The final aspect, Prevent, is among the most ambitious and novel. Prevent aims to undermine the terrorist threat by identifying and challenging those susceptible to radicalization, and operates under the name: Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE). Although the United States has yet to formally announce the creation of a similar project, senior officials in the Department for Homeland Security and FBI are known to be impressed by PVE. Yet, PVE is not an uncontroversial initiative and is already being reviewed by the new coalition government. This paper will attempt to offer readers in the United States a cautionary tale about the British experience, and offer a "lessons learned" perspective on the way forward.
PVE is a strategy predicated on the premise that empowering ostensibly non-violent radicals can act as a safety valve, dissipating the energies of those who might otherwise be seduced by violent methods. The practical effect of this has been to engage and empower non-violent exponents of extreme Islamist ideology who, although they might express opposition to the terrorism of bin Laden, often share a similar worldview. Al-Qaeda is opposed, therefore, for its methods – not because it is monstrous. Elements within the British state, particularly those whose primary concern is security, have been tempted to see this as the solution to al Qaeda violence. It is as if, we are told, the cure lies within the ideological poison itself.
This tendency is exemplified by the term, "Preventing Violent Extremism," the banner under which the government's counter-radicalization process currently operates. As the name suggests, a premium is placed on ensuring there is no violence on British shores. The manner in which this objective is achieved has been deemed to be of little or no importance. The result is that Islamists – who may not advocate violence against the British state but whose views are none the less extreme and often in conflict with the values of our liberal democracy – have been enlisted as official, public partners in the hope that their co-operation might reduce the terrorist threat.