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Making Sense of Suicide Missions$
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Diego Gambetta

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199276998

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199276998.001.0001

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Can We Make Sense of Suicide Missions?

Can We Make Sense of Suicide Missions?

(p.259) 8 Can We Make Sense of Suicide Missions?
Making Sense of Suicide Missions

Diego Gambetta (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins by reviewing the variety and uniformity of features found in suicide missions (SMs) and among their organizers. It then reviews what is known about the perpetrators, arguing that the persons who die in SMs and the conditions that promote their self-sacrifice are fairly uniform, and although they are rare they are not historically or psychologically abnormal. This raises the further question of how different suicide attackers really are from other people who sacrifice their lives for a cause. To answer it, the similarities and differences between modern SMs on the one hand, and both heroism and some cases of proto-SMs on the other are explored. It is shown that despite the diversity of their purposes, the modern progeny of SMs shares the same roots, which emerged during an extraordinarily violent period in Lebanon. Despite the rapid spread of SMs across the world since 1981, the limits to their further spread are discussed, showing among other things that religious beliefs can both encourage and discourage SMs.

Keywords:   organizations, perpetrators, communicative benefits, heroism, Islam

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