COMMONALITY OF CONTEMPORARY EXTREMIST GROUPS: WHY SOME FALL AND OTHERS FLOURISH
Wager, Todd K.
Voll, John O
Contemporary extremist groups pose a significant threat to stability and their actions influence US foreign policy. An analysis of why some contemporary extremist groups fall while others flourish reveal common attributes that inform an enhanced US government policy and response strategy. The identification and characterization of extremist groups reveals two major types - those based on political ideology and those based on religion.Analysis of case studies and data bases on how extremist groups end indicates that those based on political ideology flourish when the single political issue is well defined and the group exploits the media and international organizations effectively. Extremist groups based on political ideology fail most often through direct law enforcement actions that capture or kill the leadership. Political ideology based extremist groups that flourish often transform into political parties and cease terrorist activities.Analysis of case studies and data bases on how extremist groups based on religion focused on the three Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These religious extremist groups share five common attributes: a search for meaning, a sense of religious duty, a quest for purity, inspirational leadership, and scripture as justification. Religious extremist groups that flourish are highly effective in each of these common attributes. Some Zionist, Christian and Islamic extremist groups have achieved their goals and transformed into political parties. Characterization and comparative case studies of currently active Islamic extremist groups reveal a common perceived threat of modernity and globalization. Islamic extremist groups are engaged in the definition of an Islamic identity, cultural and worldview.US government foreign policy and response strategy will be more successful in ending extremist groups by understanding why some fall and others flourish. An enhanced diplomatic response that fully integrates the proper balance of soft and hard power is essential for success. Diplomatic engagement, de-radicalization and political inclusion augmented by civilian, intelligence and military actions appears to be the most effective response to prevail in the struggle with religious extremist groups.
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