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It is really difficult to know if this week's three-day summit on countering violent extremism that took place at the White House and the U.S. State Department should be taken seriously, or dismissed as just another public relations waste of time and feel-good exercise. That is because the event was defined by a vigorous combination of sensible, mature and realistic ideas – alongside analyses and approaches that are truly infantile and irrelevant to the important task at hand.The focus of the event, of course, was violent extremism by young Muslims around the world who get much attention these days for their ugly deeds. This was partly, one assumes, because that kind of violent extremism is sanctioned or directly perpetrated by the governments whose officials were sitting around the table.The dilemma here for foreign powers such as the U.S., which cares so much about this issue that it organizes high-profile global gatherings on it, is three-fold: How can governments that themselves routinely use political violence or demean their own populations be the ones that counter extremism?How can governments, such as that of the United States, credibly work to curtail political extremism when American military adventurism and criminality around the world are major promoters and enablers of such extremism?
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