Different wars, similar motivations: the history of foreign fighters

Jun 3, 2013

Before publishing 'Animal Farm' and '1984,' English author George Orwell joined a Marxist militia to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Last week, the rather startling news broke of a Flint woman who was killed while fighting in Syria. According to Syrian state television, 33-year-old Nicole Mansfield was killed by government forces on May 29 while fighting alongside anti-government rebels in the northwestern city of Idlib.

Investigators and the family are still trying to ascertain how she got there and what motivated her to leave Michigan and fight in Syria’s bloody, two-year civil war in which at least 80,000 people have been killed.

To help put Nicole Mansfield’s situation in perspective, we take a look at the long history of foreign fighters with David Malet. He’s a lecturer in international relations at the University of Melbourne and the author of the recently published book, “Foreign Fighters: Transnational Identity in Civil Conflicts.”