Times, Feb. 1, 2014, p. A7)? Some of those who have traveled to Syria to join in the struggle come from as far away as Indonesia, and knew virtually nothing of Syria or its conflicts before arriving there.
Before analyzing the motivations of men traveling half way around the world to engage in a struggle not their own, we should pause to ponder, and then discard, the phrase “civil war.” There is no such thing. The Syrian struggle to overthrow Assad has gone on for more than three years, forced millions of people into squalid camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, and led to
widespread and documented crimes against civilians in which chemical weapons were deployed. There is nothing
civil about the conflict. One of the sides is not wearing a uniform. That doesn’t make the war civil or restrained. The Syrian Revolution has provoked the anguish of millions around the globe but is hardly any closer to resolution, in part due to a stalemate
between a newly resurgent Russia and the bumbling, inconsistent foreign policy of the US.
In this sorry episode of neglect and failure to act, let us not miss the existence of thousands of volunteers who have swarmed to a conflict in which they had no part. It is in conflicts like these where the constitutionally violent of every generation assemble to do death to others. They endure great hardship and are prepared to sacrifice their lives for a cause that is not their own. Some will not survive, and others will be crippled and scarred for life by fighting in Syria. Many of the Indonesian volunteers are Sunni Moslems who have heard of atrocities against Sunnis in Syria. Yet it seems hardly likely that isolated acts against a Moslem minority would justify volunteering to die in a war thousands of miles away from one’s home. No, we must look deeper into
human bloodlust to find the reasons for these actions.
It may well be that we have permitted a small percentage of men and women to believe that elective violence is acceptable during some part of their youth and that killing others in the service of some ideal or cause is a correct way of growing up. We have nurtured and exploited violence in films, videos and books which show an endless cavalcade of explosions and shootings – all in the service of some cause that is deemed by the makers of those entertainments as worthwhile. That ocean of violent images and acts grounds and inspires thousands of elective warriors who serve in no army. These men and women materialize from all over the globe, hungry for blood, zealous in their cause, and eager to deal out death to others. These people
ask only“where’s the fight?” not what the fight is about or whether the side they have chosen has any reason to be fighting.
It is not enough for us to see this and think of it as an isolated phenomenon. It is not. We see the young focused more
on violence and killing in the hours they spend watching television and playing video games than on celebrating peace and humility in mosques. Instead of channeling the energy and drive of the young into the building of schools and roads, we lead them to believe that it is acceptable to engage in making war. Their cause is only a flimsy excuse for involvement in a conflict which they little understand. We should ask
ourselves what role we have had in allowing these people to believe that their
conduct is any way rational and acceptable.