(UN)Convinced To Kill
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States
Pagination or Media Count:
Miscategorization of perceived enemies has plagued the United States since September 11, 2001. With the rise and decline of the Islamic State, this thesis seeks to determine how preparations to handle those suspected of terrorism have changed. Since the Islamic State entered the Western psyche, American foreign fighters have left home only to return from the battlefield disillusioned. Informed by needs theories, this thesis explores idiosyncratic radicalization trajectories of American foreign fighters between 2011 and 2017. Eight foreign fighter cases are examined to determine the individual causes of radicalization and defection. It is evident that the U.S. may be miscategorizing returnees. Through empathetic inquiry, this research found that many Americans traveled to Syria and Iraq to fulfill moral needs, rather than out of bloodthirst. Despite moral reasoning and eventual moral objection to acts witnessed in the self-proclaimed caliphate, misadventures have continually been met with prosecution. Hard power remains the U.S. defacto returnee policy. Consideration of the benefits of soft power in counterterrorism strategies has been largely neglected by U.S. authorities. It is recommended that categorization and treatment of returning American foreign fighters be reevaluated. Soft power may prove an indispensable tool in curtailing the threat of long-term, generational terrorism on U.S. soil.
- Unconventional Warfare