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pedahzurperlingernetworks - THE CHANGING NATURE OF SUICIDE...

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1 THE CHANGING NATURE OF SUICIDE ATTACKS – A SOCIAL NETWORK PERSPECTIVE Ami Pedahzur Department of Government The University of Texas at Austin Burdine 536 1 University Station A1800 Austin TX 78712-0119 Tel: 512-232-1452 [email protected] Arie Perliger Department of Political Science University of Haifa Mount Carmel, 31905 Haifa, Israel Tel: 972-4-8288288 Fax: 972-4-8288290 [email protected] Daphna Canetti-Nisim Department of Political Science University of Haifa Mount Carmel, 31905 Haifa, Israel Tel: 972-4-8249343 Fax: 972-4-8288290 [email protected]
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2 THE CHANGING NATURE OF SUICIDE ATTACKS – A SOCIAL NETWORK PERSPECTIVE Introduction In recent years, there has been a breakthrough in the study of the phenomenon of suicide terrorist attacks. Robert Pape’s 1 research, in which he analyzed how suicide bombers were used as a means to force elements in the international arena to alter their policy in asymmetrical territorial disputes, paved the way for employing rational assumptions and an organizational perspective in explaining this phenomenon. 2 Bloom’s 3 work constitutes a good example of this perspective; she showed how the logic of organizational competition for public support is a factor that explains the increase or decrease in the use of suicide bombers. Recently a number of studies based on these works have been published, all focusing on an analysis of the interaction among the individual, the community, and the organization. 4 Despite the wide range of factors used in these analyses, it appears that all the researchers view organizations and their elites as central figures in the initiation of suicide attacks. Most of these studies substantiate their claims on the basis of case studies of organizations such as Hezbollah, the LTTE, the PKK, and the various Palestinian organizations. The key to this impressive theoretical advancement lies in the fact that all these organizations featured an orderly hierarchical structure that operated according to the directives of a leader or an identified echelon of leaders. Additionally, these organizations have all proclaimed the liberation of territory or struggle for the rights of a certain ethnic minority as their raison d’etre.
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3 The paradox which is the current article’s point of reference is that the majority of these organizations, apart from the Palestinian ones, ceased employing suicide bombers at the end of the last decade. Nevertheless, suicide terror has not become a thing of the past. In fact, quite the opposite. The number of suicide attacks in the last 5 years is 2.7 times greater in comparison to the period beginning in the 1980s and lasting until 1999; and the use of human bombs only increases (see Figure 1). 5 Even so, while the number of suicide attacks perpetrated by established organizations with hierarchical structures is on the decline, the numbers of attacks carried out by organizations lacking an easily identifiable structure or established leadership is on the rise (see Figure 2).
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