Google Search: "suicide bomb" -israel

The Death of the Suicide Bomber?

While reading up on the explosion in the hostage taking industry (The Belmont Club is the leader in thinking about this topic), a thought struck me. When was the last major suicide bombing, excepting Israel? A GoogleNews Search on the topic produces a lot of commentary, but few recent news stories.

The suicide bomber was always primarily a psychological weapon. Even in Israel, where they have been fielded most heavily and for a protracted period, the damage they have been able to do to the economy has been minimal. They have been more successful at attacking society -- people become less ready to go to pizzarias or cafes, or to ride buses. But even in that regard, the tactic has failed to either destroy the Israeli ability to function socially or to undermine Israel as a political entity. Indeed, it hasn't even been a success at making them unhappy:

A recent survey of 7000 Israelis showed that Israelis are among the happiest people in the world, despite terror, constant stress, the current impasse, the economic crisis, and the many frustrations of Israeli life. That's right, 83% of Israelis say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their lives. Moreover, 53% expect things to get better in the coming years, and only 14% of them expect things to worsen. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, this makes Israelis among the happiest people in the world. For instance, Canada, with a much higher standard of living, and no sign of terror and the other stresses of Israeli life, only scores marginally better, with 85% of people satisfied or very satisfied.

Veteran Israeli writer Hillel Halkin speculates that it all comes down to human relations, and especially the strong families that are a hallmark of Jewish culture, combined with the smallness of Israel, where everyone is a bit like a family. He reports that 99% of Israelis have families, 98.5 % of them are in regular contact with them, and 94% say their relations with their families are good.
The kidnappings we've seen lately, attended by filmed beheadings or other mutilation, have a similar psychological effect to the suicide bomb. But they are also more efficient: you don't need to sacrifice a mufsidoon to carry it out. You also don't leave as much evidence behind that can lead to reprisal raids -- just a body that you can dispose of, rather than an obvious crime scene loaded with bomb parts and other trackable items.

It may be too much to hope that the suicide bomber has outlived his usefulness. It could be that the remaining suicide-squads are biding their time for something big, round about November. Or, it could be that we simply have hit a lull in the recruiting cycle. It takes time to train someone to go blow themselves to pieces, and stores of suckers may be low just now. Only time will tell if the tactic is really on its way out. Still, there is reason to wonder if the mufsidoon have had to switch their signature tactic from "matyrdom" to kidnapping -- and if so, to wonder what it means.

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