by Mark Bourrie
In The Killing Game, Bourrie attempts to explain how ISIS so successfully got its foothold in the region of Syria and Iraq it currently occupies, and how the organization has been effective in attracting foreign fighters. He goes on to show historical similarities to the tactics employed by the self-described caliphate––how its messaging relates to Nazi and modern-day Canadian propaganda; how its recruitment efforts resemble those of the Communists of the Spanish Civil War; how its attempts to build bonds between fighters resemble those of urban gangs; and how its simple ideology relates to that of White Supremacists. This not only helps Bourrie show previous pitfalls when pushing back against these groups, but also gives him a historical precedence for the solutions he poses to help stymie the flow of foreign fighters from the West and to rehabilitate those who return.
The book’s definitely not perfect. While the examples from our past help to give Bourrie’s suggestions some credibility, most social programs in a similar vein currently being used across the EU have little to no systems in place to track their success, making it difficult to make such recommendations definitively. (Bourrie acknowledges this in the text.) That being said, he still makes a compelling argument that the status quo, with regards to Western tactics to combat ISIS, will likely be ineffective in the long-run, and he actually provides solutions that seem reasonable enough, to me at least. The bigger issue with The Killing Game is its tedious middle. With a strong start and great flow of discussion––merging stories about Western converts to radical Islam with examples of specific tactics ISIS employs and clear explanations of the point of it all––we linger on the subjects of propaganda on social media and the reliance of dreams to aid in decision making for the majority of these extremists. While I understand the importance of these topics, I just think some of the talk could have easily been trimmed to aid the overall flow. Thankfully, as we approach the end, we get to the point very concisely.
All in all, I found The Killing Game enjoyable and informative. Bourrie convinced me of the need for improved programs to help identify youth at risk for radicalization, to support them and their families, and to help them, as well as fighters returning from Syria, function and succeed in Western society. (I’m just a bit sad that we seem to be lagging far behind the rest of the Western world, here in Canada, where this is concerned.)