Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I've been meaning to look into the political scientist John Mueller's new book, Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them. Now David A. Bell, writing at The New Republic's Open University blog, has called attention to the book:
It's a pity that John Mueller's book Overblown isn't getting more attention. Its provocative--and certainly debatable--thesis is very simple: The threat to the United States from Islamic terrorism has been exaggerated, and may be close to non-existent. There is little evidence that Islamic terrorists have the capacity (as opposed to the desire) to carry out further attacks on the scale of 9/11 on U.S. soil, let alone anything more destructive. Anxieties about chemical, biological, and radiological weapons are particularly unjustified. There is little evidence that terrorists have access to such weapons, and in any case, they almost certainly could not use them in such a way as to kill large numbers of Americans. Nuclear weapons pose a much greater threat, but the difficulties involved in procuring and delivering them are far greater than most observers recognize. Many of Mueller's arguments have been made before, notably by Gregg Easterbrook in TNR, but Mueller puts them together into a cogent, polemical package. He quotes endless "expert" predictions that terrorists would "definitely" strike the U.S. again in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. He reminds us that even in the worst possible case--which is itself almost entirely unlikely--the terrorists do not pose anything like a threat to the existence of the United States, in the way the Soviet Union once did. And he concludes that our overreaction to 9/11 has done the U.S. far more harm than the terrorists themselves.
Click here to read the rest of David A. Bell's take on Overblown.

--Marshal Zeringue