In This Review

Improbable Dangers: U.S. Conceptions of Threat in the Cold War and After
Improbable Dangers: U.S. Conceptions of Threat in the Cold War and After
By Robert H. Johnson
St. Martin's Press, 1994, 317 pp
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This carefully argued and meticulously footnoted work examines the tendency of U.S. policymakers to exaggerate threats to American security over the last half-century. Johnson, a fellow at the National Planning Association, acknowledges that containment was a necessary policy during the Cold War but insists nonetheless that the Soviet threat was exaggerated. In making his case, he winds his way through a variety of domino theories, missile gaps, and windows of vulnerability. Though concentrating mainly on the Soviet threat during the Cold War (and drawing on essays previously published in the 1980s), Johnson also surveys a variety of developments since 1989 -- particularly the emergence of U.S. concern over nuclear proliferation -- in arguing that the tendency toward threat inflation is by no means at an end. There is much good sense in this book, a useful antidote to the scare-mongering and implausible scenarios that still accompany calls for U.S. intervention.