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MUST READ: ‘Lone Wolf,’ or ‘Known Wolf’? The Ongoing Counter-Terrorism Failure

by PATRICK POOLE

Katie Gorka of the Council on Global Security has released an important report, “The Flawed Science Behind America’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy,” and events of this week show that it couldn’t be more timely. The separate terror attacks in Canada and a long string of terror attacks here in the U.S. show that the counter-terrorism policies of Western governments are fundamentally broken, and are directly responsible for getting their citizens killed. Even as I write this there are breaking reports of yet another attack.

The primary targets of Gorka’s new report are the various fictitious narratives and bogus social science models that drive Western counter-terrorism efforts. Chief among these is the “countering violent extremism (CVE)” narrative that has been the centerpiece for U.S. intelligence and law enforcement.

CVE has been a colossal disaster because it has no roots in reality. It was always intended as a convenient fiction for politicians, bureaucrats, media and academics to avoid talking about the problem of the ideology that supports Islamic terrorism.

There has never once been a recorded case of anyone on the planet swearing their allegiance to the ideology of “violent extremism” and their willingness to kill others and die in the cause of “violent extremism.” It is a null set. There is nothing to counter, which is the whole point. And yet there are academics and institutions who are the beneficiaries of mountains of taxpayer cash to pursue the elusive CVE unicorn.

CVE has been used to smuggle all kinds of crackpot theories into not just our counter-terrorism policy, but also our foreign policy.

One crackpot theory has been that there are good Islamists that we can use against the bad Islamists. This was the keystone of the Obama administration’s Arab Spring policies. And this theory put into practice in Egypt, Libya, Syria and other places has left the Middle East in even worse shape than Obama found it.

As Gorka observes, the administration’s head cheerleader for this “good Islamist/bad Islamist” approach has been Quintan Wiktorowicz, who served as senior director of the National Security Council under Obama. But the disaster of the Arab Spring has prompted Wiktorowicz and his CVE pals to double-down on this approach. Now we have entirely new categories of actors, such as “vetted moderates,” and even “good bad Islamists,” who presumably are any jihadists not currently wearing a suicide belt.

This rampant idiocy has become so bad that we have the supposed best and brightest in the Washington, D.C. foreign policy elite now calling for engagement with “moderate al-Qaeda” (no, I’m not kidding).

Another theory championed by the CVE crowd is the “lone wolf” syndrome, reportedly where unknown individuals unconnected to any other actor strike without warning. But numerous examples show that terrorist actors are almost always part of a network who were involved in recruiting and tasking terrorist activity….

….I’ve written previously about the laughable attempts by the FBI to engage in community outreach and the disastrous effect of the U.S. government’s Muslim outreach efforts in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations.

There are other cases, such as the FBI’s strange dance with al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, that could be mentioned. Suffice it to say, the U.S. government’s performance in each of these cases has yet to foster any types of reform. What we can see is that the reckless government policies operating in each of these cases has not led to any degree of self-reflection by the system itself or its well-fed CVE enablers.

The first step to recovery is a recognition that what many Western governments are doing with respect to counter-terrorism isn’t working, which is what makes Katie Gorka’s recent analysis critical reading for policymakers. The next step would be to amputate the gangrenous limbs of entrenched interests that encourage these systemic failures, but it isn’t clear that there’s anyone in the White House or on Capitol Hill willing to do what’s necessary.

So as we see jihadist attacks escalate and threats around the world proliferate, we should expect that more Americans will die because of the false narratives and social science hucksters holding their CVE monopoly over our nation’s counter-terrorism system. And no one should be surprised when more of our “lone wolves” turn out to be “known wolves” to our law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

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