Mr. Feldman says that Arab countries have not feared Israel's nuclear weapons but a nuclear Iran is frightening them especially in light the fact that many of them have been at odds with Shia Islam. Suicide bombing was unknown to Islam and the middle east prior to 1983 but:
Since then, suicide bombing has spread through the Muslim world with astonishing speed and on a surprising course. The vocabulary of martyrdom and sacrifice, the formal videotaped preconfession of faith, the technological tinkering to increase deadliness — all are now instantly recognizable to every Muslim. And as suicide bombing has penetrated Islamic cultural consciousness, its list of targets has steadily expanded. First the targets were American soldiers, then mostly Israelis, including women and children. From Lebanon and Israel, the technique of suicide bombing moved to Iraq, where the targets have included mosques and shrines, and the intended victims have mostly been Shiite Iraqis. The newest testing ground is Afghanistan, where both the perpetrators and the targets are orthodox Sunni Muslims. Not long ago, a bombing in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, killed Muslims, including women, who were applying to go on pilgrimage to Mecca. Overall, the trend is definitively in the direction of Muslim-on-Muslim violence. By a conservative accounting, more than three times as many Iraqis have been killed by suicide bombings in the last 3 years as have Israelis in the last 10. Suicide bombing has become the archetype of Muslim violence — not just to frightened Westerners but also to Muslims themselves.
What makes suicide bombing especially relevant to the nuclear question is that, by design, it unsettles the theory of deterrence. When the suicide bomber dies in an attack, he means to send the message “You cannot stop me, because I am already willing to die.” To make the challenge to deterrence even more stark, a suicide bomber who blows up a market or a funeral gathering in Iraq or Afghanistan is willing to kill innocent bystanders, including fellow Muslims. According to the prevailing ideology of suicide bombing, these victims are subjected to an involuntary martyrdom that is no less glorious for being unintentional.
Feldman has written a long article, (nine pages) covering information which most readers of the Elephant Bar are already all familiar with. Hopefully, though, enough of the regular NY Times readers will read and understand the article and it's implications.
After I prepared this post, I was reading the previous one and saw that Ash had commented on the article noting that the violence had been condemned by Islamic clerics. That's true some have, and we should be grateful for that but as was pointed out, their's are little voices barely discernable in the din. One could also point out, that these moderate voices of Islam could well be among the first to be forever quieted by their more fundamentalist brothers.