One of the most slippery words used in political language today is 'extreme' and 'extremist'. The British government repeatedly talks about the need to tackle and defeat 'extremism' in schools, in mosques and so on. So, maybe, a titanic 'War on Extremism' is needed to end it for ever.
That seems to be what former Senator Joe Lieberman writing in The Wall Street Journal wants: the Paris attacks could become yet another "history-changing opportunity" and that President Obama should be forthrightly "Leading a global alliance to destroy violent Islamist extremism." Obama,
“should form and lead a global alliance against radical Islam. That alliance must include leading Islamic nations — Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, to name a few — because Muslims who do not share the extremist views of the terrorists constitute the largest number of its victims.”
The goal of this Global Alliance on Extremism claim military action must begin 'with Islamic State, AQAP in Yemen, al-Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria'. All these groups are part of one seamless jihadi-extremist threat which quite clearly requires a thorough ( or extreme) response.
'They must be eliminated.....As long as they exist, they will continue to radicalize followers, in person and online. They will provide training for terrorists who will attack us where we live, work and worship. That will stop only when they are destroyed.'
Clearly, the Wahhabite state sanctioned form of Islam imposed by Saudi Arabia could be aptly characterised as 'extreme' by any possible definition of that word. Its subjects get beheaded for numerous criminal offences including “sorcery” and witchcraft. Yet it's an ally not a target.
The most obvious drawback of the Global Alliance Plan also is the fact Saudi Arabia has been pumping millions of dollars of petrocurrency into the coffers of Sunni jihadists otherwise known as 'Islamist extremists' for many years , including those that went on to become the core of ISIS.
Then again, 'extremism' is another piece of deceptive stealth rhetoric deployed with cynical purpose in recent years. The label 'extremist' has been used, as in Syria, to differentiate the wrong sort of Sunni jihadists against Assad from the right sort of Sunni jihadists when convenient.
Clearly, the 'moderate' rebels, those who stuck to the fairy tale script of wanting to be rid of Assad and to set up a post-Assad 'inclusive' democracy in the context of a war torn sectarian land. They were always very clearly not particularly powerful throughout 2012-2013.
The reason is that the word 'moderate rebels' had been stretched to those factions of the FSA which were not explicitly linked to Al Qaida and, in practice, that meant not mentioning ISIS because it was aligned with the FSA until the summer of 2013. The governments of the UK, US and France want us to forget that.
'Extremists' mean any fanatical militia that is not under the control of forces aligned with the west or allies of the west against governments the western powers want removed or whose rival geopolitical plans have to be thwarted at any cost. Even by neo-Nazi militias in Eastern Ukraine sent off by Kiev.
The other perversion is the equally idiotic claim that it is not really Al Qaida who are extreme but that the 'real extremists' are always the western governments. In fact, it is probably best to drop the word 'extremist' altogether as invariably almost always meaningless.
Having said that, it has 'meaning' in so far as it designates the enemy within and without according to some opaque scale of political value in which the dividing line between what is 'extreme' and what is 'moderate' is one drawn by those exercising power and having the power to define.