Re-visiting The Red Line

On September 5, 2013 we argued in The New York Times against the Obama Administration’s proposal to respond to the crossing of a red line in Syria – use of chemical weapons against civilians – by arguing that bombing for bombing’s sake was ill-conceived as punishment, failed to protect civilians and hindered peacemaking.

The question was not then, as it is not now, whether gassing civilians is acceptable. It is illegal and atrocious. The question remains one of the best strategy for protecting civilians and how use of force might play a part in service of this goal. Ending atrocities can have a military component, but ultimately it demands a political agenda and strategy.

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ISIL: Where the “Real (Islamic) Men” Are

ISIL’s message: Where the world “denies” potential recruits their masculinity, the Islamic State is ready to confer. The group promises these young men that by immigrating to the combat zones of Iraq and Syria, they will “reclaim” their masculinity by assuming their idealized gender roles of fighter and protector.

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Why Women and Girls Join ISIL

Why would these girls and women, some of whom bring their own young children, decide to journey to one of the world’s most dangerous warzones under the control of a violent insurgent group? Of course, not all women and girls under ISIL control have had any choice whatsoever in their circumstances, perhaps the most dramatic and well-documented examples stem from ISIL’s treatment of Yazidi women, who have been sold as sex slaves, as discussed below. But for the growing group of older girls and women who have responded to ISIL recruitment efforts, a range of promises draw them towards the group.

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Gender Under A Black Flag: ISIL Recruitment

By Dyan Mazurana, Dallin Van Leuven and Rachel Gordon–ISIL’s propaganda gives the illusion that ISIL-controlled areas offer a safe and holy haven, where Shari’a law reigns. It is this ideal that, in part, attracts Muslim males and females with promises of opportunities to directly or indirectly wage jihad and practice their idealized masculine (the fighter/husband/father/protector) and feminine (the wife/mother/protected) gender roles within this contrived society.

But their materials go even further to tailor their message for different audiences. What follows are two blog posts separately discussing ISIL recruitment materials and tactics for older girls and women, and for boys and men.

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A dismal anniversary: four years of violence in Syria

Whether one engages with the goal of regime change for reasons of civilian protection or anti-authoritarianism, or a goal of maintaining the state in the name of respect for sovereignty and anti-terrorism, or some other form of rationalization, the effect is the same. The regime in Syria is despicable; ISIS is despicable–but there is a difference between removing the state and conceding ground to nihilist insurgents. The choice is not between friends and enemies, but the choice to de-escalate violence and shift opposition to a political (rather than military) plane, or to increase violence. And whatever the goal, it is important to ask at what point does continuing to feed the dynamic of violence become the worst option?

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