Here Cato Institute’s John Mueller explains, “American foreign policy at its most active over the last dozen or so years, routinely decorated with extravagant alarmism, has been an abject failure.”
On Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) tried his hand, explaining that an Islamist takeover of parts of Iraq would provide terrorists with a “staging area” from which they would carry out “another 9/11.” Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker issued a comparable warning. Obama has made similar statements, and th eWashington Post’s David Ignatius has speculated ominously, if vaguely, that a newly established terrorist “safe haven” — as opposed to the ones that have existed in the area for years — “could soon be used to attack foreign targets.”
However, 9/11 remains an aberration, not a harbinger. No terrorist act in history has visited even one-tenth as much death and destruction, even ones launched during civil wars, when terrorists have had plenty of time and space in which to stage them. It is thus hard to follow the logic of Senator John McCain (R–A.Z.), who opines that having Syria and Iraq in extremist hands would represent an existential threat to the United States; that is, that if Syria and Iraq acquire reprehensible new leaders — different from the reprehensible ones they have had in the past — the United States will cease to exist. This sort of extravagant threat-inflation has been applied frequently since 9/11, and it has gone amazingly unchallenged.
But such alarmism has become less common in recent years, and getting it accepted seems to be increasingly difficult, in major part because it was used to justify two disastrous wars as well as spillover violence in Pakistan. These have led to destruction at least 40 times greater than witnessed on 9/11 and have resulted in the deaths of twice as many Americans as were killed that day — and more deaths overall than at Hiroshima and Nagaski combined.
In other words, American foreign policy at its most active over the last dozen or so years, routinely decorated with extravagant alarmism, has been an abject failure. If those who established and maintained this disastrous record have, at long last, lost all credibility, we may all be the better for it.