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June 21, 2012

This Week In Threat Mongering - The Existential Threats Version
Posted by Michael Cohen


So you ever wonder why it is that Americans are so fearful of the world; so convinced that we as a nation face innumerable threats from foreign bogeyman? This week offered a little bit of cause . . . and a little bit of effect.

First things first: Iran. Unlike most Americans I really miss the Republican presidential primaries; because it really was ground zero for the absolutely, craziest fear-mongering about Iran and its currenty moribound nuclear aspirations. For example, at various points during the GOP primaries Mitt Romney declared that "the greatest threat the world faces is a nuclear Iran"; Rick Santorum said Iran is "ruled by the equivalent of al Qaeda" and Newt Gingrich declared that he wasn't sure the US could "survive" an Iranian nuke. Even the adorable, yet unlikable, Jon Huntsman talked about putting boots on the ground to stop Iran's nuclear aspirations.

But one might have figured that with the primaries done and the need to appease the GOP's right-wing this sort of rhetoric would be packed up and put away and the presumptive Republican nominee would return to just graden-variety saber-rattling. Think again!

Here was Romney this week on Face the Nation:

If I’m President, the Iranians will have no question but that I would be willing to take military action, if necessary, to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world…I understand that some in the Senate, for instance, have written letters to the President indicating you should know that — that a — a containment strategy is unacceptable. We cannot survive a — a course of action which would include a nuclear Iran, and we must be willing to take any and all action, they must all — all those actions must be on the table.

Think about it: Newt Gingrich could take umbrage at Romney for stealing his crazy over-the-top rhetoric on Iran.

Of course, the notion that the US "cannot survive" an Iranian nuclear bomb is certifiably insane. After all, Mitt Romney was born in 1947, two years before the USSR exploded their first nuclear weapon - and in the 65 years since somehow the US and the world has survived the Soviet Union and now Russia having a nuclear bomb. Indeed, since Romney was born, France, the UK, Israel, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea have all gotten nuclear bombs. Not only has the US survived, it's prospered! 

And the United States dealt with a rather brutal and ideologically-opposed enemy in the Soviet Union that had thousands of nuclear weapons by "containing" it (and this was a legitimate honest to goodness peer rival). Perhaps a good follow-up question to Romney would be, if the United States could contain the USSR for all those many years of the Cold War; and China in the four decades since they got a bomb; and North Korea in the ten years since they joined the nuke club . . why is little old Iran, surrounded by enemies, rife with political discord and featuring a mlitary that is outdated and under-equipped not "containable." (Funny story: here's the actual follow-up question asked by Bob Schieffer of CBS News: "What have you learned out here on the campaign trail? You say you've been talking to regular folks. What are they telling you?")

Now to be sure Romney isn't the only Republican these days saying crazy things about what an Iranian nuke would portend. Last month, on the floor of the US Senate, Senator Lindsay Graham declared that the US is facing an "existential threat" from a nation "that has been a proxy for evil thoughout the planet." He was referring of course to Iran.

Some might just dismiss this over the top language as the usual sort of alarmist fare of the campaign trail. But, these words have an effect - they convince Americans that the world is a far more dangerous place then it really is. Case in point: this new fascinating survey from Dartmouth University on the foreign policy attitudes of Americans.

When asked if they agree of disagree with the notion that the United States faces greater threats now than it did during the Cold War . . . 63% either strongly or somewhat agree. SIXTY-THREE PERCENT! But even worse than that, only 5% strongly disagree with the statement - even though strongly disagree or perhaps "getoutofhere" is the only appropriate response to such a question. 

Granted the Soviet Union was contained during the Cold War; but they still had thousands of weapons pointed at the United States, a poor command and control infrastructure and as late as the early 1980s officials in Washington and the Kremlin actively debated the idea of whether a nuclear exchange was a winnable proposition (there was also the Cuban Missile Crisis). Compare that to today when there is not a single serious security threat to the American people and the US homeland.  More Americans die every year from lightning, drowning in bathtubs and furniture falling on top of them then terrorism and yet a strong majority of Americans think we are in greater danger now then when thousands of nuclear weapons were pointed directly at the United States.

Fear industrial complex . . . take a bow.



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