Over the past few years the idea of countering violent extremism (CVE) has become part of the lexicon when discussing issues related to terrorism. But contrary to popular misunderstanding, CVE is neither a replacement to counterterrorism (CT) efforts nor a way for the US government to spy on citizens. Rather, CVE is a complement to CT and has become all the more relevant in the aftermath of the Boston bombings and the Islamic State and other jihadi groups’ recruitment of unprecedented numbers of Americans to fight abroad.
Countering Violent Extremism
Introduced as part of an Obama administration counterterrorism program, the phrase “Countering Violent Extremism” (or “CVE”) refers to a broad spread of ideas and strategies aimed at dissuading and understanding radicalization. CVE initiatives range from academic research on extremist propaganda and the role of religion in violent ideology to civil society programs aimed at reintegrating disaffected youth. Despite its recent popularity, however, CVE faces some notable problems. While some Muslim community leaders view CVE programs as a welcome alternative to police surveillance, other leaders argue that it is simply surveillance by a different name. Perhaps even more seriously, critics have charged that the definition of CVE is so vague as to be almost unformed: what, after all, do we define as “violent extremism”? And what does it really mean to “counter” it?