Foreign envoys held peace talks in Vienna this week.
Foreign envoys held peace talks on Syria in Vienna this week. ART production /

The Intercept:

The primary factors driving Syrian youths toward extremist groups are deprivation and personal trauma stemming from five years of civil war in the country, according to a report from International Alert, a British organization. Titled “Why Young Syrians Choose to Fight,” the report is based on interviews with 311 Syrians living in northern Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey.

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The prime drivers for extremism were personal experiences of trauma, loss of economic and educational opportunities, and a desire for vengeance against the Syrian government, according to the British NGO. The Syrian respondents said these practical factors, rather than ideological beliefs, led many young men to support groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State.

Unemployment is as high as 90 percent in some parts of the country. The report tells the story of one 18-year-old who joined a unit of Free Syrian Army (the nominally secular group fighting the government), only to find that they had no reliable supply of bullets. He joined the fundamentalist Al-Nusra Front because they offered bullets and a salary, even though he disagreed with their ideology.

Donald Trump's "'bomb the shit out of ISIS" plan would predictably make these problems worse. And Hillary Clinton's regime-change-first approach to Syria is not much of an improvement because, as economist Jeffrey Sachs pointed out in February, "removing a leader, even if done 'successfully,' doesn’t solve any underlying geopolitical problems, much less ecological, social, or economic ones." Exhibit A: Libya.