I had always assumed that suicide bombers were recruited from populations of religious zealots. It would be interesting to see some info about the origin of the suicide bombers over the last couple of years to see if their findings still hold true.
It would be nice to see a data update but in a general sense, using the past as a probability factor, I'd tend to believe the last 2 years would not move to far from prior conditions. Some of the conditions Pape spoke of are a result of the divide between Shia and Sunni but religion tends to also not have geographic borders in it's beliefs. What I mean is, a zealot in Sudan would also be a zealot in Iraq or Afghanistan.
At the same time, there is violence within the muslim ranks where even in Iraq the bombings were in many cases aimed at Sunni verses Shia and visa versa. It's a longstanding fued between Arabic culture and Persian culture. Now in these cases zealotry could play a role but I'm more inclined to believe it's an act with intent of controlling the culture and society. The Sunni for example seeing the US givng control of Iraq over to a Shia influnce from their POV whereas under Saddam, although secular gov't, he was Sunni and the Sunni enjoyed highest status in Iraqi society. At least from my reading, that's how I see it. I think it was also done this way because much of the oil in Iraq is on Shia controlled lands but that's another thread.
Regarding Afghanistan, when the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Mujahideen fighters were from many nationalities but they shared a common religious belief and it was this that united them in cause. The Soviets, like the British before them were imperialists and seen as such and the thought of losing their culture (with it's religion) was what pushed them over the edge. Now the religious part would seem to support your assumption (and I had those same assumptions too) that suicide bombers came from the ranks of religious zealots. However, thinking back to the USSR/Afghan war I have to say I don't remember reports of suicide bombings. Now that's not to say there weren't, it's just I don't remember them. Might spend some time doing internet search to see what I can find out and I'll post if I do.
If you take the Palesteinian conflict where suicide bombings IMO came into it's own as we know them, these people aren't fighting over religion in the sense that the likes of Osama bin Laden and friends are but rather it's a fight over land and self determination. The actions of an Imperial power (Britian and the Balfour Declaration and it's resulting proxy Israel) coming in and demanding land and change. I know there are all kinds of arguments on this whole thing but we're trying to understand the mind of a suicide bomber so you have to see things from his perspective to understand the motivation of his actions no matter how illogical to us they appear. This again seems to suggest religious zealotry is not a predetermining factor for suicide bombings and this fits the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers picture.
I would think at least with some elements the religious dogma could be exploited (die and get 70 virgins) but if those dogmas are so true and the fighter who makes the ultimate sacrifice gets so much, then why is it always the lowest common soldier of the cause who is the one to step up? I also am not inclined to disbelieve that the exploitation goes further and people are pressed into service without their consent. We hear now where women are becoming suicide bombers and I'm not willing to believe at this point that all of them did so willingly and doing for the greater cause. We also are seeing pictires of kids being pressed into service which I percieve not so much as meaning the cause has grown beyond belief but rather the cause is in a deseperate situation.
Before someone sez it I'll beat them to the punch. Yes, you could see this in light of a positive towards the surge and I'd in some sense would agree. And more on that can be discussed in other threads. We see suicide bombers as illogical because the mission goal is death itself. But throughout our own history in times of warfare we've done similar things. Sure there was the most brief of chance that the soldier could survive but the odds were so long that the soldier made his peace before entering the battle. Imagine the soldier approaching the beach at Omaha and with what he sees, what he must have felt? I've had the experience to talk first hand with 3 men (2 very dear friends and the 3rd my father-n-law and sadly all gone now) about those thoughts as they were there and then fought all the way into Germany. One of the men lost a brother at Utah beach.
What was the thinking of the men left at Bataan when our forces under MacArthur left the Philippines because of the advancing Japanese? Men giving final letters to those departing to deliver to love ones at home. What were the odds for say a Sgt. York and his actions? Or those men who first stood against the greatest and most powerful army in history who were know as Redcoats, the most feared fighting machine in the world?
Seems like the actions of a man who accepts he is about to die. Now that's not suicide in our view obviously and nothing in comparsion to what we call homocide bombings but the soldier is committing an act of his own death for a greater cause none the less. Did those men act out of religious zealotry? I think we'd all agree, it was an act of love, love of family, love of friends, love of country. Religious beliefs were a comfort as to what would happen after they die but it wasn't the motivation. They wanted to make sure that nothing or no one would harm or change life and culture for what was back home. It was a sacrifice of love in a very real sense.
Think about that, "they wanted to make sure even with their own life that the ones they loved wouldn't be harmed and to preserve the very way of life and culture (with all it's good and bad) would be preserved and made safe!" Is that the markings of religious zeal or a trade mark of human nature at it's best goodness?
Confusing a bit? Not as clear a picture and so one sided as it once was?
Joined the Club! I'm in the same boat.