It’s a dilemma, I know. We are at war, de jure or de facto, with Daesh and sundry other Islamist organisations in the Middle East and Africa. (For the purposes of this article ‘we’ applies to the people of Australia, but it could apply to the citizens of any militarily active Western democracy.) We are also allied with the USA, other nations and other organisations whose interests align with our own.
So what should be our attitude if a citizen, a civilian, decides to go overseas to fight with one of those organisations? It’s illegal to fight overseas except as a member of the Australian armed forces, and I can see why such a law should exist. How can one be sure that the person concerned has not in fact been fighting on behalf of our enemies – either directly or as a spy or saboteur operating within an allied organisation? What moral responsibility would we be forced to accept it the person were killed or injured or captured or accused of a war crime?
On his return he was questioned by police and still lives under the threat of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment. But to most Australians he’s a hero, on a par with foreigners who went to Spain to oppose Franco in the 1930s. I would even suggest that he should be nominated for Australian of the Year.
There are thousands of people of warrior age who while away their time playing shoot-em-up video games, or who flee the fighting for lack of means to defend their communities. We should be encouraging those people to take up real arms and kill real enemies – enemies who are the closest thing to embodied evil that we are likely to see in our lifetimes.