Foreign Fighters: Transnational Identity in Civil Conflicts
By David Malet
Oxford University Press, USA, 2013, 272 pp.
The conflict in Syria is only the most recent civil war in which the presence of foreigners has had a major effect on the fighting. In his thorough exploration of why and how foreign fighters get involved in wars far away from their homes, Malet focuses on the importance of transnational identity and the need to support fellow members of a community under threat. His case studies include the Texas War of Independence (an inspired choice), the Spanish Civil War, the Israeli War of Independence, and Afghanistan from 1978 to 1992, with some concluding observations on Islamist participation in various recent conflicts in the Middle East. Three important themes emerge from this account. The first is the essential role played by organizations that recruit, train, and dispatch volunteers. The second is the importance of how conflicts are framed in determining whether volunteers can accept another’s fight as their own. And the third is the tendency of indigenous and foreign fighters to eventually fall out with each other.