Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don Lemon on CNN probes experts on what makes western recruits to ISIS tick

On Wednesday night, on CNN Don Lemon interviewed four guests on why young men from the West join terror groups like ISIS.  Guests included undercover investigator Murbin Shaikh in Toronto (link , as well as Paul Cruicksank  , Mia Bloom and Richard Schoebrl.
Shaikh presented a picture of young men growing up with few opportunities for “legitimate” validation and seeking quick fame and glory, an idea that social media promotes and an opportunity that social media may offer.   Still, why would doing something violent and wrong appeal?   One reason could be a perception that the “establishment” is corrupt and that people really didn’t earn what they have anyway, so it might as well be expropriated from them anyway.  This was an idea popular with the radical Left in the 60s and 70s.  Men who have grown up with gangs in the streets may be more likely to have the “skills” that a terror group wants, but some recruits don’t come from criminal backgrounds.   Another element is indoctrination with radical ideology.   Men don’t have critical thinking skills and tend to go along with the group, and may become suspect to “cult-like” thinking.  Shaikh says he was eventually taught personally how a violent interpretation of the Koran is indeed incorrect. 
Nevertheless, people who have become radicalized his way tend to see other “ordinary civilians” who belong in “spoiled’ or “oppressive” societies as part of the “enemy”.   That’s why they see ordinary people as sharing responsibility for what their  governments do.  This sort of belief has been common with violent insurgent groups throughout history.
Jim Sciutto, formerly with the CIA, and Jim Hayden speak here on the threat to the west 

Here’s NBC’s video of the appeal by the mother of Steven Sotloff.  

Vox Media takes the position that America airstrikes could make ISIS more dangerous, because previously ISIS didn't really need to attack the West to take parts of its caliphate.  Their link is here.  The wild card is asymmetry.  It takes only a tiny sleeper cell to inflict revolutionary damage with a WMD, and the targets could themselves be chosen by "asymmetric" reasoning that can make anyone visible into an enemy, even art home.  We also need to watch how we categorize things.  Legally (in the Boston Marathon case), a pressure cooker IED is a WMD.  In practice, it is not.  But a microwave flux gun, which could destroy electronics for a few city blocks or maybe a power substation, certainly is a WMD.  So is a box of missing cesium chloride. We need to pay attention.   

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