuddha and Prins, Brandon C. 2016. The Homegrown Threat: State Strength, Grievance, and Domestic Terrorism. International Interactions, p. 1.

    Ghatak, Sambuddha 2016. Challenging the State: Effect of Minority Discrimination, Economic Globalization, and Political Openness on Domestic Terrorism. International Interactions, Vol. 42, Issue. 1, p. 56.

    LaFree, Gary and Adamczyk, Amy 2016. The Impact of the Boston Marathon Bombings on Public Willingness to Cooperate with Police. Justice Quarterly, p. 1.

    Lehrke, Jesse Paul 2016. Terrorism alerts and target transference: evidence and implications from the 2010 Europe-wide terrorism alert. European Security, Vol. 25, Issue. 1, p. 3.

    Sri Bhashyam, Sumitra and Montibeller, Gilberto 2016. In the Opponent's Shoes: Increasing the Behavioral Validity of Attackers’ Judgments in Counterterrorism Models. Risk Analysis, Vol. 36, Issue. 4, p. 666.

    Argenti, Francesca Landucci, Gabriele Spadoni, Gigliola and Cozzani, Valerio 2015. The assessment of the attractiveness of process facilities to terrorist attacks. Safety Science, Vol. 77, p. 169.

    Baconi, Tareq 2015. The demise of Oslo and Hamas’s political engagement. Conflict, Security & Development, Vol. 15, Issue. 5, p. 503.

    Carter, D. B. 2015. When terrorism is evidence of state success: securing the state against territorial groups. Oxford Economic Papers, Vol. 67, Issue. 1, p. 116.

    Freilich, Joshua D. Chermak, Steven M. and Gruenewald, Jeff 2015. The future of terrorism research: a review essay. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, Vol. 39, Issue. 4, p. 353.

    Gibbs, Jennifer C. 2015. Terrorism and Counterterrorism Today.


The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism

  • ROBERT A. PAPE (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 August 2003

Suicide terrorism is rising around the world, but the most common explanations do not help us understand why. Religious fanaticism does not explain why the world leader in suicide terrorism is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a group that adheres to a Marxist/Leninist ideology, while existing psychological explanations have been contradicted by the widening range of socio-economic backgrounds of suicide terrorists. To advance our understanding of this growing phenomenon, this study collects the universe of suicide terrorist attacks worldwide from 1980 to 2001, 188 in all. In contrast to the existing explanations, this study shows that suicide terrorism follows a strategic logic, one specifically designed to coerce modern liberal democracies to make significant territorial concessions. Moreover, over the past two decades, suicide terrorism has been rising largely because terrorists have learned that it pays. Suicide terrorists sought to compel American and French military forces to abandon Lebanon in 1983, Israeli forces to leave Lebanon in 1985, Israeli forces to quit the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1994 and 1995, the Sri Lankan government to create an independent Tamil state from 1990 on, and the Turkish government to grant autonomy to the Kurds in the late 1990s. In all but the case of Turkey, the terrorist political cause made more gains after the resort to suicide operations than it had before. Thus, Western democracies should pursue policies that teach terrorists that the lesson of the 1980s and 1990s no longer holds, policies which in practice may have more to do with improving homeland security than with offensive military action.I thank Robert Art, Mia Bloom, Steven Cícala, Alex Downs, Daniel Drezner, Adria Lawrence, Sean Lynn-Jones, John Mearsheimer, Michael O'Connor, Sebastian Rosato, Lisa Weeden, the anonymous reviewers, and the members of the program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago for their superb comments. I especially thank James K. Feldman and Chaim D. Kaufmann for their excellent comments on multiple drafts. I would also like to acknowledge encouragement from the committee for the Combating Political Violence paper competition sponsored by the Institute for War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, which selected an earlier version as a winning paper.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *