Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Real Enemy: Bush or al-Qaeda?

The Council on Foreign Relations -- of all people! -- has published an extraordinary article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs (the periodical described by the Washington Post as "The Bible of Foreign Policy Thinking," and which TIME Magazine described as "The most influential periodical in print"). Here is the conclusion:
Although it remains heretical to say so, the evidence so far suggests that fears of the omnipotent terrorist -- reminiscent of those inspired by images of the 20-foot-tall Japanese after Pearl Harbor or the 20-foot-tall Communists at various points in the Cold War (particularly after Sputnik) -- may have been overblown, the threat presented within the United States by al Qaeda greatly exaggerated. The massive and expensive homeland security apparatus erected since 9/11 may be persecuting some, spying on many, inconveniencing most, and taxing all to defend the United States against an enemy that scarcely exists.
John Mueller, "Is There Still a Terrorist Threat?"
"They hate us for our freedoms" we have been told for the last five years. And in order to protect our freedoms, we have virtually abolished the Fourth Amendment, spent over $400 billion dollars, and seen more Americans killed and maimed in Iraq than we did in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania on 9/11/01.

If we weigh the total costs of the Bush Administration -- to our wallets and to our Constitution -- with the risk of costs inflicted by al Qaeda, it seems undeniable that the Federal Government is a greater threat to our freedoms than "terrorism."

The number of Americans hurt in America by al Qaeda in the last five years (under near-martial law) is equal to the number of Americans hurt in America by al Qaeda in the five years prior to 9/11/01 (with far less government infringement of the Constitution): None.

What have we gained by the "War on Terrorism?" What have we lost?

We have gained a police state. We have lost a Constitution and the psychological freedom which exists in the absence of relentless government war-mongering propaganda and scare-tactics.

A similar analysis has to be done with environmental risks. It may cost an acceptable amount to remove 99% of pollutants, but the cost of removing the final one percent may require steps which are vastly more expensive than the removal of the first 99%. That cost may be unacceptable.

Prof. Mueller writes:
it is worth remembering that the total number of people killed since 9/11 by al Qaeda or al Qaeda­like operatives outside of Afghanistan and Iraq is not much higher than the number who drown in bathtubs in the United States in a single year, and that the lifetime chance of an American being killed by international terrorism is about one in 80,000 -- about the same chance of being killed by a comet or a meteor. Even if there were a 9/11-scale attack every three months for the next five years, the likelihood that an individual American would number among the dead would be two hundredths of a percent (or one in 5,000).
What is the likelihood that your 4th Amendment freedoms have already been violated by the Federal Government? How much has al Qaeda taken out of your bank account, versus the amount taken by the Federal Government? How much productivity has America lost by time consumed by senseless and invasive Homeland Security regimentation?

America's biggest enemy, and the biggest threat to "the American way of life," is the Federal Government.

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