BEFORE the term violent extremism was used by different international agencies, donor countries, and different governments all around the globe, what we have was the term counter terrorism (CT) which was an offshoot of the US Global War on Terror (GWOT) after the 9/11 terrorist attack of the World Trade Center in New York. The term GWOT was a clear military response. It is a reactive approach. However, after several years had passed, the GWOT was seen as an impossible war to win.
In 2007, Philip Gordon, Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, wrote a book entitled, Winning the Right War: The Path to Security for America and the World (Times Books, 2007). In this book he wrote, "Less than 12 hours after the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush proclaimed the start of a global war on terror. Ever since, there has been a vigorous debate about how to win it." However, this move by the US government was counter-productive. We can see on the news what happened to Iraq and Afghanistan. Even up to this day, the conflict and massive displacements of innocent civilians are a problem that has not been settled.
Gordon also raised the "concept of what “victory” in the war on terror would actually look like". He added, "The traditional notion of winning a war is fairly clear: defeating an enemy on the battlefield and forcing it to accept political terms. But what does victory—or defeat—mean in a war on terror? Will this kind of war ever end? How long will it take? Would we see victory coming? Would we recognize it when it came?" These are hard questions to answer. They are straight to the point.
However, we have to understand that the so called terrorist organizations have been operating in the different parts of of the globe even before 9/11. These "terrorist groups" may sometimes be seen as "heroes or revolutionary armed movements” of the people who were oppressed. We also need to understand further that GWOT efforts have come to be perceived as ineffective and/or counterproductive for many obvious reasons including lack of understanding of the local context, mismatched domestic and international policies, and programs that prioritized militarized and law enforcement responses.
This realization is related to Gordon's recommendation to assess what do we mean by the word "victory" when it comes to CT. According to him, "It is essential to start thinking seriously about these questions, because it is impossible to win a war without knowing what its goal is. Considering possible outcomes of the war on terror makes clear that it can indeed be won, but only with the recognition that this is a new and different kind of war."
Realizing the complexities of the situation on CT, different states, policy makers, and peace and security practitioners looked for alternatives. This in turn explains the ’emergence’ of the discourse and practices associated with ‘Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)'.
The questions raised by Gordon can also be raised in the War in Marawi. How do we define "victory" in the Marawi tragedy?
In our CVE approaches we need to come up with a comprehensive early warning/response measures. We do not want another Marawi problem to happen again. We also need to identify vulnerable individuals and groups, and the early signs of radicalization. We also need to mitigate the risks through engagement, education and provide a better narratives about Islam and the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
The relationships within families, "clans", "tribes", and communities play an important factor in our local context. Almost everyone in the communities are related and interrelated with one another. The CVE approaches with a program of community engagements must take note of this complexities on the ground. They must also follow the principle of "do no harm" in their interventions.
You may ask, what then is the definition of CVE? This is a tough question to answer.
Before we answer this question, let us define violent extremism and violent extremist are:
Violent extremism refers to the beliefs and actions of people who support or use ideologically-motivated violence to achieve radical ideological, religious or political views. (www.livingsafetogether.gov.au and www.dhs.gov/topic/countering-violent-extremism)
Violent extremist views can be exhibited along a range of issues, including politics, religion and gender relations. No society, religious community or worldview is immune to such violent extremism. (www.livingsafetogether.gov.au and www.dhs.gov/topic/countering-violent-extremism)
Violent Extremism is...“when you do not allow for a different point of view; when you hold your own views as being quite exclusive, when you don’t allow for the possibility of difference and when you want to impose this view on others using violence if necessary.” (Davies, L. 2008. Education Against Extremism, Stoke on Trent and Sterling. Trentham Books. https://www.oise.utoronto.ca/cld/UserFiles/File/DAVIESeducationagainstextremism.pdf)
Thus, CVE is a way/approach/program through dialogue that prevents this from happening.