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ISIS' Foreign Fighters
Elite French Soldiers Join ISIS’s Ranks

Are veterans of some of France’s best military units fighting for the enemy? According to the French government, the answer is yes. The National Post (of Canada) reports:

Most of the ex-soldiers, reportedly numbering around 10 and including former paratroopers and French foreign legionnaires, are said to be fighting on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Most worrying is the reported presence of an ex-member of France’s elite First Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, considered one of Europe’s most experienced special forces units and which shares the “Who Dares Wins” motto of the SAS.

The unnamed individual, of North African origin, had received commando training in combat, shooting and survival techniques. He served for five years before joining a private security company for which he worked in the Arabian peninsula, where he was radicalised before heading for Syria, according to L’Opinion, a news website.

A few of the soldiers in question are foreign born, a few French; a few are from Muslim families, and some were converts. That these men could spend years in a military with one of the proudest and longest traditions of service in the world—and some units, like the Foreign Legion, have a successful track record of integration—and then be seduced by ISIS is disturbing. It will doubtlessly come as a grave blow to French confidence at an already low point.

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  • Pete

    “That these men could spend years in a military with one of the proudest and longest traditions of service in the world—and some units, like the Foreign Legion, have a successful track record of integration—and then be seduced by ISIS is disturbing.”

    French pride is a loose commodity and length of tradition does not necessarily relate to effectiveness.

    This is nothing to worry about, kiddies.

    • Tom

      French soldiers aren’t that bad.
      French political leadership, on the other hand, is generally laughable.

  • qet

    In 2015, after 200 years of insisting that people are actuated and motivated solely by material interests, after 2 centuries’ worth of intellectuals have convinced themselves that faith and beliefs and irrational ideas are frauds that will go away if we just pretend they’re not there, the French have no means for understanding, let alone dealing with, the Islamic fanatics in their midst and beyond. It is simply inconceivable to the bien pensant French intelligentsia that anyone exposed to an Enlightenment-soaked French institution, military included, would fight and die for a faith or belief other than scientific socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. France, and the West generally, offers nothing to the soul, having determined it doesn’t exist. I would laugh at their hubris to their faces were I not living on the same sinking ship.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Evidently you think that nothing in the West can trump the lure of Islamic-style murder and sex.

      • qet

        Yes, this is just what I think. For “some,” the prevailing process ethic and material determinist belief system characteristic of the West are not a sufficient basis for organizing their lives. But your reduction of the alternative to “murder and sex” is itself a very Western kind of indictment against the alternative these erstwhile French soldiers have opted for. Sex and death–eros and thanatos–the analysis of Freud runs deep in modern Western thought. I imagine that the ISIS types need to satisfy their ids as much as the rest of us do, but reducing every belief system to simply one alternative among others for satisfying basic drives is the very opposite of illuminating. If you believe, as I do, that people are motivated by ideas and that to many (and it only requires that there be such a “many” in order for a conflict to arise and perpetuate into violence) the “spirit” of the society in which they live is more important than its material conditions, then the behavior of these and other European and American jihadis is easy to understand. By “understand,” I do not mean that I agree with their outlook or even that their worldview is no less “valid” than my West-informed worldview.

  • gabrielsyme

    Islamic jihadists within the West will push states like France, Belgium, Sweden and others to the brink of what a liberal democracy can do. Tolerating a minority population that invariably produces murderers and terrorists is an extremely difficult thing for any society, yet the alternative is ever-more strict laws, security monitoring, and perhaps eventually mass deportation, calling into question the “liberal” nature of these countries.

    It seems clear that, as a minimum, Sunni populations in the West will comprise 5% terrorist sympathisers, and some proportion of those supporters will become active, either at home or abroad. How long such a state of affairs will be endurable is uncertain.

  • jeburke

    Gee, then it all may have something to do with, you know — pssst — “Islam?”

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