I wish I had been at the Dickey Center's debate on the origins of suicide bombing (covered here in the D). The D's coverage is not in-depth and I wish I had been able to hear Professor Pape's argument in full.
According to the article, Pape makes a fateful jump—from stating that it is mistaken to believe that "Islamic fundamentalism is the obvious, central cause" to the idea that the attacks are "unabashedly secular in motivation" (the D's words, not his).
This simply cannot be. Not only is it illogical to jump from not "obvious, central" to "unabashedly secular" (meaning null), but there is no "unabashedly secular" in fundamentalist Islam. "Secular" means of the world and limited to the world. But the benefits of a Muslim state, of "establishing self-determination over territory they prize," are not limited to the world, nor are the benefits of martyrdom, which is precisely how the suicide bombers see their actions by all accounts. Reclaiming the homeland, living under shari'ah as opposed to Israeli occupation, is a goal that is not just secular, but spiritual, and if Pape cannot see this, he has a serious problem. Check out this Muslim website on shari'ah. Under the vital needs section, the first item is "the Diin or the natural system of beliefs and way of life of Islam" and the list is in order of priority.
I want to stress that I by no means believe Islam is a terrorist religion, an evil religion, or a violent religion by nature (I believe nearly all religions have a certain capacity for violence). I am absolutely not saying that Islam is latent suicide terrorism. But Palestinian suicide bombers are not secular; they are acting under beliefs they take from Islam, and those beliefs are central to their lives. Those beliefs may not be employed except in the case of persecution and occupation, but that is not the same as saying they are not there or do not count for much.
Ideas often get drafted for horrible ends, and saying so is not an explicit indictment of the idea, but an analysis of its use in a particular case. I'm not sure if Pape is unwilling or unable to recognize that or just genuinely thinks he has a better answer.