Degree Name

MA in Conflict Transformation

First Advisor

Karen Blanchard

Second Advisor

John Ungerleider


This paper explores today’s landscape of violent conflict in the context of the now 15-year-old “War on Terror” and its defining trait of strengthened, nimble, and networked violent extremist non-state militant groups. Through an exploration of primarily United Nations and United States strategies, policies, and programming the concepts of Countering Violent Extremism and Preventing Violent Extremism are melded into a discussion of the shifting frameworks and broadening notions of what it takes to create human security. This paper is particularly concerned with how the traditionally at odds fields of Counter Terrorism, Military Security, Development Assistance, and Peacebuilding practice are co-thinking about how to create security in the world. Drawing on secondary research material from governments, intergovernmental agencies, and development assistance and peacebuilding practioners and practitioner organizations, this paper endeavors to paint a picture of how sub-national, national, sub-regional, regional, and international state and civil society communities are all necessary to build peace in todays’ multi-layered crisis and conflict social ecosystems. Keeping a social systems framework in mind this paper endeavors to describe the importance of confronting marginalization, fragility, loss of dignity and identity, and group and individual grievance. It also endeavors to describe sources of hope enmeshed within community resilience and ownership of security in an integrated social, economic, and political way. This paper contains a set of guiding questions to examine how non-state violent extremist groups are motivated and build power, but its overarching research question is more concerned with the possibility of negative dissonance between international frameworks of how to defuse (not to be confused with diffuse!) violent extremism more generally. This paper concludes that any dissonance is likely to be more political than programmatic but that this makes it no less important to pay attention to. Lastly, this paper tries to engage with the above concepts through the author’s own story and voice of growing up over the past 15 years and watching this “War on Terror” unfold in such terrifying ways. I do my best to make the case that we all, everyone one of us, need to own security in the ways we personally best can for the good of all life, human and otherwise, on Planet Earth.


American Politics | Communication | International and Area Studies | International Relations | Models and Methods | Organization Development | Other Political Science | Political Science | Political Theory | Politics and Social Change