Saturday, April 12, 2008

Terrorphobia: our false sense of insecurity

Take the time to read John Mueller's essay in The American Interest.

For this:

A few days after the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney warned that there might never be an “end date” in the “struggle” against terrorism, a point when it would be possible to say, “There, it’s all over with.” More than six and a half years later, his wisdom seems to have been vindicated, though perhaps not quite in the way he intended. At least in its domestic homeland security aspects, the so-called War on Terror shows clear signs of having developed into a popularly supported governmental perpetual-motion machine that could very well spin “till who laid the rails”, as Mayor Shinn so eloquently, if opaquely, puts it in The Music Man. Since none of the leading Democrats or Republicans running for president this year has managed to express any misgivings about this development, it is fair to assume that the “war” will amble on during whatever administration happens to follow the present one.
and this:
Key to this dynamic is that the public apparently continues to remain unimpressed by several inconvenient facts. One such fact is that there have been no al-Qaeda attacks whatsoever in the United States since 2001. A second is that no true al-Qaeda cell (or scarcely anybody who might even be deemed to have a “connection” to the diabolical group) has been unearthed in this country. A third is that the homegrown “plotters” who have been apprehended, while perhaps potentially somewhat dangerous at least in a few cases, have mostly been either flaky or almost absurdly incompetent.
and this:
Our problems do not arise, then, from a national anxiety neurosis, but more from other consequences of the fear of terrorism. One is that when a consensus about a threat becomes internalized, it becomes politically unwise, even disastrous, to oppose it—or even to lend only half-hearted support to it. Another is that the internalized consensus creates a political atmosphere in which government and assorted pork-barrelers can fritter away considerable money and effort on questionable enterprises, as long as they appear somehow to be focused on dealing with the threat. In the present context, the magic phrase, “We don’t want to have another 9/11”, tends to end the discussion.
I'm having trouble seeing an end to the War on Terror. The fall of the Soviet Union pretty much ended the Communist Threat. The only thing that slowed down the ridiculously futile War on Drugs was the War on Terror. What will it take for us to cease this endless and exhausting tilting at windmills?

I'd advise not to cling to any notions that the new administration is going to pull off anything too earth- shattering. I anticipate a fair bit of disillusion in the next four years when euphoric supporters of change find that very little has changed.

It would be unfair to expect too much from the next president. All we should hope for is that this unfortunate manages the best they can with a really crap hand.

via Arts & Letters Daily

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