Countering Violent Extremism

By Elizabeth Scott
posted on May 4, 2013 in Grand Strategy, Politics and Society

Last week, members of the Grand Strategy and Middle East Discussion Groups held a joint meeting where they discussed the lessons learned from countering violent extremism (CVE). Bidjan Nashat, a member of the Middle East group, walked the groups through current CVE theories and practices. CVE is a complex problem, with interconnected players that support or actively generate violence. Participants can be individuals, non-state actors, or even states themselves.

So how do you best counter violent extremism? The group discussed several mechanisms, such as legitimate messengers (i.e. former terrorists reaching out to possible terrorism recruits), and the power of peer groups.  Conceptualizing extremism as an epidemic is also a useful strategy for brainstorming solutions. The impact of some efforts may be difficult to measure, but are worth doing anyway. As one participant put it, “It’s the difference between doing the right thing versus doing it right.” For example, we may not have solid data about the impact of exchange programs with foreign students, but we still believe that it’s the right thing to do. We need to do both what’s right and what’s smart.