18 September 2014

Why are Americans so frightened?

ISIS has thrown the fear of God into Americans. According to a poll conducted by the Opinion Research Centre, ninety per cent of Americans believe the group is a direct threat to the U.S. with over seventy per cent believing it already has cells inside the country.

All of this might make sense—ISIS is a really scary outfit—if it were true. But it isn't. At least not according to the man who is paid to know about these things. Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, stated categorically, “At present, we have no credible information that ISIS is planning to attack the homeland of the United States.”

So why the rampant fear? Partly, perhaps, because of the gruesome videos showing the decapitation of two American reporters. Or perhaps just the general brutality ISIS displays. And then there is the hysterical cries for revenge from various media and political quarters. But none of this justifies fear of a threat that according to the country's best-informed official doesn't exist. The bogeyman is real but he isn't under Americans' beds.

The Iraq war was justified in part to end a terrorist threat to the U.S. and as it turned out, that threat didn't exist either. The invasion, however, contributed to the emergence of ISIS, the biggest, baddest bunch of terrorists yet seen. This time, the Americans would be well advised to proceed with great caution lest their irrational fears lead them once again to create a dragon even more fearsome than the one they hope to slay.

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