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Robert Pape

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Robert Pape

Political Scientist

Robert Pape Conversation with Robert A Pape cover page

Full Name
Robert Anthony Pape

April 24, 1960 (age 64) (

Political Scientist, Professor, Author

Notable credit(s)
Bombing to Win Dying to Win, Cutting the Fuse, with James K. Feldman

University of Pittsburgh, University of Chicago

Dying to Win, Bombing to win, Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion

Conversations with history robert pape

Robert Anthony Pape, Jr. (born April 24, 1960) is an American political scientist known for his work on international security affairs, especially the coercive strategies of air power and the rationale of suicide terrorism. He is currently a professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and founder and director of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST). In early October 2010, the University of Chicago press released Pape's third book, co-authored with James K. Feldman, Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It.


Robert Pape Robert Pape Wikipedia

Prof robert pape on his groundbreaking study dying to win part 1 of 4


Robert Pape httpspoliticalscienceuchicagoedusitespolit

Pape graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1982 from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a Harry S Truman Scholar from the state of Pennsylvania, majoring in political science, and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1988 in the same field. During his doctoral program he was a teaching assistant for a class taught by the high-profile realist international relations scholar John Mearsheimer. He taught international relations at Dartmouth College from 1994 to 1999 and air power strategy at the United States Air Force's School of Advanced Airpower Studies from 1991 to 1994. Since 1999, he has taught at the University of Chicago, where he is now tenured. In the past he has done significant work on coercive air power and economic sanctions. He defines the focus of his current work as "the causes of suicide terrorism and the politics of unipolarity." In addition to his research and teaching duties, Pape has been the director of the graduate studies department of political science as well as the chair of the Committee on International Relations at the University of Chicago. Since 1999 he has co-directed the Program on International Security Policy with Mearsheimer, and since 2004 he has directed CPOST.


After presenting preliminary data on his research into suicide terrorism in the American Political Science Review in 2003, Pape founded the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, which he directs. The project is funded by the Carnegie Corporation, the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the University of Chicago, and the Argonne National Laboratory.

On December 22, 2009, Pape's Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST) launched its website. The website contains a portion of Pape's suicide terrorism database as well as work by Pape and other members of the CPOST community.

Also in December 2009, Security Studies published an issue on terrorism featuring content exclusively from the CPOST community. In addition editing the volume, Pape contributed the essay, outlining the current state of terrorism research, the issue included contributions from Nichole Argo, Risa Brooks, Jenna Jordan, and Lindsey A. O'Rourke.


During the 2008 presidential campaign, Pape served as an adviser to both Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Barack Obama.

Bombing to Win

Pape published his first full-length book in 1996, Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War. In it, Pape questions the conventional wisdom that coercive air power is both effective and relatively cheap. Rather than coercing citizens of the bombed nation to rise up against their government, coercive air power often backfires, resulting in a citizenry that is both surprisingly resilient and loyal to their government.

Pape also argues that air power and land power should be integrated and used together in a "hammer and anvil" fashion. In Pape's model, enemy land forces faced with both air and land power will be forced to either mass and therefore be vulnerable to attack from the air, or will be forced to scatter and therefore be vulnerable to being mopped up by land power. Pape cites certain battles in Afghanistan as examples of a hammer and anvil approach.

Elsewhere, Pape has continued his criticisms of the idea that wars can be won through air power alone. In his book, Pape denies strategic bombing can have strategic effect under any circumstances. He argues that the use of air power for punishment, that is, attacking civilian and economic targets (such as in Operation Rolling Thunder or the firebombing of Japan in 1945), has almost universally failed in coercing targets. Instead, Pape suggests that successful usage of air power has come when it is used against conventional military targets and denies the target the ability to achieve their aims (such as in Operation Linebacker).

A 1999 RAND report funded by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) "explored the role of air power as a coercive instrument", attempting to rebut Pape's claim. They concluded that, "Although the United States and the USAF have scored some notable successes, the record is mixed." Horowitz and Reiter applied "multivariate probit analysis [to] all instances of air power coercion from 1917 to 1999". Their quantitative analyses essentially matched Pape's qualitative assessment that attacking military targets has improved the chances of success, but "higher levels of civilian vulnerability have no effect on the chances of coercion success".

Pape has been criticized by military historians who insist his arguments are selective. Pape denies that the German Rotterdam Blitz, the Bombing of Belgrade in World War II and even 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (after the event) had strategic effect. Other experts claim the operations had rapidly forced the Dutch, Yugoslavs, and Serbs into capitulation.

Dying to Win

Pape's Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (2005) contradicts many widely held beliefs about suicide terrorism. Based on an analysis of every known case of suicide terrorism from 1980 to 2003 (315 attacks as part of 18 campaigns), he concludes that there is "little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world's religions... . Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland" (p. 4). "The taproot of suicide terrorism is nationalism," he argues; it is "an extreme strategy for national liberation" (pp. 79–80). Pape's work examines groups such as the Al-Qaeda to the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers. Pape also notably provides further evidence to a growing body of literature that finds that the majority of suicide terrorists do not come from impoverished or uneducated backgrounds, but rather have middle class origins and a significant level of education.

In a criticism of Pape's link between occupation and suicide terrorism, an article titled "Design, Inference, and the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism" (published in The American Political Science Review), authors Scott Ashworth, Joshua D. Clinton, Adam Meirowitz, and Kristopher W. Ramsay from Princeton charged Pape with "sampling on the dependent variable" by limiting research only to cases in which suicide terror was used. In response, Pape argues that his research design is sufficient because it collected the universe of known cases of suicide terrorism. In a rejoinder, Ashworth et al. discuss how even large samples of the dependent variable cannot be used to explain variation in outcomes, why suicide terrorism in some places but not others, if the sample does not vary. Assaf Moghadam has also criticized Pape's conclusions.

Cutting the Fuse

Pape's Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It is co-authored with James K. Feldman, a defense policy analyst who formerly taught at the Air Force Institute of Technology. The book was published by the University of Chicago Press in early October 2010.

Cutting the Fuse adds substantially to Pape's earlier work on terrorism, evaluating more than 2100 suicide attacks (6 times the number evaluated in Dying to Win), developing a new social logic of transnational suicide terrorists, identifying the key factors that explain the ebb and flow within suicide terrorist campaigns, conducting detailed case studies of the 8 largest campaigns (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Al Qaeda, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, Chechnya, and Sri Lanka), and offering expanded policy recommendations: Avoid where feasible stationing troops where they will be perceived as occupiers threatening local culture and institutions or coercing the government of an occupied state to do things that would be perceived as benefiting the occupiers at the expense of the local population. When occupation is necessary, minimize the threat to local culture by helping local officials to do things they might otherwise want to do but didn't previously have the ability and by treating collateral damage with great sensitivity (pp. 330–333).

"Overall, foreign military occupation accounts for 98.5% -- and the deployment of American combat forces for 92% -- of all the 1,833 suicide terrorist attacks around the world in the past six years [2004-2009]." (p. 28) "Have these actions ... made America safe? In a narrow sense, America is safer. There has not been another attack on the scale of 9/11. ... In a broader sense, however, America is not safer. Anti-American suicide terrorism is rapidly rising around the world." (p. 318) "[I]n both Iraq and Afghanistan ... local communities that did not inherently share the terrorists' political, social, and military agenda, eventually support[ed] the terrorists organization's campaign ... after local communities began to perceive the Western forces as an occupier ... as foreign troops propping up and controlling their national government, changing their local culture, jeopardizing economic well-being, and conducting combat operations with high collateral damage ... . But, we have also seen in Iraq that this perception of occupation can be changed ... ." (p. 333) "For over a decade our enemies have been dying to win. By ending the perception that the United States and its allies are occupiers, we can cut the fuse to the suicide terrorism threat." (p. 335)

Economic sanctions

In 1997 and 1998, Pape published two articles examining the efficacy of economic sanctions. In his first piece, Pape asks, "[W]hether economic sanctions are an effective tool for achieving international political goals, and if so, under what conditions." He contests the work done on economic sanctions by Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Jeffrey J. Schott, and Kimberly Ann Elliott (whom he refers to as HSE), asserting that their study is flawed in its coding methodology and concluding analysis. Pape contests the validity of labeling certain uses of economic sanction is achieving policy goals, and after analyzing each of the 115 case studies in HSE's dataset, judges that only 5%, not 34% as HSE claim, can legitimately be considered successes.

Kimberly Ann Elliot responded to Pape's initial piece, suggesting that Pape had mischaracterized the HSE data, and that in fact, his views on economic sanctions and HSE's views on economic sanctions were "not terribly different." Pape's response, in the same issue of 'International Security', insisted that he had not mischaracterized the HSE data, and that his view of economic sanctions is meaningfully different from the picture put forth by HSE. Furthermore, he wants to be clear that there is great danger in having an overly-rosy view of the efficacy of economic sanctions. Problems include "inflict[ing] significant human costs on the populations of target states, including on innocent civilians who have little influence on their government's behavior" and "increasing the likelihood that the sanctioning state will ultimately resort to force. Policymakers may escalate in order to rescue their own prestige or their state's international reputation, and rhetoric used to justify sanctions can demonize the target regime, making publics willing to resort to more extreme measures if sanctions fail."

Moral action

In 1999, Pape co-authored an article with Chaim D. Kaufmann on costly moral action. Using the British campaign against the Atlantic slave trade as their case study, Pape and Kaufmann seek to understand why Britain would unilaterally pursue a course of action that for decades incurred costs both economic and strategic with little or no benefits gained. In the process, they bring to bear realism, liberal institutionalism, and constructivism to see if any of these theories explain Britain's actions. None is sufficient to do so, although constructivism comes the closest. Constructivism's explanatory power ultimately fails, however, because it relies on moral action stemming from cosmopolitan values - that is, a sense of universal humanity or equal inherent worth. The British anti-slavery campaign, on the other hand, resulted from the parochial (in this case, Christian) values of a relatively small but well-organized and vocal minority. Pape and Kaufmann call it an "inside-out, not an outside-in phenomenon". They conclude, "[F]uture costly moral actions may be pursued unilaterally by a single powerful state, rather than by multilateral agreement, and may be driven primarily internally rather than reflecting the spread of an international moral consensus."


  • Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War. Cornell University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8014-3134-4 (hardcover). ISBN 0-8014-8311-5 (paperback). Debated in Security Studies 7.2 (Winter 1997/98) p. 93-214 and 7.3 (Spring 1998) p. 182-228.
  • Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-6317-5 (hardcover). London: Gibson Square 2006 (updated). ISBN 1-903933-78-1 (hardcover).
  • with James K. Feldman, Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It. University of Chicago Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-226-64560-5
  • Book[s] about Robert A. Pape

  • Precision and Purpose: Debating Robert A. Pape's Bombing to Win, edited by Jonathan Frankel. Frank Cass Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0-7146-8108-3 (not yet published)
  • Articles

  • "Coercive Air Power in the Vietnam War," International Security 15.2 (1990) p. 103-146.
  • "Coercion and Military Strategy : Why Denial Works and Punishment Doesn't," Journal of Strategic Studies 15.4 (1992) p. 423-475.
  • "Why Japan Surrendered," International Security 18.2 (1993) p. 154-201.
  • "The Answer (A Partition Plan for Bosnia)," New Republic 208.24 June 14 (1993) p. 22-28. (With John J. Mearsheimer)
  • "A Surgical Strike that Could Backfire," New York Times April 27, 1996, p. 23.
  • "Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work," International Security 22.2 (Fall 1997).
  • "Partition : an Exit Strategy for Bosnia," Survival 39.4 (1997/98) p. 25-28.
  • "The Limits of Precision Guided Air Power," Security Studies 7.2 (Winter 1997/98) p. 93-114.
  • "The Air Force Strikes Back : a Reply to Barry Watts and John Warden," Security Studies 7.2 (Winter 1997/98) p. 191-214.
  • "Why Economic Sanctions Still Do Not Work," International Security 23.1 (Summer 1998).
  • "A Workable Policy on Iraq," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 54.3 (1998) p. 6.
  • "Correspondence: Evaluation Economic Sanctions," with David A. Balwin International Security 23.2 (Fall 1998) p. 189-198.
  • "The Determinants of International Moral Action," International Organization 53.4 (Autumn 1999).
  • "Explaining Costly International Moral Action : Britain's Sixty-year Campaign Against the Atlantic Slave Trade," International Organization 53.4 (1999) p. 631-668. (With Chaim D. Kaufmann).
  • "Our Iraq Policy is not Working," New York Times February 24 (2001) p. A-13.
  • "Show the Evidence," New York Times October 4 (2001) p. A-27. (With Chaim Kaufmann)
  • "The Wrong Battle Plan," Washington Post October 19 (2001) p. A-29.
  • "Wars Can't Be Won Only From Above," New York Times March 21 (2003) p. A-19.
  • "The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," American Political Science Review 97.3 (August 2003) p. 343-361.
  • "Dying to Kill Us," New York Times September 22 (2003).
  • "The True Worth of Air Power," Foreign Affairs (March/April 2004) p. 116-130.
  • "Hit or Miss," an exchange with Merrill A. McPeak," Foreign Affairs (September/October 2004) p. 160-163.
  • "Soft Balancing Against the United States International Security 30.1 (2005) p.7-45.
  • "Al Qaeda's Smart Bombs," New York Times July 9 (2005) p. A-13.
  • "Blowing Up an Assumption," New York Times, May 18, 2005. (Summarizes the ideas of Dying to Win.)
  • "Ground to a Halt," New York Times August 3 (2006) p. A-21.
  • "The Growth of Suicide Terrorism," Chicago Tribune September 11 (2006).
  • Interview with Robert Pape, The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,, October 2, 2008.
  • It's the Occupation Stupid by Robert A. Pape, Foreign Policy magazine, October 18, 2010
  • Articles about Robert A. Pape

  • Watts, Barry D. "Ignoring Reality : Problems of Theory and Evidence in Security Studies," Security Studies 7.2 (Winter 1997/98) p. 115-171.
  • Warden, John A. "Success in Modern War : a Response to Robert Pape's Bombing to Win," Security Studies 7.2 (Winter 1997/98) p. 172-190.
  • Mueller, Karl. "Strategies of Coercion : Denial, Punishment, and the Future of Air Power," Security Studies 7.3 (Spring 1998) p. 182-228.
  • "A Scholarly Look at Terror Sees Bootprints in the Sand," Washington Post, July 10, 2005.
  • References

    Robert Pape Wikipedia

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