Professor Robert Pape is a social scientist at the University of Chicago and has been analyzing the motivations of people (generally people on the “other side”) for a few decades. He avoids falling into the trap of stereotypes, avoiding taboo, and saying things that people like to hear. Rather than relying on quotes from holy books, political speeches or other fuzzy sources to understand why things happen, he’s collected hard data on some two thousand terrorist attacks and attempted to understand it from that perspective.
He’s instructed Air Force Officers at the School of Advanced Airpower Studies, he’s provided intelligence to various Federal Intelligence agencies that they did not previously have, and he runs the Project on Security and Terrorism, including its publicly accessible database of terrorist attacks.
Below is the video of a presentation he gave at Duke University a few months ago – it is fascinating stuff, and the conclusions are far from what you would expect. His theory offers a model that includes predictability, meaning that as we watch future current events we should be able to test his theory by applying the model and using it to predict if large numbers of suicide bombers will or will not be produced by a conflict.