An insurgency is an organized revolt that is aimed at overthrowing, and showing distaste towards a government, but is less than an organized revolution. Members of these insurgencies are dedicated to committing acts of terror against populations. Whether it be destroying villages, attacking citizens, and threatening other governments, insurgencies are composed of people with one mindset. Now that we have a working understanding of what an insurgency is, we can move on the broader picture of the reasons as to why people join them in first place.
As discussed in previous classes, grievances are factors that make people unhappy. Grievances are more closely associated with civil wars within a country. You have people that are unhappy due to be stricken by poverty, being repressed by their government, and being discriminated against. Although all of factors are prime ingredients for a civil war, grievances are also closely linked to why people join insurgencies. According to The Atlantic, “This consensus is also reflected in much liberal-left commentary about terrorism, especially of the jihadist variant. For example, in some quarters of the “radical” left it is asserted that the roots of jihadist terrorism lie not in Islam but in the myriad historical crimes and injustices of Western, and specifically U.S.-driven, imperialism—most notably, in the post-9/11 era, the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Jihadist violence, from this perspective, is an inevitable reaction fueled by Muslim anger and vengeance; and Westernized jihadists, far from rejecting the civilized norms and ideals proclaimed by the West, are in fact alienated from a West that excludes, demeans, and harasses Muslims.” Some sort of resentment is left with these people from all of the wrongdoings that were committed in previous situations such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Psychological factors also play a major part on why people join insurgencies. Emotions of fear and anger take over an individual and affect their actions and thought processes, motivating them to act a certain way and engage with other individuals that share this mutual feeling and cultural values. On the Politicalviolenceataglance.org, Thomas Zeitzoff states that, “Rational incentives and motives are important, but so are psychological motives. Emotions are powerful tools. Fear and anger have the ability to rally individuals to a cause despite the risk. Brutal tactics can engender fear and be used to intimidate rival groups or challengers. Sacred values have the capacity to motivate people to make large sacrifices on behalf of their group.”
ISIS is a primary example of a modern day insurgency. It’s amount of integrants range from 10,000 to 40,000, and are mainly composed of people from middle eastern countries, as well as a few foreigners. But grievances, nor hatred, or fear are the only motivations of these people for joining, but the feeling of become a part of something “special”, as well people seeking redemption. The following is from the International Business Times, where John Horgan, a psychologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts speaks on ISIS and a video message featuring a westerner named Andre Poulin, that joined the Islamic State. “Very often we see radicals decide they want to become a terrorist turn away at the last minute, but [Poulin’s] message hit the nail on the head, which is to say there is a road for everyone. It makes radicalization and recruitment much easier,” Horgan said. “It is an equal opportunity organization. It has everything from the sadistic psychopath to the humanitarian to the idealistic driven.” As far as foreign fighters are concerned, Horgan said, they are driven to join ISIS by the need to “belong to something special.” “They want to find something meaningful for their life,” he said. “Some are thrill seeking, some are seeking redemption.”