AVE; Our Work Highlisghted in Wired
October 11th, 2012 - 3:44pm
Filed under International Security
Wired Magazine delves into one of the major generational security challenges we face today: countering violent extremism. Three GN Members and two GN projects were included in the feature. Violent extremism as understood today is a very complex, expensive, relatively new phenomena, and the US government and allies are wrestling with how exactly to measure success. No important cause is easy and we are proud to be on the good side of such a necessary struggle. We hope you are too, without the support and participation of our Members, we would not be able to play such an integral role on CVE.Below please find some excerpts from the article.
Muslim Rappers, 'Google Ideas': Inside the Flawed U.S. Campaign to Fight Militant Memes
Published October 9 2012 - Wired Magazine - BySpencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman
During those 11 years, the U.S. has become exceptional at hunting and killing Islamic extremists. But it still does not know how to undercut the basic appeal of Islamic extremism. Until it does, all the drone strikes and commando raids can do is keep terrorist attacks at bay. So experts inside and outside the government are working on an inchoate effort to supplement counterterrorism called CVE, for Countering Violent Extremism. It seeks a durable end to al-Qaida, through dissuading people from becoming terrorists in the first place.
"With CVE, the spectrum starts at prevention, with the regular Joe on the street," explains Humera Khan, who runs a number of such prophylactic programs and who spoke at the Sept. 12 event. "The idea is to increase the barriers to entry, so that he never goes down that radical path."
The idea, its advocates explain, is that the U.S. government can't actually provide a resolution to the problem of Muslim extremism; Muslims communities themselves, with the indirect support of the government, have to do that. Much of the energy behind CVE work comes from outside government - these days, from an initiative spearheaded by Google.
In late June 2011, Google's in-house think tank, GoogleIdeas, convened a set of meetings in Ireland called the Summit Against Violent Extremism. The conference was an extension of an initiative that GoogleIdeas founder Jared Cohen had in his previous life at the State Department: unite former extremists from all over the world with victims of terrorism; and connect them all to people with juice in the business, new media and philanthropic communities.
But since it ended, GoogleIdeas has built a collaboration with a philanthropic collective called the Gen Next Foundation, a collection of young business executives that GoogleIdeas invited to the conference. Along with a London think tank, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the partnership seeks build a global movement of "Formers," a term for people who broke from the terrorist groups or gangs they used to belong to. The theory is that Formers are the most credible, viable voices to convince at-risk youth not to be about that life.
That movement, still in its infancy, resembles a counter-gang program applied to the problem of terrorism, and on a global scale. The Formers play the role of community activists, starting organizations like London's Quilliam Foundation, a de-radicalization think tank founded by Noman Benotman, a Libyan ex-jihadist.
Bare, a member of the network, is involved in creating a digital marketing campaign for a forthcoming video created by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. The video, which isn't public yet, promotes the Syrian filmmaker Moustapha Akkad, who helped produce the Halloween franchise as well as Hollywood films that showed Islam in a positive light, like 1977′s The Message with Anthony Quinn. Akkad was killed in a 2005 Jordan bombing - which the video uses to underscore al-Qaida's tendency to kill Muslims. That was a message the government spread when it released selected musings of Osama bin Laden found during the raid that killed him.
Juan Zarate, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, looks at whether there are "more groups forming, more conferences," indicating a grassroots movement against extremism, and how extremist messaging shifts in response. Frenett says "the success metric is to change and influence the dialog."
An adviser to the U.S. military is more blunt. When asked how to measure CVE, he answered, under condition of anonymity: "You don't, immediately." Any victories will take decades to materialize. "If we're really playing the long game, we have to play long."
"Part of challenge here was, how do you foment a grassroots countermovement to al-Qaida?" Zarate remembers. "How do you enlist and empower credible voices?"