Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

It’s one of the most persistent cliches of foreign-policy commentary, particularly since it’s an assertion that’s basically impossible to disprove. Here are some things that have been described, in various terms, as the greatest threat to U.S. national security or the American way of life in the past few months:

A “lone-wolf” terrorist attack – President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama – Gov. Rick Perry

China’s nuclear arsenal – Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

The national debt – Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen

The economic crisis – Retired Adm. Dennis Blair

Nuclear terrorism – Former Vice President Dick Cheney

Yemen – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

“Homegrown terror” – U.S. National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter

Cyber attacks –  FBI Director James Mueller

Iran – 63 percent of Americans

The Haqqani Network – Christiane Amanpour

Global warming – Sen. Barbara Boxer

Central American drug gangs – Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield

The radical secular socialist machine – Newt Gingrich

Obamacare – Rick Santorum

Electromagnetic Pulse weapons – EMPact America

The homosexual agenda – The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer

via Can anyone agree on what America’s ‘greatest threat’ is? | FP Passport.

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4 thoughts on “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

  1. Jessica Beckstrand says:

    The age old saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder may now be the case with fear. What we are afraid can vary on any given day. Part of what makes us American is our diversity. However, that can interfere when we’re trying to come to an agreement on something, or anything for that matter.

    Of course Barack Obama is Rick Perry’s number one fear as an American because Obama would currently wipe the floor with Governor Perry in the election polls. As a matter of fact, most of the republicans in the presidential race are threaten by most things Obama.

    There are many Americans who are still nervous of terrorism even thought ten years has past since 9/11. That day was a day that opened the eyes of many who were unaware of the problems and conflicts overseas and it’s still very real ten years later.

    There are so many problems to deal with and overcome that it’s hard to say with one is the scariest or the one we should be the most afraid of because all problem threaten who we are as individuals and the values and opinions that we hold as important. One issue that I find particular interested in is abortion. Even though I don’t agree with it, I’m interested in the rights of both the mother and the baby. I’ve watched the state of Mississippi very closely in the past few weeks to see if the “personhood” initiative would make it through the polls. I’m glad it did not. Otherwise, new fears would have been born.

    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2011/11/08/us/AP-US-Mississippi-Abortion-Amendment.html

  2. ahoward93 says:

    I think that this is just a sign that we have no clue about the world around us and are scared of pretty much everything, but that the list mostly comes from peoples areas of expertise and constituents. For example, Barbara Boxer is for sure going to say Global warming because that is one of the big things people in California worry about. Brownfield goes off about drugs because why? He is head over the narcotics division at the State department. Gingrich and Santorum warn against “socialist” (depends on what you think) policies because they are running for the GOP nomination.

    People have a vested interest for the American People to have fear. Fear means crisis; crisis means greater allowance for action and less questions; people will also pick the leader who warns of fear to fight it. It is just a ploy to get more power. If these people can actually convince us of what we should fear, we will give them what they want on a silver platter. We have to be careful.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/11/world/europe/greece-and-italy-ask-technocrats-to-find-solution.html?ref=silvioberlusconi

    Here is a link that relates to how two powerful prime ministers were brought down by fear of the economic crisis. While I believe these changes for the better (I have never really been a fan of PM Berlusconi), I think it is lesson we have need to learn from. What brought these men into power, fear of what happened. What removed them? Fear. Hobbes was right when he said fear is the main motivator of people, but shouldn’t choices by made by reason rather than by fear? I believe we should be very hesitant to turn to someone who tries to create a cult of fear to assume power.

  3. Nicolas Jeter says:

    Shouldn’t it be pretty obvious that everyone has different perceptions? The people on this list have access to different kinds of information and are beholden to different groups and motivations. Our beliefs shape our perceptions. Our responsibilities shape our freedom to speak out in favor of those perceptions. For instance, Obama’s assessment of threats to US security is limited by his responsibility to protect the country. If he wasn’t the President, I think his assessment would be different. Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry are limited by their need to convince people that their ideas are a good alternative to Obama.

    http://www.securitymanagement.com/article/how-risky-it-really-why-our-fears-don%E2%80%99t-always-match-facts-008810

  4. cecillyrose says:

    I think what has been said so far is correct: we latch onto what we know. Naturally, different people have different fears because we operate in different spheres of expertise.
    In looking at the list, it can be condensed to concepts: Economic, social, interdependence, and influence.
    The more I’m learning, the more I realize that life is complex. Relationships among people are complex. Relationships among countries are even more complex. Influence of people and countries are complex. And really, I don’t think we ever WILL reach one conclusion with global warming, the Middle East conflict, or the perfect president. And rather than this being a pessimistic approach, I want to emphasize that I think it is a strength to differ. Contesting one another is a strength of mind. I don’t think it has to be something to fear, per se.
    IF we lost creativity as people, if we lost our ability to think, society would slowly crumble.
    So, I hope this list expands. I hope it never ceases to grow.

    We’re more afraid of what MIGHT happen that what ALREADY happened.
    Think about it for you: if you have a big, terrible midterm coming up, oftentimes the apprehension and anxiety you feel about it is worse than actually being in the exam.

    Some beautiful drawouts from this article: “human beings find uncertainty more painful than the things they’re uncertain about…when we get bad news we weep for a while, and then get busy making the best of it. We change our behavior, we change our attitudes..But we can’t come to terms with circumstances whose terms we don’t yet know. An uncertain future leaves us stranded in an unhappy present with nothing to do but wait:”

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/20/what-you-dont-know-makes-you-nervous/

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