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I recently read an interesting news item about a group of elite veteran volunteers fighting ISIS in Syria. It was a story by Stewart Bell in Canada’s online National Post, A secretive unit of international veterans went on its first anti-ISIL mission last fall. Hours later, a Canadian was dead. The article reminded me of other stories about veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who on their return find they sorely miss the close bonds formed in high adrenalin war situations. One of those stories was of Afghan veterans who join bikie gangs to revive the same depth of close relationships. The National Post article nailed it this way:
But adjusting to non-military life was a struggle. Adrenaline sports like skydiving and motorcycles couldn’t replace the thrill of Afghanistan. “You miss it,” he said. “You miss it so much.”
There’s another motivation drawing in the volunteers:
In a BBC News video he [the American leader of the volunteer force] said he had come to Syria in late 2014 after seeing photos of ISIL atrocities, in particular a 9-year-old boy nailed to a cross. “I need to fight ISIS,” he said. “If it takes someone’s life, even if it takes my life, so be it. This is a worthy cause.”
It’s all very understandable.
It’s also a mirror of the reasons others from the West have gone to Syria to fight on the other side — for ISIS.
Abundant evidence demonstrates that many in the West become radicalised as a result of feeling disconnected from mainstream society. If military personnel returning from Afghanistan often find adjustment to normal life difficult, think how youth, especially a second generation of a Muslim community in a non-Muslim country, can all too often find themselves out of place. Such people are easy targets for idealistic groups that offer a new family relationship. Add to that the moral outrage over what they have seen of death, maiming, torture and destruction in the Middle East, or just Syria alone ….
These well understood mechanisms for the recruitment of radicalised volunteers have been discussed in my series based on Friction, How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us and several other posts on terrorism.
The anti-ISIS volunteers arrived at their place through the mainstream national channels. The pro-ISIS volunteers through the back channels open to those disaffected by the national mainstream.
For other very human reasons some people have joined ISIS see Joining ISIS: It’s Not Always For Reasons You Might Assume. Now that post reminds me so much of my not so old posts comparing the motivations for joining religious cults with those for joining Islamist extremists.
(The linked articles came to my attention via http://intelwire.egoplex.com/)