Conflict Research - Section 2
This second paper came out of an interest in why the conflicts in Syria and Libya, despite starting in similar ways and at similar times, have had very different profiles in terms of attracting foreign fighters to the conflicts. For example, Afghanistan and Syria both drew hundreds if not thousands of foreign Muslim fighters in the jihad against the USSR (Afghanistan) and Assad’s regime (Syria.) However, comparable numbers of jihadist fighters were not drawn to other conflicts in the region that seem to fit similar criteria. For example, Libya’s protests and eventual conflict were part of the Arab Spring, as were Syria’s initial protests against Assad’s regime. Somalia and Yemen have not seen a spike in foreign jihadist fighters, though they both seem like situations where that could have happened. So why not? Is it because of the political environment before the conflict starts? Is it because of Al Qaeda’s influence, or lack thereof? How influential are the monetary backers of jihadist recruitment efforts? Do these backers vary significantly across conflicts? Are some places easier or harder to get to? These are questions to investigate to attempt to understand some of this disparity. Knowing from my last paper that newspaper databases exist, and hoping they might exist for Middle Eastern newspapers and topics, I looked through the study guides and resource guides compiled by Melanie Maksin (Political Science librarian) and Robin Dougherty (Middle East librarian) to find more and better places to look for both numbers on foreign fighters and opinions about why the two conflicts differed in this way
This colonial map of Africa shows the various divisions that Europe imposed on the continent, whose economic, political, and social effects many of these countries still experience today. Syria and Libya are both still affected by their colonial borders, and in many ways Libya’s current conflict and its spillover effects are due to these borders. This intricate German map of colonial Africa shows some of these borders in detail, and annotations like “Land Entirely Unknown to Europeans” shows the likely pitfalls of going charging in to places without understanding them first.
This image is taken from current ISIS propaganda magazines, aimed exclusively at recruiting foreign (Western) fighters. The majority of my research for this paper was analyzing how and why the conflicts in Syria and Libya are resulting in such different foreign fighter recruitment patterns, and the sophistication of groups like ISIS’ methods in attracting foreigners definitely has something to do with it. These images show the combination of ancient and modern influences, and the technical sophistication of their media efforts.