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American foreign policy, routinely decorated with extravagant alarmism over the last dozen years or so, has been an abject failure. That is why it is a good thing that threat-inflation is becoming a harder sell when it comes to Iraq.
Although chemical weapons are often considered weapons of mass destruction, they are not. In the case of sarin gas, many tons must be released under favorable conditions before it can inflict significantly more damage than conventional explosives. However repugnant Assad's use of chemical weapons in Syria might be, in other words, it should not change the United States' basic calculations.
New information discovered in Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan suggests that the United States has been vastly overstating al Qaeda's power for a full decade. The group appears to have spent more time dodging drone strikes and complaining about money than trying to get an atomic bomb.
Due to the U.S. experience in Iraq, Americans became skeptical of intervening in overseas conflicts. Much of this "Iraq syndrome" can be seen in the hesitant approach to the chaos in Libya.
Many people hold that terrorism poses an existential threat to the United States. But a look at the actual statistics suggests that it presents an acceptable risk -- one so low that spending to further reduce its likelihood or consequences is scarcely justified.
In a field dominated by apocalyptic warnings, Mueller speaks up for complacency.
The Taliban and al Qaeda may not pose enough of a threat to the United States to make a long war in Afghanistan worth the costs.
In this special feature, James Fallows, Fawaz Gerges, Paul R. Pillar, and Jessica Stern respond to John Mueller's article "Is There Still a Terrorist Threat?" from the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs and assess the state of the "war on terror" five years after 9/11.
This article appears in the Foreign Affairs eBook, "The U.S. vs. al Qaeda: A History of the War on Terror." Now available for purchase.
Despite all the ominous warnings of wily terrorists and imminent attacks, there has been neither a successful strike nor a close call in the United States since 9/11. The reasonable -- but rarely heard -- explanation is that there are no terrorists within the United States, and few have the means or the inclination to strike from abroad.
Public support for the war in Iraq has followed the same course as it did for the wars in Korea and Vietnam: broad enthusiasm at the outset with erosion of support as casualties mount. The experience of those past wars suggests that there is nothing President Bush can do to reverse this deterioration -- or to stave off an "Iraq syndrome" that could inhibit U.S. foreign policy for decades to come.
As Cold War threats have diminished, so-called weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missiles -- have become the new international bugbears. The irony is that the harm caused by these weapons pales in comparison to the havoc wreaked by a much more popular tool: economic sanctions. Tally up the casualties caused by rogue states, terrorists, and unconventional weapons, and the number is surprisingly small. The same cannot be said for deaths inflicted by international sanctions. The math is sobering and should lead the United States to reconsider its current policy of strangling Iraq.