Monday, April 29, 2013

David Malet's "Foreign Fighters"

David Malet is Associate Director of the School of Government and Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Melbourne.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Foreign Fighters: Transnational Identity in Civil Conflicts, and reported the following:
Foreign Fighters examines how rebel groups in armed conflicts persuade individuals to travel from other countries to join their fight. While the term is equated at the moment with Islamist jihadis fighting in Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan, there have been foreign volunteers in a significant number of modern civil wars fighting for causes ranging from international Communism to national independence for ethnic groups. Evidence from both current and historical cases show that most foreign fighters receive little pay; they are not mercenaries, but are motivated by appeals to defend their group against what recruiters portray as an existential threat to their community worldwide. Foreign Fighters presents a historical overview of this phenomenon, and examines current issues in counter-insurgency by comparing today’s jihadis to recruitment in four historical cases: The 1836 Texas Revolution, the 1936 Spanish Civil War, the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, and the 1980s Afghanistan War.

Page 99 picks up in the middle of an account of one of the more famous foreign fighters, author George Orwell, who joined a Marxist militia in Spain to stop the advancing threat of fascism. Communist Party members believed that the formation of the International Brigades to fight in Spain was a fulfillment of the Marxist call “Workers of the World, Unite!” It describes the recruitment effort being handled by the transnational Communist International (Comintern), and how its leaders strategically framed the conflict as one that was vital to people living in democratic societies and not just to Communists. The Comintern’s American branch created public front organizations in the United States to generate public support, and to direct donations to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the military unit of American volunteers who were fighting in Spain. Page 99 is representative of the book as a whole, and of how insurgencies recruit transnationally and expand their pool of potential volunteers using strategic message framing.
Learn more about Foreign Fighters at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue