ISIS recruits much of its membership in the states where it operates. With increased debate on why this is an occurrence, providing aid to refugees is effective in combatting ISIS because it decreases the chances of them joining the faction.
In an interview with the Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss, Abu Khaled, an Islamic State defector, calls his organization “a welfare state” because it pays for housing and childcare for fighters and residents alike.
Khaled is alarmingly correct. A 2015 Quantum study found that 12 percent of surveyed ISIS and surrounding extremist group members joined their entities because of money. The report explains that the same militants who fight for their fortunes are from Syria and Iraq.
As monetary compensation is used as a tool to convert impoverished locals into extremists, humanitarian aid is effective in combating ISIS and other extremist groups. However, the U.N.’s budget for Syrian refugees is 65 percent short of what is required to provide adequate assistance.
Failing to give substantial support to those who need it most explains why many turn to ISIS. Out of all the people who stayed in Syria, 10 million of them have an insufficient food supply. Joining ISIS is a choice of survival when it is the only way to accommodate hunger.
When developed countries give aid to these countries’ refugees, it reduces the need to choose jihad over starvation. The financial factor of pursuing terrorism diminishes when food is on the plates of 10 million starving Syrians.
Appealing to the poor is not a new tactic of radicalism. The ETA, a Basque nationalist group, grew its membership among lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
While poverty is not the only source of extremism, policymakers widely accept it as a valid component. Even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledges it as “a root cause of terrorism.” Humanitarian efforts by the U.N. are stagnant, but the United States is leading the world in giving to Syrian refugees, providing $419 million in additional aid.
Despite more funding being present, America alone cannot endure success in alleviating Syria’s poverty and combatting ISIS. Foreign policy expert Helen Milner of Princeton University writes that there is “support for the hypothesis that multilateral aid is preferred to bilateral.” Most respondents also classified multilateral aid as the most effective solution.
America has more in its budget than most countries, yet there is still a disparity between the how much the U.S. donates and how much it actually could donate to the Syrian crisis.
Middle Eastern refugees are incentivized to follow the cash flow of prosperity. Western nations can fill the void before ISIS and other extremist groups beat them to it.
– Noah Levy