Fallows on Threat Inflation
There is one and only one opponent of the invasion of Iraq to whom I will concede the right to say he told us so. He is James Fallows, who wrote a prescient article for The Atlantic in November 2002 warning that it would not end well.
Last week he revisited his assessment, with the kind of seriousness he brought to the original. One passage struck me:
As I think about this war and others the U.S. has contemplated or entered during my conscious life, I realize how strong is the recurrent pattern of threat inflation. Exactly once in the post-WW II era has the real threat been more ominous than officially portrayed. That was during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the world really came within moments of nuclear destruction.
Otherwise: the “missile gap.” The Gulf of Tonkin. The overall scale of the Soviet menace. Iraq. In each case, the public soberly received official warnings about the imminent threat. In cold retrospect, those warnings were wrong — or contrived, or overblown, or misperceived. Official claims about the evils of these systems were many times justified. Claims about imminent threats were most of the times hyped.
This is important, and right, although I am still uneasy when he takes the analysis on to Iran, and suggests that the same lesson applies to the alleged threat of its nuclear ambitions.
Would we not rather have our leaders over-estimate the threats to us than under-estimate them?
Via Andrew Sullivan.Tagged in: contemporary history, iraq, iraq war
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