The White House announced a plan Wednesday to help prevent Americans from falling prey to violent ideologies of the sort that drove mass killings in New York, San Bernardino, Calif., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Orlando in the past year.
The effort, which is being overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, is short on details and new funding. It seeks to mobilize teams of teachers, mental health professionals and community leaders to deal with a problem that offers few easy solutions.
“This is a different kind of challenge,” Obama said after the San Bernardino shootings in December. “No government is going to have the capacity to read every person’s texts or [posts on] social media.” In most cases, the shooters are radicalized over the Internet without ever communicating directly with members of the Islamic State, al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups.
The new White House study calls for expanding the “scope of resources” to support community efforts, but does not appear to come with any new money. Instead it urges local officials to seek out government grants and to work with private-sector organizations and seeks to mobilize experts from half a dozen government agencies to educate the public about a problem that has largely confounded government officials.
Donald Trump and other Republican leaders have called for temporary bans on Muslims entering the country or “extreme vetting” to identify those who might pose a threat to the United States. And he has excoriated the Obama administration for not using the phrase “violent Islamic extremism” to describe the enemy.
Obama had dismissed Trump’s criticism as “a political talking point” and “not a strategy.”
The White House strategy has been hampered by the extreme difficultly of predicting who is vulnerable to violent extremist ideologies. The 18-page strategy document released by the White House is also short on details. It calls for “local intervention teams” to play a role in “assessing the needs of individuals who may be radicalizing,” but gives no details on how these teams will be selected, funded or trained. Instead it largely calls for local officials to tailor their own solutions.