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Critical Review of “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States”, the White House, August 2011.

by on May 15, 2012

This report review will seek to analyse “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States” which was published by the White House, United States of America, in August of 2011.
The report puts forth the argument that local communities are instrumental in the state’s quest to curb radicalisation of American citizens, hereby minimising the threat of violent extremist actions undertaken by Americans, inspired by organisations such as al-Qaida, within their own borders. With this, the report highlights the importance of engaging local communities in dialogue and utilising public diplomacy and soft power policies in order to strengthen American unity and counter anti-American sentiments (pages 1-3.)
With this, the report is divided into three main parts.
Firstly, it sets forth the challenges the state faces when seeking to prevent domestic extremism, hereunder the attempts of extremist groups to recruit American citizens to carry out attacks on their own nation. With this, the report continuously underlines the pluralism, inclusiveness and unity of the United States, setting forth the argument that it is the collective responsibility of the American public and government to uphold the, arguably universal, American values and to not allow division of the nation (pages 1-2.)
Secondly, the report puts forth ways in which these challenges can be countered, as it argues that the most efficient tool in identifying extremist ideologies is local communities. In this way, the report puts forth the all-importance of families and local institutions being well-informed and aware of potential threats to their communities so these can be confronted (pages 2-3.)
Thirdly, the report states its overarching goals which is to “prevent violent extremists and their supporters from inspiring, radicalizing, financing, or recruiting individuals or groups in the United States to commit acts of violence” (page 3.) It repeatedly makes it clear that Muslim Americans are an important part of the American community and that the United States is not at war with Islam but simply with extremism (pages 3, 6-7.) Furthermore, it highlights the centrality of information sharing, relationship building and training which will prepare local communities to counter attempted radicalisation (pages 5-6.) Finally, the report suggests that the key to tackling domestic extremism is to be found in the continued promotion of American ideals through soft power policies, hereby undermining extremist propaganda (pages 6-7.)

One may argue that this report offers a good overview of the challenges presented by extremists seeking to radicalise American citizens. Furthermore, it effectively and clearly puts forth a number of ways in which these attempts may be countered, hereunder the utilisation of public outreach and the involvement of citizens acting as diplomats.
However, one may put forth the argument that the report is rather vague in its recommendations and conclusions. In this way, the exact role which local communities have to play arguably never becomes clear, and throughout the report it arguably remains ambiguous exactly why or how they are “best placed to recognize and confront the threat” (page 3.) In this way, the report arguably does not clarify the way in which people to people diplomacy may be a crucial in countering attacks on the United States carried out by American citizens themselves.
Furthermore, the report places great emphasis on the importance of the state developing programs, addressing the risk of radicalisation (page 3), but the content of these initiatives is arguably not specified either.
Also, one may argue that some of the proposed responses, such as arranging meetings with foreign experts and utilising public diplomacy though the outreach to foreign publics, hereby and making use of their experiences (page 6), appear to be long-term solutions to a seemingly acute issue.
With this, one may argue that the report leaves the reader with a number of unanswered questions, and that the vagueness of it indeed may undermine the effectiveness of its proposals.

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