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America Has Never Been Safer -- So Why Are Politicians and the Media Trying to Terrify Us?

Republicans tend to engage in blatant alarmism about foreign threats and Democrats respond in kind for fear of being portrayed as weak.

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JH: Now one thing that I like to say is that good policy really can’t arise from bad analysis. Tell us how this widespread belief that we live in the most dangerous time in history hurts us in practical terms as far as our domestic and foreign policy.

MC: There’s all kind of ways you can point to, but the best example to me is 9/11. I mean think of the national freak-out over 9/11. Our response to this was first of all a military response, not just in going to war in Afghanistan, but going into war in Iraq. We spent trillions of dollars on preparing for a threat that doesn’t really exist in any way, at least not any more. And even after 9/11, the threat was pretty minimal and even more minimal today. I think what the fear-mongering does, what this hair-trigger response to even the smallest threat, is that it leads to overreaction, which to me is the number-one problem here.

And this is why we wrote this piece, in large measure because there might be a few terrorist attacks, there might be something that will increase tensions with China and the Far East. The reaction to this shouldn’t be, “Let’s go to the barricades and grab our guns.” It should be, “How do we resolve these things in a peaceful way, how do we think of non-military ways to solve these problems?”

But the other thing about this too is that when you think of everything in terms of the military, which we often do, then you sort of miss opportunities to confront problems that don’t really have a military approach to them -- like climate change, things like global development, like democracy promotion -- that in my view will do much more to make the U.S. safer in the long term and more prosperous, will get short shrift in our budget debates versus, “How do we spend $650 billion on the military?” So to me, it’s really that we misplace our priorities in how we think about foreign policy.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America . Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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