by David Weigel
In Foreign Policy, John Mueller has the perfect article to read while standing in line for a plane, dumping out your scary liquids, and watching the latest Fox News Alert on one of the airport TVs. Is there still a terrorist threat? How much should we actually worry about it? Is the threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists equivilent to that of 1930s fascists? ("No" to the last one, obviously.)
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.
It didn't take long for Reason to poke holes in the terrorism hysteria (most recently here and here). It's taken five years to make that point in the pages of a musty, serious journal. How long will it take to point this out in the mainstream media, in politics, at Thanksgiving dinner? (I realize some people might not want to ruin their Thanksgivings by talking about this. Well, 9/11 changed everything.)
(Cross-posted at Hit and Run.)