When an Iraqi PMU clearing Mosul streets in two Abrams tanks and one Humvee suddenly find themselves in extremely close quarters with an ISIS suicide bomber the results are hair-raising. Luckily the encounter was a failure on the suicide bomber’s part but the video highlights the ongoing situation in the East. Take a look.
A growing body of research suggests that suicide attacks often prevent groups from achieving their political goals. So why do groups keep using the tactic? Acosta analyzed a database of more than 5,000 suicide attacks to find out. “Organizations adopt suicide attacks to strengthen their support structures, extend their life spans, and boost or preserve status,” he found.
In a recent phone interview, Acosta discussed the motivations behind suicide attacks and what accounts for their popularity.
NL & SW: Is there an academic consensus on why militant groups carry out suicide attacks?
I’ve been working on this topic for more than a decade, and there hasn’t been a strong consensus. Post 9/11, the theory that emerged, inspired by Robert Pape, at the University of Chicago, was that foreign occupation was the cause of suicide attacks. For reasons probably related to ideology, journalists and academics accepted his theory, even though it had little empirical support.
But a bunch of studies that started emerging in 2005 and 2006 started to roll back the notion that foreign occupation was the driving motivation of suicide attacks.