Are We Safe Yet?

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Over at Cato Unbound, Reason contributor and political scientist John Mueller says to relax about terrorism:

Thus far at least, terrorism is a rather rare and, appropriately considered, not generally a terribly destructive phenomenon. But there is a danger that hysteria over it could become at least somewhat self-fulfilling should extensive further terrorism be visited upon the Home of the Brave.

Go here for his whole essay and the first of three responses.

I interviewed Mueller about terrorism and safety issues for the October issue of Reason. That Q&A is online here. Back in 2002, Mueller participated in a Reason debate about whether the U.S. should invade Iraq. Check that out here. And here's his excellent Reason essay about how P.T. Barnum invented business ethics.

NEXT: Why We Fight, Urban Legend Division

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  1. Jon Stewart, hardly the master of making sense, offered some brilliance in last night’s show. Basically, he said to the President that if Iraq is a war to save humanity and our civilization, then ramp it up and use everything we have. If it isn’t, then stop scaring the shit out of us with hyped up rhetoric.

  2. There will be more terrorist attacks, that is inevitable. Even the Israelis, with probably the strongest anti-terroist measures, can’t prevent it.

    The main danger is that, in trying to fight the terrorists, we will give up the freedoms that have made us tolerant and prosperous.

    After 9/11, some ridiculed President Bush’s call to carry on as usual, but he did have a valid point: If we give up what we are, we will lose more than anything the terrorists can do to us.

    [Although, given the Homeland Security Act, I’m not sure he understood this himself.]

  3. Yes, it would be foolish to surrender the freedoms that make life good, in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks. It is equally foolish to presume that the destructive limit of terror attacks will remain in the low thousands of lives for the next couple of decades. As much as the know-it-alls on either side of the fence like to pretend otherwise, finding the right balance between avoiding the two dangers is not as easy as they pompously pretend. If unwarranted certitude could be ignited with spark plugs, our demand for the stuff that lies at the root of this conflict would evaporate, and thus the issue would fade from memory.

  4. In particular, this passage….

    “Even if they were able to pull off “another 9/11? every three months for the next five years, the chance an individual American would be killed in one of them would still be two one-hundredths of one percent. Although there is concern that they will become vastly more dangerous by obtaining and setting off nuclear weapons or something like that, they do not seem to have become more capable generally since 9/11.”

    …is especially silly, in that it ignores the the role that inflamed popular opinion would invitably have on American policy, if 3000 citizens were getting incinerated every three months for five years by attacks made by foreign actors. Hell, the U.S. once attacked colonial Spain because a ship’s boiler blew up in Havana’s harbor. If 12,000 Americans get incinerated in only one year, by whackjobs who release videos celebrating their actions, Americans are going to inform their government that there are many, many people alive who they would prefer to be dead, and they won’t much care who gets misplaced in the abattior. Scondly, presuming that people who are highly motivated to kill you will remain static in the ability to do so is just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Technology never remains bottled up, if people are highly motivated to obtain it. On what basis is it logical to presume that this will be one of the rare, if not only, occurences that this will happen?

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