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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2006, Vol, 6 No. 1 .


Young Soldiers: Why They Choose to Fight
Rachel Brett and Irma Specht

Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004, 192pp, 13.95, ISBN 92-2-113718-X

Young Soldiers is based on interviews with 53 adolescents, mainly men (46) and women (7) from 10 different conflicts who have been or still were members of either regular or irregular armed groups. Each of the seven chapters makes use of extensive quotes from the young people involved who came from disparate backgrounds including, Afghanistan, Colombia, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom (Great Britain plus Northern Ireland). In turn, the young people belonged to a range of organizations from state armies to guerrilla units.

All of these factors could be used to criticise this book ? small number of respondents in total with even smaller numbers drawn from each location and/or type of organization. However, because of the clear way in which the book is written, and the skilful way in which the quotations are used, such criticism would be gratuitous.

In fact, Young Soldiers reads extremely well, with each chapter beginning with a short introduction and ending with a very useful conclusion. The authors note that the aim of the book was to identify risk factors for young people becoming young soldiers and thus help to influence policy with regard to demobilization and indeed prevention of re-recruitment. In fact, the book is this and much more. It is a mine of information about children and war. Further, this not simply another ?isn?t war awful? book that reminds us ?children are the future, after all?. What I liked about this book is that it is not over-indulgent, but rather the authors recognize, what many scholars in this field often fail to recognize that, ?The causal effects of war are not only direct, but also indirect? (36), impacting on family economics, identity, education and so forth.

One reason that the chapters are easy to read is that they are free from unnecessary detail. However, these details are not missing from the book. Two appendices provide all the information any academic reader would need. One appendix reproduces the detailed instructions given to the interviewers. This includes revealing sections on topics such as ?Tolerating silence? and ?Avoid a therapeutic relationship?. The second appendix has a one and a half page summary about each of the societies the young people came from and their associated conflicts. These summaries are so good they almost make the book worth buying on their own. In addition, each chapter is carefully referenced, and there is a good basic bibliography.

Young Soldiers therefore makes an ideal book to recommend to students both undergraduate and graduate. Undergraduates will find the book full of useful information, which may help them understand how the social sciences can play an important, if small role, in investigating important world problems. Graduate students will find this and more ? a manual on how to conduct interviews plus a model of how to write up the results in a readable way.



Professor Ed Cairns, Psychology, University of Ulster, INCORE Associate




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