Fallows on Threat Inflation

John Rentoul

 Fallows on Threat InflationThere 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.

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  • Pacificweather

    He’s not saying they over estimated the threat. He is saying they were lies in the form of contrivance, they were deceptions in the form of over blown statements, or they were gross incompetence in the form of mispercepions.

    You summarily dismiss the 80% of the population Britain, 90% of Europeans and 40% of Americans who were opposed to the war in Iraq and who, like Fallows, saw the warnings for what they are because you were deceived – you did not have the wit of Fallows or the millions who said the same in the cafés and bar around the world.

    Take a moment to consider your foolishness and take Fallows remarks on Iran into further consideration. It might even relax its grip on its people. It certainly would not attack its neighbours as it hasn’t for the last 1500 years. It will continue to lean on their walls as other nations do and help its friends and protect its own interests but Iran with nuclear weapons it would be able to negotiate with the bully without feeling bullied.

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