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Can the White House win the "battle of ideas" against extremists?

CBS News Homeland Security Correspondent Bob Orr talks with CBS News Senior National Security Analyst Juan Zarate discuss the upcoming U.S.-led summit on fighting violent extremism around the world
Flash Points: How can the U.S. and allies counter violent extremism? 05:16

Next month, leaders from around the globe and around the nation will convene at the White House for the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism.

In the wake of the recent attacks in Paris, Ottawa and Sydney, it's clear that the U.S. and its allies won't win the ongoing war on terror until it can stop groups like ISIS from recruiting individuals from around the globe or inspiring them to carry out attacks on their own. ISIS seemed to underscore both its slick propaganda and its ability to recruit young people on Tuesday, when it released a video showing the apparent execution of two men by a young boy.

ISIS only recently emerged as a threat, and online video platforms like Youtube have only existed for about a decade. Still, the threat of extremists acting alone in the United States isn't a new thing, nor are the efforts to fight it. The Bush administration called the war on terror "both a battle of arms and a battle of ideas."

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. has been grappling with how to counter the underlying narratives that have animated extremist movements across the globe -- and it still is.

How can the U.S. stop the spread of radicalization? 09:31
Bob Schieffer: “The terrorists did not advance their cause” 01:16

"We don't know how to fight this ideological battle," said CBS News senior national security analyst Juan Zarate, a deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism during the Bush administration.

The current "battle of ideas" is far more complicated than the Cold War, a clear fight between the concepts of capitalism and communism.

"This is an ideology, like it or not, is grounded in the principles and theology in one of the world's great religions," Zarate said. "It's a narrative that grafts on tops of all of the grievances that are perceived -- and real -- in the Muslim world."

As if the fight weren't complicated enough, efforts to counter violent extremism are "woefully behind in terms of trying to match the intensity and success of ISIS in using social media tools to propagate their messaging and recruit," said Rabia Chaudry, an attorney and founder of the Safe Nation Collaborative, which works to improve cooperation between law enforcement and American Muslim communities.

The U.S. government has for years attempted to promote credible voices in Muslim communities across America and the world to counter extremists. But to the extent that radical Islamist ideologies appear to have some appeal, those efforts haven't been enough, Zarate said. An estimated 3,000 Westerners have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the jihad.

While it's easy to see when things go wrong, it's harder to know when counter-extremism efforts have gone right.

"There are no good markers in general for prevention other than less cases of terrorism or radicalization," Zarate said. "Ultimately, I think this is about whether the ideology is marginalized and the groups espousing it have been delegitimized and lack staying power, attraction, and reach."

Chaudry noted that the extremist ideology has only gone so far because "most Muslims recognize that Muslims themselves are the greatest victims of terror."

"The attack in Paris was horrific, but for the globally conscious person, there is an awareness that such attacks are taking place daily in Muslim-majority countries and in those places," she told CBS. "Private citizens, law enforcement, military, civil society, media, all are trying to fight back. There is no wholesale acceptance by Muslims of extremist narratives -- our hearts and minds have not been lost to these people."

Next month's White House summit will give those groups involved -- like religious and community leaders, law enforcement, and so on -- the opportunity to reflect on what's worked, what hasn't, and what challenges exist.

"We know how kids get recruited. We understand that. In the 13 years since 9/11 we have perfected the art of understanding how that happens," Farah Pandith of the Council on Foreign Relations, said Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation. "What we haven't done is to be able to mobilize out of government efforts, whether it is a hip-hop artist or a graffiti artist or social entrepreneurs or activists. We have to get them out so that they're blasting the marketplace with alternative narratives to the narrative on extremists."

The U.S. has turned to Islamic rap groups to help counter extremists, and it's attempted to undercut extremist messages on sites like Twitter.

Inside effort to stop homegrown terrorism 03:22

Perhaps most critically, the administration is focusing on engaging local community leaders. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said this week that he's personally discussed the issue with community leaders in Columbus, Ohio, Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston, and Los Angeles.

Engaging with local Muslim communities can be a challenge for law enforcement, Chaudry noted. Attempts to build positive relationships are "consistently undermined" by the FBI's use of agent provocateurs and its reliance on using community members as informants inside of mosques, she said -- tactics that cast American Muslims as broadly suspicious.

Meanwhile, Chaudry said, legitimate grievances within the Muslim community have been ignored. For instance, she suggested there could be more acknowledgement that Western foreign policy decisions can serve as a force behind radicalization.

In Syria, CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward met an American fighter from the midwest. He said he wouldn't consider an attack on the U.S. an act of terrorism.

"What I consider terrorist attack is these Tomahawk bombs being shot from wherever they are being shot from, and killing innocent people. There's no tears being shed for me if something happened in America," he told Ward.

On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted that Samir Khan -- the publisher of "Inspire" magazine, an al Qaeda propaganda magazine -- has been "wiped off the battlefield." He was asked, however, about the possibility that the drone strike that killed Khan could have further motivated extremists.

"I guess the alternative is should we have not taken the strike to take out those extremist leaders," Earnest said. "That is certainly not a decision that the president arrived at, but if there are people who want to second-guess that strategy, they're welcome to do so. But the president certainly believes that keeping -- applying military pressure on terrorist leaders and killing them when we have the opportunity is a good counterterrorism strategy."

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