Professor Peter O'Connor: Are terrorists monsters? Or are they ordinary people?

From the power of love shown after the Christchurch terror attacks, to why you should use the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff to teach children about terrorism, Peter explains the intricacies of terrorism like you’ve never heard before.


Q: Robert Pape’s book Dying to Win: Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism draws from empirical data to suggest that suicide terrorist attacks are a means of overcoming asymmetrical military capabilities by an occupied people against a perceived foreign occupying force.

This theory would appear to explain the IRA, Tamil Tigers, Afghan Taliban, etc.

What are your thoughts on this, as well as how it relates to ‘domestic terrorism’ in the West.

A: Yes, suicide attack has a long history inside many cultures. It was used particularly effectively by the Japanese in the Second World War as well with kamikaze pilots. I know I’ve read somewhere the links between kamikaze to terrorism and of course the main difference relates to state sponsorship of these acts. They were designed to kill but also to terrify American forces. We didn’t really talk about it on Wednesday but your point about power is absolutely central to understanding terrorist activity especially now in the West. How you can dislodge power with fanatical belief, a willingness to die for the cause, strikes terror and disable an overpowering force. September 11 showed how a very small strike force of suicide bombers challenged the greatest military power in world history. We also didn’t talk about state sponsored terrorism which includes drone strikes in Pakistan and the bombing of the rainbow warrior.