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Unformatted text preview: American Political Science Review Vol. 102, No. 2 May 2008 doi:10.1017/S0003055408080167 Design, Inference, and the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism SCOTT ASHWORTH, JOSHUA D. CLINTON, ADAM MEIROWITZ, and KRISTOPHER W. RAMSAY Princeton University I n “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” Robert Pape (2003) presents an analysis of his suicide terrorism data. He uses the data to draw inferences about how territorial occupation and religious extremism affect the decision of terrorist groups to use suicide tactics. We show that the data are incapable of supporting Pape’s conclusions because he “samples on the dependent variable.”—–The data only contain cases in which suicide terror is used. We construct bounds (Manski, 1995) on the quantities relevant to Pape’s hypotheses and show exactly how little can be learned about the relevant statistical associations from the data produced by Pape’s research design. I n a recent article in the American Political Science Review , Robert Pape argues that terrorists adopt suicide tactics to encourage a state to withdraw its military forces from the terrorists’ homeland (Pape, 2003, 344). To support this claim, Pape collects informa- tion on every suicide attack between 1980 and 2001. He finds that almost every suicide terror attack is part of a coherent campaign aimed at democracies with forces on what the terrorist group considers its own soil. 1 He concludes that military occupation of the terrorist orga- nization’s homeland by foreign democracies increases the risk of suicide terrorism and, on this basis, makes policy recommendations about the presence of the U.S. military in the Middle East (Pape, p. 357). By examining only instances of suicide terror, Pape “samples on the dependent variable” (Geddes 1990; King, Keohane, and Verba 1994; Shively 2005). 2 As a result, he cannot elucidate the causes of suicide ter- rorism; he cannot determine why some groups choose suicide tactics rather than other forms of resistance; and he cannot answer questions about the implications of various foreign policy choices on the incidence of suicide terrorism. In this article, we establish sharp quantitative limits on what Pape’s data can tell us about the statistical associations, showing that these data are only minimally informative about the relationship be- tween the strategic environment and organizations’ de- cisions to use suicide terror tactics. To be clear, we do not address the complexities of moving from statistical associations to statements about causality; we focus on showing why Pape’s research design cannot even reveal Scott Ashworth is Assistant Professor of Politics, Princeton Univer- sity, Princeton, NJ 08544 ([email protected])....
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This note was uploaded on 02/01/2010 for the course GOV 365N taught by Professor Moser during the Fall '06 term at University of Texas.
- Fall '06