Every school shooting is a tragedy for the victims, the survivors, the parents and siblings, the community, and even the country. Fortunately, terrorists who murder kids in educational institutions for political goals fail to achieve them.
The recent massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan, left 126 dead at the Army Public School and Degree College. An estimated 100 of them were teenagers, gunned down at the military school while learning about first aid procedures.
A group called Tehreek-e-Taliban with aims to topple Pakistan's regime claimed responsibility, revenge for Pakistan attacks upon Taliban positions in North Waziristan.
But if Pakistan's Taliban hopes to oust Pakistan government, undermine all of the country's schools, or even end military offensives, it is unlikely to achieve those aims. That's because, despite some media perceptions, such attacks on schools are unlikely to accomplish those goals.
The myth that terrorism works comes from the U.S. military withdrawal from Lebanon following attacks on U.S. Marines and the U.S. Embassy. It was reinforced by the Hamas bombing campaign to bring Israel to the bargaining territory in the 1990s. It has been further firmed up in people's minds that terrorism was the tool that ousted the Spanish military from the Iraq mission.
But terrorism expert Robert Pape has found that terrorists are only able to achieve very specific minimal goals at best. They failed in their larger goals of ending Israel, or even U.S. involvement in the Middle East. My own research in Homeland Security Affairs showed that the Madrid train bombings actually generated sympathy for the Spanish conservatives. It was only when Aznar's Administration lied, pointing the finger falsely at the Basques as being responsible for the attacks, that the Popular Party was defeated at the polls.
Pakistan's extremists tried to kill Malala Yousafzai outside a school. Instead, she survived, won the Nobel Peace Prize, and has become a symbol for many who support women's education to rally around.
The 330 killings in the Beslan school ten years ago by Chechen separatists and their allies had hoped to oust Russians and their pro-Russian Chechen allies from the region, and spread the war to South Ossetia and Dagestan. That hasn't happened. In fact, it enabled Vladimir Putin to strengthen his hold on such regions, posting his hard-liners that brought the republic more firmly under his control.
Anders Behring Breivik, the right wing terrorist who killed 77 kids at a summer political camp in Norway at Utoya Island, similarly failed. Though he only received a 21 year sentence, that's the maximum allowed under law. The New York Times noted that judges could add a series of extensions to his sentence to keep him in prison forever if he's seen as a danger. Moreover, his hard core ideology has not been adopted by Norwegians, who have elected only moderately right parties and centrists, and the socialist party still has the largest number of seats. Many have turned out for rallies to sing the songs Breivik hates, according to the Times article.
Similarly, a Muslim extremist who killed several children at a Jewish school and a rabbi in Toulouse, France tried to "bring France to its knees." That attempt failed as well. In fact, France has been emboldened to participate in more antiterrorist operations, and oppose extremism in Mali, its former North African colony.
We've been told that terrorism is hard to fight because while you can kill a person, it is hard to kill an idea. By the same token, terrorists can kill people, but also fail to destroy ideas.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at email@example.com.