Obama's 'Countering Violent Extremism' Program Collapses Into Absurdity
One of the first federal agencies to openly embrace the White House CVE initiative was the Defense Department.
Nearly two months before the White House Strategic Implementation Plan was issued, the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued an October 14, 2011 memorandum directing all elements of the DOD to screen CVE trainers and speakers. This was specifically tasked to the service academies and other academic centers, including the Joint Special Operations University and the National Intelligence Defense University. Particular emphasis for this new undefined and secretive CVE screening process targeting "Military Information Support Operations, Information Operations, and Military Intelligence curriculum."
But at the time, some warned that the administration's "purge" targeting both counter-terrorism training and instructors was based on highly partisan reporting, and that the DOD's efforts would lead to a blinding of the foremost elements of the U.S. government conducting the War on Terror. Unable to define the enemy, the U.S. would wander aimlessly, fighting an unending war against an ever-shifting opponent.
Those predictions of the Pentagon's intentional blinding of its war-fighting units have proved catastrophically true.
In late 2014, the New York Times reported that Major Gen. Michael Nagata, then-head of Special Operations Command Central, had held a series of conference calls attempting to understand why the Islamic State had grown so dangerous:
Trying to decipher this complex enemy -- a hybrid terrorist organization and a conventional army -- is such a conundrum that General Nagata assembled an unofficial brain trust outside the traditional realms of expertise within the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies, in search of fresh ideas and inspiration. Business professors, for example, are examining the Islamic State’s marketing and branding strategies.
In the midst of these discussions, Gen. Nagata issued this damning indictment of how the Obama administration's CVE policies had blinded the very tip of the American war-fighting spear:
“We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it,” he said, according to the confidential minutes of a conference call he held with the experts. “We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.”
Having intentionally purged the DOD's training of any ability to define the enemy, America's top warriors admit they have lost any ability to identify, and then defeat, the enemy.
On September 8, 2011, Obama signed Executive Order 13584, which led to the establishment of the State Department's Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) to counter terrorist propaganda.
But not even five years after the fact, the program has suffered chronic leadership changes and a string of public embarrassments in the face of the growing international terrorist threat from the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.
As a consequence, the State Department has closed the CSCC in the face of widespread failure, and now the U.S. government must delegate these vital tasks to foreign organizations.
Among the many embarrassing CSCC episodes was a graphic video they produced called "Welcome to ISIS Land" that featured severed heads, corpses, and crucifixions interspersed with messages directed at would-be ISIS recruits about the grisly skills they would need to acquire. The CSCC director -- a longtime U.S. diplomat -- was promptly replaced.
Another CSCC effort was their "Think Again, Turn Away" program that pushed out counter-messaging via social media targeting potential ISIS recruits. The program's Twitter account would regularly "troll" ISIS adherents on Twitter.
Another difficulty was that the actual penetration of their social media efforts barely touched the potential terror recruits they were trying to influence. For example, when one well-known pro-ISIS Twitter user, Shami Witness, was arrested, the Soufan Group compared the Twitter followers of Shami Witness and the Think Again Turn Away account -- nearly 40,000 followers between the two accounts -- and found that they only shared FIVE followers:
— The Soufan Group (@TheSoufanGroup) December 16, 2014
In the comments to that tweet, some users revealed that they were among the five followers that overlapped -- and they weren't even recruiting targets, but terrorism researchers or academics.
In February 2015, Obama's envoy to the Muslim world, Rashad Hussain, was appointed to lead the CSCC. Yet by year's end, a State Department panel of experts concluded that the CSCC's efforts were not effective, and questioned whether the U.S. government should be involved in counter-propaganda at all.
Rashad Hussain was promptly moved to the Justice Department and the CSCC shut down.
In January 2016, a new effort, the Center for Global Engagement, was launched, but with little prospect that rebranding their efforts will be more effective.
So the Obama administration's counter-propaganda efforts were not only unsuccessful, but found to be so harmful and counter-productive that they had to be shut down and replaced.
Now, most of the U.S. government's counter-propaganda efforts have been outsourced to the Sawab Center in Abu Dhabi, and the continued in-country counter-propaganda efforts of the Obama administration now have to be characterized as "ninja" because they are so unseen (and unmeasurable).
Obama's CVE: A Catastrophic Failure
By the three key areas of activity established by the December 2011 White House Strategic Implementation Plan -- namely community engagement, counter-terrorism training, and counter-propaganda -- all of the CVE efforts have been at best ineffective, and at worst an aid to the enemy.
Meanwhile, reports about the dismal performance of their local CVE programs announced at the White House Summit in February 2015 continue to emerge. The whole CVE industry of government, academics, and community groups has devolved into farce, as I noted here at PJ Media recently following the "CVE Summit" held in Washington, D.C.
This has transpired as the domestic and global terror threat continues to grow. The Obama administration demonstrates time and again that it is not up to the task of protecting Americans from those threats. Solutions to these problems are undoubtedly out there, but they will continue to be crowded-out and dismissed by the "experts" as long as the absurdity of CVE continues.