Making Sense of Suicide Missions

Author(s): Diego Gambetta

Current Affairs

Suicide attacks have become the defining act of political violence of our age. From New York City to Baghdad, from Sri Lanka to Israel, few can doubt that they are a pervasive and terrifying feature of an increasing number of violent conflicts. Since 1981, approximately thirty organizations throughout the world - some of them secular and others affiliated to radical Islam - have carried out more than 500 suicide missions. Although a tiny fraction of the overall number of guerrilla and terrorist attacks occurring in the same period, the results have proved infinitely more lethal. This book is the first to shed real light on these extraordinary acts, and provide answers to the questions we all ask. Are these the actions of aggressive religious zealots and unbridled, irrational radicals or is there a logic driving those behind them? Are their motivations religious or has Islam provided a language to express essentially political causes? How can the perpetrators remain so lucidly effective in the face of certain death? And do these disparate attacks have something like a common cause?
For more than two years, this team of internationally distinguished scholars has pursued an unprejudiced inquiry, investigating organizers and perpetrators alike of this extraordinary social phenomenon. Close comparisons between a whole range of cases raise challenging further questions: If suicide missions are so effective, why are they not more common? If killing is what matters, why not stick to 'ordinary' violent means? Or, if dying is what matters, why kill in the process? Making Sense of Suicide Missions contains a wealth of original information and cutting-edge analysis which furthers our understanding of this chilling feature of the contemporary world in radically new and unexpected ways.


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Awarded an honourable mentiongy by American Society of Criminology/Division of International Criminology Distinguished Book Award 2006

... demonstrates the relevance of political science to practical concerns...and the way in which certain kinds of "rational choice" explanations have become prevalent in political science. The American Political Science Review ( APSR ) Among the book's many strengths is the broad wealth of methodologies used to offer insights into the genesis of suicide missions. Political Science Quarterly The product of this enterprise is a very readable, insightful, and methodologically rigorous volume...the most sophisticated book-length treatment of this burgeoning topic to date. Political Science Quarterly Review from previous edition This is an important book, and the best treatment of the subject I've read...Gambetta brings together a remarkable group of academics from different disciplines and countries who bring a formidable array of research and analysis to their attempt to make sense of suicide missions. The Financial Times The book effectively balances qualitative, quantitative, and analytic approaches. The case studies are deeply researched, riveting, and compelling. And each is shaped to engage the basic question: Why? To the degree that is possible, the attempts to answer this question are based on rigorous forms of inference and reasoning. The book is therefore a joy to teach from. It should claim the attention of both academics and policy makers. Robert H Bates, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, Harvard University Making Sense of Suicide Missions is an enlightening collection of essays, so badly needed in the prevalent mood of misconceptions and half-baked analysis. The Guardian This thoughtful and engrossing book underlines the pointlessness of a rage that is truly self-destructive, even if we may have to continue looking warily on the Tube for a while. The Evening Standard A stunning essay on al-Qaeda and 11 September 2001 ...challenging and timely book. New Statesman ...of great use in trying to understand some of the psychological motivations that underpin suicide terrorism... It has significantly aided my clarity of understanding of this complex subject. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Seddon

Foreword ; 1. Kamikaze 1943-5 ; 2. Tamil Tigers 1987-2002 ; 3. Palestinians 1981-2003 ; 4. Al Qaeda, September 11, 2001 ; 5. Dying Without Killing: Self-Immolations 1963-2002 ; 6. Killing Without Dying: The Absence of Suicide Missions ; 7. Motivations and Beliefs in Suicide Missions ; 8. Can We Make Sense of Suicide Missions? ; References

General Fields

  • : 9780199297979
  • : Oxford University Press
  • : Oxford University Press
  • : September 2006
  • : 234mm X 157mm X 22mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 432
  • : Illustrations
  • : Diego Gambetta
  • : Paperback
  • : 303.625