The West's war on itself

Earlier this week Peter Harling, Alex Simon and Ben Schonveld published a detailed analysis and critique of the global programme called Preventing Violent Extremism and its sister programme Countering Violent Extremism called The West’s war on itself.

You can read the full, in depth, article here.

I would urge everyone to read this article with some tea, biscuits and a notebook and pen! There are many references that most of us would find easy to relate.

For those engaged in this area from 2001 onward – you may even claim that the father of the above two programmes is none other than the UK government's Prevent strategy and its wholesale co-option of the Neocon research and policy directions, from reports such as Civil democratic Islam, partners, resources and strategies by Cheryl Benard or think tanks such as Policy Exchange and others.

The article is broken in to the following chapters which themselves gives you a good insight of what this is all about.

  1. The West’s war on itself, the hard truths of soft counterterrorism
  2. That awkward moment, liberalising the war on terror
  3. The more things change...
  4. Historical continuum, from pacification to PVE
  5. Treading water
  6. Defeating the purpose
  7. What goes around comes around
  8. When all else fails, trust common sense

I have taken some quotes from the article of individuals who are involved in the C/PVE industry both authors and professionals who are paid to deliver the programme. I hope it creates enough curiosity to put the kettle on!

“at the end of the day, the only three topics I can hope to get approval on for funding are migration, security sector reform, and violent extremism.”
“This woman from the Canadian Embassy came to our office and asked if we were doing CVE. I said we were trying to make Jordan a more inclusive and well governed society, which is probably good for reducing the appeal of radicalism… She said to call her if we started doing CVE.”
“We brought in 60-70 leaders to talk about violent extremism. That generated a lot of enthusiasm from countries that offered to hold their own summits: Albania, Australia, Kazakhstan… It was the summer of summits. Then we collated everything into an Action Agenda for PVE and gave that to the UN, who came up with the Plan of Action for PVE—or the PVE PoA—agreeing that every country should work toward a National Action Plan for implementing its 71 points.”
“It’s hard to say when the concept came into existence, but it basically was developed under Bush by the State Department, with the intention of creating a framework that the Pentagon could understand”
“what is distinctive about PVE is that, on one hand, the idea remains incredibly ill-defined and, on the other, there’s a really disproportionate amount of money going into it. Of course, those together are problematic.”
“CVE was about Obama really wanting to draw down the military dimension of the war on terror; something just had to be done instead.”
“The purpose of American development assistance usually is not development, but access; we fund governments so they allow us to operate in their territory. Nobody ever thought our assistance to Pakistan was anything other than a bribe.”
“You do not do CVE in states that don’t have Muslims. The notion is overtly racist.”
“Increasingly, you see that not a single person can say what works. A glaring example is counter-narratives, where people will say: we don’t have any results, but we should do more of it, and here are some best practices based on our no results. Why are we continuing to push a model that has no empiricism, and that is visibly making things worse?”
“Today everyone is exhausted. We see that nothing has worked, and everything is worse, and we’re not sure where to go. Should we go back to a focus on peacebuilding? Or women empowerment? This is something we are struggling with.”
“Our leadership seems to have convinced itself about PVE, but I can guarantee you that if we didn’t have the funding constraint we wouldn’t be doing this stuff. Honestly, almost all our work has shifted in this direction, and deep down we’re frustrated with this diversion from our core mission.”
“PVE means absolutely nothing to me. It is a void word. But I know it brings in a lot of money, so I’m okay with it.”
“If your local partner understands what PVE means, it’s probably not a good local partner. It’s just another organization that knows how to fundraise at the expense of their own agenda.”

Happy reading


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