In the aftermath of the Christmas attack on Berlin, we again saw the pattern repeated in every terrorist attack in Europe in recent years. Anis Amri the terrorist responsible for the Christmas attack was not a religious warrior; he was a petty criminal involved with drugs and had spent time in an Italian jail for arson where he was probably radicalized. This is the pattern we have seen in the past in the other attacks such as Charlie Hebdo and the other major European attacks. This anomaly must be tackled and cannot be fought in the deserts of Syria.

The Question

These similarities raise one important question; how is ISIS able to enroll young misfits and outsiders? This is the true battleground of the war with ISIS and why victory in the deserts will not be enough to ensure that terrorist attacks do not continue around the world.

Over the last few years, we have seen foreign fighters, lone wolves, and even young girls enlist with ISIS. These recruits come from all over the world, from many backgrounds and not limited to strictly Moslem families. In one case in the United States, the 18-year-old arrested for wanting to enlist was not only the son of a local police chief, but his name showed clear Italian origins.

Battlefield Facebook

It would be easy to say that the problems is with the Moslem migrants, but the fact that the terrorists were either born in the countries targeted, or went there when they were very young indicates that there is a problem of integration of the new generations and not limited to a single group. Part of these problems would come from the families, but this does not explain the marginalization of the young people from society as a whole such as they would willingly attack their countries of birth or residence.

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These problems of integration have given ISIS a weapon to use that is extremely difficult to confront and neutralize.

In fact, ISIS has been expert in exploiting the social media, particularly Facebook, to attract these isolated young people to their ranks and ultimately inspire them to commit acts that they would not have contemplated in the past. The ideological battle represented by ISIS is one that must be fought for the minds and souls of the young people and will be won only when the root causes of their marginalization and subsequent radicalization are resolved.

We must understand why fifteen-year-old girls from the United Kingdom and Austria, in this case, non-Moslems, decide to join ISIS. We must understand why these lonely troubled youths feel that there is a hope for the future with a fanatical group rather than in their countries of birth. The fact that lone wolf attacks have happened in many countries also tells us that these problems are widespread and not limited to only France or Germany.

The question will not be answered by further marginalizing potential recruits, or by labeling all Moslems as potential terrorists, as Donald Trump proposes. The question can only be answered and a solution found when world leaders accept that marginalization of even a small part of the population must not be allowed to continue. Victimization and marginalization serve no purpose except to drive these young people into the arms of those who would willingly exploit them.

The true battle

ISIS The self-proclaimed Islamic State must be negated, but not as a military force. We have seen in recent months that it cannot win a war on a conventional battlefield. It must be negated as a concept that misfits see as a solution to their personal problems. This is not a battle of weapons, but the most difficult of battles, a battle for hearts and souls.

This is the true war that the world must fight to defeat ISIS and until the world’s leaders answer the fundamental question that is too rarely asked ISIS will continue to find recruits for targeted attacks on world capitals for a long time into the future.