Fighting Suicide Bombers: What Works?

Efraim Benmelech,?Claude Berrebi and?Esteban F. Klor have already argued that a bad economy equals deadlier terrorists. Now, the three economists have turned their attention to the effects of house demolitions on terrorism. A new working paper (ungated version) from the trio?finds that “punitive house demolitions (those targeting Palestinian suicide terrorists and terror operatives) cause an immediate, significant decrease in the number of suicide attacks.” Careful, though: the authors also find that “precautionary house demolitions (demolitions justified by the location of the house but not related to the identity or any action of the house’s owner) cause a significant increase in the number of suicide terror attacks.” [%comments]

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  1. Jim in NC says:

    So punishment for cause works, and collective, indiscriminate punishment does not work. Hardly a revelation.

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  2. Eric M. Jones says:

    The blindingly one-sided view of this issue astounds me. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

    I suppose you want to portray the Israelis as innocents and the Palestinians as terrorists. Well, you need to talk with some Palestinians….

    In general, the use of technologically-superior forces against unsophisticated forces, causes unconventional warfare to be the only response possible.

    To reduce “terrorist” suicide bombers, how about sitting down with them and trying to come to an accord not based on the notion they they must be pushed into a corner.

    Anyone could see this coming forty years ago. The notion that hitting them harder and pushing them further never works….save genocide.

    I’d throw in a half-dozen genocidal quotes from the Old Testament…but you get the idea.

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  3. Ian Kemmish says:

    What pains to they take to allow for erroneous targeting of the houses to demolish? How do they allow for the purely mechanical factor that destroying “operatives” houses will disrupt existing cell structures and lines of supply and communication?

    Punishment, in the shape of H blocks, signally failed to work in Northern Ireland. Why would materiel revenge affect suicide bombers (whose motivation is not, after all, temporal) more than other classes of terror bomber?

    And how do they account for the apparent ability to discriminate the intent of their enemy in such a subtle way? I may choose to distinguish between “punitive” and “precautionary” acts, but all my enemy sees is provocation. That’s why he’s my enemy – recall the scene in “Battle of Britain” where Churchill’s prompt punitive reaction to the accidental bombing of London is seen as provocation by the Germans.

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  4. Alok says:

    “Cause”??? How about correlated? Causation is too strong a claim to say the least for any putative economic research.

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  5. Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team says:

    Our Constitution has a modern fatal flaw that none of the founding fathers could forsee. And it is a problem that is as real as 9/11.

    Most of the Bill of Rights is about protecting Criminal Rights and Rights of the Accused. Its aim is rehabilitation of criminals and reintegration into society. It assumes that justice will be served with limits and that the criminal has a vested interest in society and his/her own future.

    However the fatal flaw is the SUICIDE BOMBER. A brainwashed psychotic fundemental hyper-religious extremist nutcases seeking the bosom of 72 Virgins.

    Someone who blows up in a violent terrorist explosion killing hundreds is NOT involved in any criminal justice system and will never be served justice or be reintegrated in society. He is dead and far beyond our justice system.

    And if he has a clean record, we cannot touch him prior to his crime, since he is presumed innocent. We cannot touch him before the crime. We will never prosecute him after the crime.

    To successful convict him, we have to catch him in the act. And the act may be a suicidal catastrophe, biological plague, or even a nuclear detonation.

    Succesful intervention of Suicide Bombers require breach of civil liberties such as presumed guilty BEFORE setting off a bomb. The FBI is using entrapment scenarios to nab amateur jihadist. And entrapment prosecutions can backfire as violations of Civil Rights.

    Sucide is a crime as is Murder-Suicide, but the criminal commission can NEVER be prosecuted. Nor the murder of hundreds or thousands. And our justice system fails to keep us safe. And our Freedom suffers from Fear and Terrorism.

    We need special prosecution provisions for Terrorists, including Suspension of Civil Rights. And though Obama is a constitutional scholar, he is pushing a similar agenda.

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  6. David L says:

    Eric, I think you need to better familiarize yourself with the methods and ideologies of Palestinian terror groups. You will quickly see that there is no room to sit down and talk it out with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, etc.–the only option is to weaken them, and to strengthen Palestinian moderates like Abbas.

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  7. Eric M. Jones says:

    @6–David L.

    After both sides have made any solution impossible for 63 years, it is hard to see any quick way to change it–and I suspect there is huge animosity.

    If there is “no room to sit down and talk…”, then genocide is the only option. “…And God said, “Slay all the men and women and animals but keep the virgins for youself…”

    Glad we got that settled.

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  8. Eric Grant says:

    I think those who think there’s no temporal motive for suicide bombers might reconsider. I believe many of them think their “martyrdom” will bring prestige to their families, and may even draw community support for the families. So for some, the option looks appealing the way killing yourself for insurance money does. Punitive demolition (or the prospect of it) negates these potential benefits

    This suggests creating greater opportunity cost for the bombers (if I’m using that term correctly) might produce even better results). If they can earn more and do better for their families by living and working, then “martyrdom” becomes less appealing. Although random rocket firing might still look like a pretty good option.

    Also: just because it (punitive demolition) may “work,” that won’t make it moral. Torturing the spouses and children of terrorists might generate usable intelligence too, but it will still be evil.

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