Robert Pape

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Robert Pape
Robert Anthony Pape

(1960-04-24) April 24, 1960 (age 62)
EducationB.A., University of Pittsburgh
M.A., University of Pittsburgh
Ph.D., University of Chicago
OccupationPolitical scientist, professor, author
Notable credit(s)Bombing to Win
Dying to Win,
Cutting the Fuse, with James K. Feldman

Robert Anthony Pape Jr. (born April 24, 1960) is an American political scientist who studies national and international security affairs, with a focus on air power, American and international political violence, social media propaganda, and 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 Threats (CPOST).[1]


Pape graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1982 from the University of Pittsburgh,[2] where he was a Harry S. Truman Scholar majoring in political science. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1988 in the same field. He taught international relations at Dartmouth College from 1994 to 1999 and 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.[2] 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.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Pape served as an adviser to Democrat Barack Obama. During the same campaign, he was also briefly an advisor on Iraq to Republican Ron Paul.[3]


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 Threats (originally, 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.[4] In December 2009, Security Studies published an issue on terrorism featuring content exclusively from CPOST.[citation needed]


Bombing to Win[edit]

Pape published his first full-length book in 1996, Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War, which assesses the efficacy of different airpower strategies.[5] It questions the conventional wisdom that coercive air power (i.e. bombing, etc.) is both effective and relatively cheap. Rather than motivating citizens of a bombed nation to rise up against their government, coercive air power often backfires, resulting in a citizenry that more resilient and loyal. Pape also argues that air power and land power should be integrated and used together in a "hammer and anvil" fashion.

A 1999 RAND Corporation report funded by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) "explored the role of air power as a coercive instrument", contesting Pape's argument.[6] They concluded that, "Although the United States and the USAF have scored some notable successes, the record is mixed."[7] Horowitz and Reiter applied "multivariate probit analysis [to] all instances of air power coercion from 1917 to 1999", and which 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".[8]

Economic sanctions[edit]

In 1997 and 1998, Pape published two articles examining the efficacy of economic sanctions. Pape contests the validity of international economic sanctions in achieving policy goals, judging that only 5% can legitimately be considered successes, as opposed to 34% claimed in the work of other scholars. One of these scholars, Kimberly Ann Elliot, responded to Pape's initial piece, suggesting that Pape had mischaracterized the data, and that his views on economic sanctions and Elliot'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 data, and that his view of economic sanctions is meaningfully different from the picture put forth by Elliot and others. Pape also published several articles analyzing the Arab Spring in 2013.


Pape's Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (2005) challenges claims that suicide terrorism is irrational. Pape argues instead that there is a strategic logic to suicide terrorism: suicide terrorism is an effective way to attain significant concessions from modern liberal democracies on issues that are not a vital interest to those democracies. Pape argues 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".[9] Pape also presents evidence 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.[10] Similar criticisms were made by Michael C. Horowitz, who concludes the presence of a occupying power is not a statistically significant indicator of likelihood to incite suicide terrorism.[11] In response, Pape argues that his research design is sufficient because it collected the universe of known cases of suicide terrorism.[12] 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.[13] Assaf Moghadam has also criticized Pape's conclusions.[14]

Pape's Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It is co-authored with James K. Feldman, was published in 2010. Cutting the Fuse evaluates more than 2100 suicide attacks (6 times the number evaluated in Dying to Win) in an attempt to identify key factors that explain the ebb and flow of suicide terrorist campaigns. The book recommends that nations to avoid 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.[15] Pape also edited the special issue, “What’s New about Research on Terrorism,” Security Studies (18.4), a leading peer-reviewed journal in international relations.[16]  

In 2015, Pape and neuroscientist Jean Decety received a $3.4 million grant from the Department of Defense's Minerva Research Initiative to study the social and neurological construction of martyrdom.[17] In May 2019, Pape participated in the Christchurch Call, a plan launched by New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron to end the promotion of extremist content online.[18] Pape also presented his research on ISIS propaganda videos to organizations such as the FBI, BOP, SSCI, NCTC, NSC, and SOCOM. In February 2020, Pape and CPOST received a $1.5 million grant to study Arabic-language propaganda.


Pape began studying the causes and viable solutions to political violence in the 1990s, focusing on the 1992-1995 Bosnian War[19][20] and the 1999 War in Kosovo.[21] His work on suicide terrorism (2003, 2005, 2010) explained that it is mainly a form of political violence, while his work on humanitarian intervention (2012) centered on appropriate international responses to political violence related to the Arab Spring in Libya and Syria. In 2017, Pape published an analysis of political violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan.[22] In January 2018, Pape testified before the House Subcommittee on National Security on the military defeat of ISIS.[23]

In August 2019, Pape briefed the National Security Council on an "over-the-horizon" counter-terrorism strategy to end the War in Afghanistan.[24] In November 2019, Pape and the UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) co-hosted a colloquium at the University of Chicago discussing ways to improve responses to future terrorist attacks and advance academic research on the impact of militant political violence and terrorism.[25]

In 2020, Pape published the results of his analysis of the impact of the deployment of US Department of Homeland Security agents on political violence in Portland[26] and conducted research studies of the demographic profile of right wing extremists in the US from 2015-2020.[27] In 2021, Pape published the first systematic study of the demographic profile and political geography of individuals arrested for assaulting the US Capitol on January 6, 2021,[28][29] which received significant attention in the media in the U.S.[30] and internationally.[31]

Selected publications[edit]


  • 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

Academic articles[edit]

  • "Introducing the new CPOST dataset on suicide attacks", Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming (2021).
  • "EEG Distinguishes Heroic Narratives in ISIS Online Video Propaganda," Scientific Reports 10, 19593 (2020).
  • "A Multilevel Social Neuroscience Perspective on Radicalization and Terrorism," Social Neuroscience 13.5 (2018).
  • "Days of Action or Restraint? How the Islamic Calendar Impacts Violence," American Political Science Review 111.3 (2017).
  • "The American face of ISIS: Analysis of ISIS–related terrorism in the US March 2014–August 2016" Australian Strategic Policy Institute (2017).
  • “Solving the Problem of Missing Perpetrator Information,” Journal of Conflict Resolution with Vincent Bauer and Keven Ruby (2015).
  • “Reconsidering the Cases of Humanitarian Intervention,” International Security 38.2 (Fall 2013).
  • The True Worth of Air Power,” Foreign Affairs 83.2 (March/April, 2004).
  • "The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," American Political Science Review 97.3 (August 2003).
  • "Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work," International Security 22.2 (Fall 1997).
  • “Coercive Air Power in the Vietnam War,” International Security, 15.2 (Fall 1990).


  1. ^ "UChicago CPOST". Retrieved 2017-02-08.
  2. ^ a b "Robert Pape". Archived from the original on 2007-02-13.
  3. ^ "Mr. Zbig". The American Conservative. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  4. ^ "A Scholarly Look at Terror Sees Bootprints In the Sand" by Caryle Murphy Washington Post, July 10, 2005; D01
  5. ^ "'Bombing to Win' at 25". War on the Rocks. 2021-06-15. Retrieved 2021-12-18.
  6. ^ Byman, Daniel, Matthew Waxman, and Eric V. Larson, Air Power as a Coercive Instrument. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1999.
  7. ^ Byman, Waxman, and Larson (1999, p. iii, 5/195)
  8. ^ Horowitz, Michael; Reiter, Dan (2001), "When does aerial bombing work? Quantitative empirical tests, 1917-1999", Journal of Conflict Resolution, 45 (2): 147–173, doi:10.1177/0022002701045002001, S2CID 145070150
  9. ^ Pape, Robert, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (New York: Random House, 2005), p. 4.
  10. ^ Ashworth, Scott, Joshua D. Clinton, Adam Meirowitz, and Kristopher W. Ramsay. "Design, Inference, and the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism." The American Political Science Review 102, no. 2 (2008): 269-73. Accessed February 14, 2021. doi:10.2307/27644515.
  11. ^ Horowitz, Michael C. (20 January 2010). "Nonstate Actors and the Diffusion of Innovations: The Case of Suicide Terrorism". International Organization. 64 (1): 33–64. doi:10.1017/S0020818309990233. S2CID 43231147.
  12. ^ American Political Science Review , Volume 102, Issue 02, May 2008, pp 275-277.
  13. ^ Design, Inference, and the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism: A Rejoinder, Draft Manuscript,
  14. ^ Moghadam, Assaf (2006). "Suicide Terrorism, Occupation, and the Globalization of Martyrdom: A Critique ofDying to Win". Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. 29 (8): 707–729. doi:10.1080/10576100600561907. S2CID 143286352.
  15. ^ Robert Pape and James K. Feldman, Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It. University of Chicago Press, 2010. pp. 330-33.
  16. ^ "Security Studies". Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  17. ^ "Robert Pape receives a $3.4 million grant from the Minerva Research Initiative | Political Science | The University of Chicago". Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  18. ^ "New Zealand seeks global support for tougher measures on online violence". ABC Radio National. 2019-05-15. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  19. ^ Pape, Robert (June 14, 1993). "The Answer" (PDF). New Republic. Vol. 208. pp. 22–28.
  20. ^ Pape, Robert A. (1997-12-01). "Partition: An exit strategy for Bosnia". Survival. 39 (4): 25–28. doi:10.1080/00396339708442941. ISSN 0039-6338.
  21. ^ Pape, Robert A. (2009-01-28). "The True Worth of Air Power". Foreign Affairs. ISSN 0015-7120. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  22. ^ Reese, Michael J.; Ruby, Keven G.; Pape, Robert A. (August 2017). "Days of Action or Restraint? How the Islamic Calendar Impacts Violence". American Political Science Review. 111 (3): 439–459. doi:10.1017/S0003055417000193. ISSN 0003-0554. S2CID 149070616.
  23. ^ U. S. Government Printing Office, Federal Digital System: http://www gpo gov/fdsys (2018-01-01). "Serial No. 115-60: Battlefield Successes and Challenges--Recent Efforts to Win the War Against ISIS, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on National Security of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fifteenth Congress, Second Session, January 17, 2018". Homeland Security Digital Library. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  24. ^ Pape, Robert. "How to Partner With the Taliban". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  25. ^ "News | UChicago CPOST". Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  26. ^ Pape, Robert. "Commentary: Troops in Chicago? Here's why that would only exacerbate the chaos". Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  27. ^ "UChicago CPOST". Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  28. ^ Ruby, Robert A. Pape, Keven (2021-02-02). "The Capitol Rioters Aren't Like Other Extremists". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  29. ^ Tolliver, Sandy (2021-02-04). "The face of American insurrection: Right-wing groups are evolving into a violent movement". TheHill. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  30. ^ "Examining Domestic Extremist Threats To Americans And U.S. Government". Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  31. ^ "Capitol riots: Five takeaways from the arrests". BBC News. 2021-02-08. Retrieved 2021-02-09.


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