While the vast majority of Americans want the threat from Islamist terrorism to diminish, there is precious little agreement about how best to achieve that. One of the policy areas that has proven to be especially polarizing is that of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). A President Obama-era initiative, CVE seeks to address grievances and promote “counter-narratives” – particularly among Muslim communities – at home and abroad. Through CVE, the federal government hopes to reduce the terrorist threat by supporting local, community-led efforts to challenge extremism and violent, radical ideas. This approach was criticized for funding programs with little accountability, few metrics for effectiveness and for failing to deal with the ideological roots of Islamism.
The Trump Administration appears to be taking a more skeptical approach to the efficacy of CVE. There has already been a re-evaluation of which groups are to be rewarded money for CVE projects, with those with a track record of effectiveness and potential for delivering results favored. More money has also been distributed to law enforcement. This approach has inevitably also had its critics.
What is the appropriate role of the government in winning the war of ideas against Islamism? Should CVE be focused only on violent manifestations of Islamist ideology, or on political Islam in general? Who are the appropriate partners to work with? Which other radical ideologies – if any – should CVE be focused on?