Courtesy Reuters

Paul D. Miller

Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen ("Clear and Present Safety," March/April 2012) argue that "the world that the United States inhabits today is a remarkably safe and secure place." The country faces no "existential" threats, great-power war is unlikely, democracy and prosperity have spread, public health has improved, and few international challenges place American lives at risk. In light of these developments, they argue, the United States is safer today than it was during the Cold War.

The biggest problem with this argument is the authors' narrow definition of what constitutes a threat to the United States: a situation that poses existential danger or causes immediate bodily harm or death to U.S. citizens. This threshold is shortsighted and unrealistically high. If the same framework were applied to the twentieth century, then the outbreak of World War I and the German invasion of Poland in 1939 would

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