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Extremism is a complex phenomenon, although its complexity is often hard to see.
Ultimately, we must leave this for the reader to decide, hopefully in a manner that is informed by the specifics of the situation they face, and mindful of the relative values of the different perspectives outlined above.
Depending on one's perspective, extremism can have both positive and negative consequences.
Extreme acts, even if committed by a small minority within a group, are often attributed to the entire group, and elicit an escalated response from the other side.
At times, such responses are desired, as in the case of "spoilers" whose aim it is to stop peace processes which they believe to be exclusive or a betrayal of their cause.
Downside: Such strategies can intensify the intragroup conflict (between moderates and extremists) and destabilize the group.
Such a state of vulnerability might also be seen as an opportunity to be seized by hardliners in the intergroup conflict, thus further weakening the moderate's situation.These strategies are also often viewed as unjust by some, and can generate increased incidents of resistance and extremism from sympathizers.Also, there is a tendency to want to sacrifice certain civil liberties and human rights when working to directly eliminate extremism.In conflict settings it manifests as a severe form of conflict engagement.However, the labeling of activities, people, and groups as "extremist," and the defining of what is "ordinary" in any setting is always a subjective and political matter.Violent extremism is one of the fundamental concerns of much of the world's leadership and general population of today.This article was written before the development of ISIS, though al Queda had recently made its presence much more salient in the US with its attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9-11. No more critical challenge faces each of us, and all of us together, than how to live together in a world of differences.The choice of such strategies is usually determined by the perspective taken on the primary sources of extremism (from individual pathologies to social, political and economic conditions) as well as the level of representation of the larger population's legitimate interests that the extremists are able to secure.It is a mistake to imagine extremists as isolated actors.As such, it may motivate a more powerful foe to consider negotiating, or third parties to intervene.And as the prevalence of such activities increase in a given conflict, they may become normative or glorified within one's group, thereby attracting others to the cause. Violent atrocities committed by extremists (such as civilian bombings, kidnappings, and the spread of bio-toxins) enrage, traumatize, and alienate their targets, their opponents, and many potential allies to their cause (such as moderates on the other side and other regional and international members who morally oppose such acts).