Throughout the United States history, many posters and slogans have been used to recruit people to join the US military.
Who could forget that poster of Uncle Sam pointing his finger with the slogan, ‘I Want You for the US Army.’ That poster and slogan were designed by an artist from New York by the name of James Montgomery Flagg. Flagg designed this poster for the Army after our entry in World War I in 1917. Four million of these four-color posters were printed and plastered all over the United States from coast to coast. The pointing Uncle Sam finger was not a new idea. He actually copied the idea from a British recruiting poster featuring Lord Kitchener. Kitchener was also pointing his finger accompanied by the slogan, ‘Your Country Needs You.’ Amazingly, these posters were so successful that both Russia and Germany followed with similar posters.
My little hometown was a little backward and sometimes out of date, so I can remember some of those posters with the slogan, ‘Uncle Sam Wants You’ actually posted in the Legion Club and the Post Office in the 50s. . That poster was reinvented for recruitment during WWII.
There have been some really good recruiting slogans that the US military has used over the years. I have a degree of familiarity with the Army, so I will start with them. From the 50s to 1971, the Army slogan was, ‘Look Sharp, Be Sharp, Go Army.’ Doesn’t that slogan just stir your hormones and make you want to enlist? That was the slogan that was in vogue during the Viet Nam War. The draft was still in effect during this war. In retrospect, a more appropriate slogan should have been, ‘Two Extremities, Two Eyes, a Pulse? Uncle Sam Will Draft You!
From 1971 to 1980, the US Army slogan was, ‘Today’s Army Wants to Join You.’ Say what? What in hell does that mean? Doesn’t that slogan send shivers up your spine accompanied by patriotic fervor? It is amazing that slogan recruited anyone.
Thankfully, my personal favorite Army slogan came into use in 1980. It was so popular and successful that it was used until 2001. Do you remember it? ‘Be All You Can Be.’ This was accompanied by an amped-up catchy versed song and proved to be wildly successful. Other than ‘Uncle Sam Wants You,’ it is the most recognizable Army slogan of all time.
But all good things must come to an end and the ‘Be All You Can Be’ was replaced in 2001 with the stupidest slogan ever, ‘Army of One.” I think that was the worse slogan ever. What happened to teamwork? What happened to camaraderie? How far does an Army of One get on any battlefield? I have a confession. I did not know what this slogan meant until I researched this post. The word ‘One’ was suppose to represent an acronym meaning, Officers, Non-Commissioned, and Enlisted. Even with this discovery and revelation, I still think it is the stupidest slogan …..EVER!
In 2006, the slogan, ‘Army Strong’ was introduced. That is the current Army slogan. Lame. But a vast improvement over ‘Army of One.’
Some of our other service branches have had memorable recruiting slogans. The Marine Corps has used, ‘The Few, the Proud,’ and the sexist slogan, ‘We’re Looking for a few Good Men.’ The Air Force has used, ‘Aim High, and ‘Cross Into the Blue.’ The Navy has used. ‘Accelerate your Life,’ and ‘It’s Not Just a Job, It’s an Adventure.’ ‘Be Part of the Action,’ is the motto of the Coast Guard. Combining these slogans with songs and slick videos has served all of these branches well since the inception of the volunteer Army.
Do you know who else is very successful in recruiting? ISIS, or ISIL or Daish. Pick a name, it’s all the same organization. They have been wildly successful in recruiting from other terrorist organizations, from sympathizers from Arab countries, and from sympathizers from Western countries. How do they do this?
According to the Syria Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors activity in the Syrian civil war, some of the new recruits in Syria include former militants of the al-Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria and opponent of the Islamic State. ISIS ability to convert members of rival terror organizations, in addition to the thousands of citizens worldwide- many who are Westerners and not natural-born Muslims – reflects the extend of its recruitment power. ISIS recruits approximately 20 new members a day, and most of the foreign fighters are between 15-20 years old, according to a spokesperson for the Islam Army. The Syria Observatory estimates that the group has more than 50,000 militants in Syria alone.
ISIS has a professional production company designing its videos. Unlike the old Al Qaeda group that had a bearded fighter talking in front of a single camera for 45 minutes, these videos are all high production quality, sometimes employing multiple cameras. Like any army recruitment video, ISIS videos promise the reward of having a purpose and playing an important role in something larger than yourself – smartly edited with slow-motion action shots. They also aim to address any concern a potential recruit may have.
ISIS has even opened a marriage center in Syria where women can register to become the wife of a jihadist. The terror group even gifts couples honeymoons after getting married, but they can only vacation within the caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
In addition to the well-made videos, the media arm also produces an online English language magazine called Dabiq that publishes propagandist articles and reports aimed to glorify the Islamic State. But the most powerful media tool ISIS has mastered is social media. It has a presence on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Middle Eastern networks. They have aps and hashtags and use both to spread their propaganda.
According to Michael Steinbach, FBI’s assistant director of counter-terrorism, “They have mastered the use of it (social media)…as a propaganda tool, as a recruitment tool and as a targeting tool.” He goes on to say, “ISIL has used social media better than any terrorist group before or currently.” Steinbach says the message from ISIS or ISIL is clear: “come join the caliphate, and if you can’t join the caliphate, conduct an attack in the U.S.”
I have thought for quite some time that our government has attempted to gloss over the severity of Westerners joining an Islamic terrorist group. As of October 2015, law enforcement authorities know of 250 Americans who had traveled or tried to travel to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS fighters. There are about 900 active investigations against ISIS sympathizers in all 50 states. Why do I think these numbers are low? Germany has stated that 900 of its citizens have left the country to fight for an Islamic terrorist organization. France is claiming between 200-300 of its citizens. Admittedly, these are only the people they are aware that have left their countries. America at 250? Firstly, look at our population compared to France and Germany combined. Secondly, about five years ago, authorities in Minnesota admitted that over 200 Somali teens were missing. Missing?
These Somali teens, both boys and girls are not missing. They are either with ISIS or with an off-shoot organization of Al Qaeda in Somalia. They are targeted. They are wanted because they speak English, are computer savvy and educated, and they are vulnerable. I have seen an ISIS recruiting video on the internet. It makes ISIS look like their caliphate is the Muslim version of Club Med. Do you know what is really scary about this situation in Minnesota? All of these teens were born in the US! They have attended Minnesota schools all of their life. And yet – with all of the opportunity available to these teens, they still select to go fight for an enemy of their birth country.
Here is a wake-up call for all of my Minnesota friends………………26% of Muslims who leave the US to fight for ISIS and Al Qaeda are from Minnesota! Only New York provides more terrorist recruits.
The point of this blog? Contrary to what the POTUS said when he said ISIS is the Al Qaeda junior varsity team, this organization is technologically savvy, pathologically dedicated to their religion and well funded. Their recruitment techniques are just as professional as those used by our service branches. My fear is that their recruiting techniques may be more successful than ours.