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Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2007

    A NEW EMERGING CONVENTIONAL WISDOM?

    Worth pondering is John Mueller¿s thesis that America¿s response to 9/11 has been overwrought and misdirected thereby creating unintended collateral damage to America itself. In an attempt to dampen hysteria, impose perspective and restore reason, he asks that we consider the following question. ¿Which is the greater threat: terrorism or our reaction to it?¿ By now it is clear to some that because the actual domestic terrorist threat appears to be less than the earlier frenzy conveyed, in ¿lashing out¿ America has done harm to itself in a variety of ways. American troop casualties equal or exceed those of the original 9/11 attacks. The First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment Constitutional protections of personal freedom continue to suffer assault almost weekly in an atmosphere of apprehension stoked by what Mueller labels as the ¿terrorism industry¿ composed of old fashioned journalistic sensationalism, thinly informed politicians and terrorism ¿experts,¿ and those who exploit fear for financial and political gain. Opportunistic pork barrelers have grabbed the golden goose and squandered billions of tax dollars on dubious security projects thereby diverting money away from ordinary law enforcement, health and education programs, and genuinely useful security projects. The stature and recruiting prowess of real terrorist organizations abroad have been enhanced among prospective adherents across the globe because American leadership endlessly hawks the danger of those organizations further rewarding and thereby emboldening their members while proliferating paranoia for partisan political purposes. Far too many Americans holding positions of power and influence have forgotten or refuse to understand what Letterman reminds us nightly with FDR¿s own voice: ¿that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.¿ And about the only place available to the general public to hear Mueller¿s counterbalancing perspective is in the double entendre laden satire of Colbert and Stewart and the highly literate commentary of Olbermann whose rising star in his era may yet stand him along side Murrow, Mencken and now Mueller for illuminating and deflating the ¿abounding quackeries¿ of illogic, unreason, and pretension swirling about. How, one may ask, can Mueller assess the domestic terrorist threat arguing from historical analogy while sitting in his ivory tower? The usefulness of his presentation is not to determine a precise probability of a new terrorist attack although some readers might say that he does come close to saying ¿Don¿t worry about it.¿ Presumably, calculating a numerical index of danger is being done by field agents and with computer models daily. Rather his argument needs to serve as a counterbalance against overreaction and prolonging mistakes. Bobby counseled caution during the Cuban missile crisis. Ike turned down the opportunity to participate in Vietnam in 1954. Ron took his foot out of the Lebanon fire in 1983. George Sr. was repelled by the thought of endless urban guerilla combat in Baghdad in 1991. These are the lessons of prudence that Mueller promotes in his historical examination of American crisis politics. And while many readers will reject Mueller¿s alternative scenarios of how history might have turned out for the better (at least for many who were its casualties) had his policies guided by hindsight been adopted, his larger message of caution and foresight remains imperative. It screams for attention. As with most challenges or crises, fear waxes and wanes with time and Mueller suggests that because mass fear is destructive in so many ways, the reduction of fear is good. Warnings about new imminent attacks so far have amounted to ¿crying wolf¿ and this reduces fear through repetition. Furthermore, Mueller argues that there just may not be (many or any) terrorists or cells in the U.S. and therefore the domestic threat is far less than official pronouncements and terrorism experts and writers have led us t

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