As the United States continues to fight on multiple fronts to disrupt the efforts of al Qaeda and its affiliates, the U.S. government has slowly come to realize that military force alone cannot defeat radical Islamist extremism (hereafter “radical extremism”). Today, there is a growing consensus that countering the ideology that drives this extremism is a critical element in the overall effort to prevent extremist acts of violence. Despite this greater realization, developing a precise strategy to counter extremism effectively and empower mainstream alternatives has proved challenging. This issue posed a difficult challenge to the Bush administration and remains a daunting and urgent task for the Obama administration.
J. Scott Carpenter is the Keston Family fellow at The Washington Institute and director of Project Fikra, which focuses on empowering Arab democrats in their struggle against extremism.
From 2004 to 2007, Mr. Carpenter served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. In 2006, he was also named coordinator for the State Department's Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiatives. Previously, as director of the governance group for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad, he helped guide Iraq's postwar political transition and initiated a wide array of democracy initiatives. From May 2003 to July 2004, he served as a key advisor to CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer, facilitating the formation of the Iraqi Governing Council and the first post-Saddam Hussein cabinet, the drafting and signing of Iraq's interim constitution, and the establishment of the interim Iraqi government.