Suicide bombing continues to be the most popular weapon among Islamic terrorists. But it's a much overrated tool. For example, Al Qaeda, and their Sunni Arab allies in Iraq made a major effort using suicide bombers. Nearly 2,000 men, and a few women, volunteered (including a many who were coerced or deceived) to make attacks. About 90 percent of the attacks were against Iraqi civilians or security personnel. The attacks against Americans killed 216 U.S. military personnel. There were three times as many attacks against Iraqi troops and police, and many more casualties (over 2,500 dead). Most of the suicide bomber attacks were against civilians, and over 10,000 were killed.
This effort has become the second largest suicide attack campaign in the last century. The largest was the Japanese use of suicide pilots, in air attacks on the U.S. Navy (and some allied ships) during the later stages of World War II. Some 2,800 suicide pilots died. They managed to sink 34 ships and damage 368 others. About 4,900 sailors died. Only about 14 percent of the Kamikaze pilots survived U.S. fighters and anti-aircraft fire, to actually hit a ship. The Kamikaze always attacked military targets, while the suicide bombers tended to avoid anyone who could shoot back.
With both the Kamikazes and Islamic suicide bombers, the idea was to demoralize the opponent, and force an end to the conflict, or at least reduce the extent of the attacker's defeat. The tactic failed in both cases, although both Kamikazes and Islamic "martyrs" are admired for their courage. In the case of the Islamic suicide bombers, the tactics backfired in that the civilian population, which was getting hurt the most, turned on the terrorists. The many attacks on Iraqi security forces were supposed to demoralize them, but that, by-and-large, did not work. The same story is playing out in Afghanistan, as it did in other countries where the Islamic Kamikaze weapon was employed.