SMALL ARMS by Mia Bloom


Children and Terrorism
Email this review


Sociological exploration of the role of child soldiers in nonstate military operations.

The use of children in combat was once fairly uncommon, but groups such as the Islamic State and the Tamil Tigers have been systematic in putting young people in the field. In some cases, write Bloom (Communication/Georgia State Univ.; Bombshell: Women and Terrorism, 2011, etc.) and Horgan (Global Studies/Georgia State Univ.; The Psychology of Terrorism, 2014, etc.), the children are forced or coerced to bear arms, while in others, their parents sign them up, whether because they are believers in the cause or because, in the case of IS in places like Syria and Iraq, they receive a stipend for it. Sometimes the children are even willing participants. One 13-year-old Iranian boy who became the first suicide bomber to die in 1980 was hailed as a hero, and “his death was likened to the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammed’s grandson Hussein (killed at Karbala) and was celebrated by the Ayatollah Khomeini.” Drawing on a wide body of case studies, the authors examine the many ways child soldiers are drawn into their roles—which, in the end, usually turn out to be as cannon fodder. “Child soldiers…are not recruited for the future, but for the present,” they write. “Most die in battle and only a handful ever progress through the ranks to become adult leaders.” In action, too, child soldiers tend to be deadly, making up in savagery what they lack in experience. Can a child, once impressed into the military, ever escape? It happens, write the authors, as sometimes they are thrown out for incompetence, and others run away: “The reality is that most terrorist groups do permit disengagement, to a degree." Even so, they note, accounts by such disengaged children are rare. Bloom and Horgan close with white-paper recommendations for policymakers on how to deal with child soldiers—e.g., “Engage the families and communities of child returnees to better facilitate their reintegration.”

Of interest to military planners as well as workers in the humanitarian aid/NGO sphere.

Pub Date: May 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-8014-5388-5
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Cornell Univ.
Review Posted Online:


NonfictionA LONG WAY GONE by Ishmael Beah
by Ishmael Beah
NonfictionBROTHERS OF THE GUN by Marwan Hisham
by Marwan Hisham
NonfictionCHILDREN AT WAR by P.W. Singer
by P.W. Singer