Late Night: Why Not Let Them Go?
I’ve found that, over the past decade and a half, the commentator who’s made the most sense (and got the most things right) about wars and warriors past and present has been a bloke who goes by the nom de guerre-plume of “Gary Brecher”, aka The War Nerd.
He’s not perfect — he and a bunch of other folks got fooled by a YouTube video that was sold as Kurds blowing up an ISIS tank that was instead the Syrian Army blowing up a captured tank — but he’s a lot better than pretty much any commentator working in America.
Here’s what he has to say about the “home-grown jihadis” who want to go to the Middle East, and who go berzerk when they can’t, as happened in Canada recently: Just let ’em go.
So, two soldiers are now dead, Canada’s uncommonly flustered, and all because the RCMP didn’t do the obvious, and let these guys go where they wanted to go. If the RCMP had taken DNA samples, front and side photos, and seen them off at the airport with a “Mazel tov!”, Canada would be a lot better off. It took both Rouleau and Zehaf-Babeau weeks, between being refused a passport and their final act, to work up the courage to kill at home. Most wannabe jihadis feel a certain grudging sentimentality for the country where they grew up, which makes them more willing to kill for God far, far away from home than to kill people who look like the kids they grew up with.
These two only killed at home when the Syrian option was shut down for them.
So what was the downside of letting them go? The most likely outcome was that both would have been cannon fodder, dead in their first month. The Middle East, the non-tourist version, is a big shock to most Westerners, and amateur soldiers who don’t speak Arabic and are used to flush toilets will spend their first months just dealing with the gastro-intestinal adjustments. During that time, these pampered amateurs make big fat targets. And that’s all Martin and Michael wanted, “Istishad,” martyrdom. Though I doubt they knew the proper term; like many new jihadis, they were much more excited about the killing and dying than actually learning the religion. They would have found their deaths fast, vaporized in an air strike or hit by shrapnel. The death rates for foreign jihadis in Syria are horrific, and only the practically unlimited pool of replacements keeps foreign-dominated militias in operation.
And even if they survive, they’re marked for life; the second they try to return to their home countries, they can be pulled out of the line at the airport and detained for as long as necessary, on any charge you care to name. It’s not like charges are hard to find, since Islamic State actually brags, in its house magazine, that it sold hundreds of Yazidi women and girls into slavery.
Even better, from an intelligence standpoint: Their motives are often suspected by the leaders of the jihadist groups they try to join (look at it from the leaders’ perspective: Why would pampered Westerners, from countries whose lowest-level army grunts live far more softly than even the cash-rich leaders of Saudi-backed jihadi groups, want to trade their cushy lives for this?), so they serve as unwitting cover for the various real spies sent, if not by the US, then by the Egyptians and Turks and Jordanians, the latter of whom had ISIS’ number a long time ago.
Go read the whole piece. Its logic is cold-blooded and calculating, all right. But it’s also unassailable.