Terrorism Presents a Serious Threat--But the 'War on Terror' is the Real Catastrophe: News Releases: The Independent Institute

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News Release
April 7, 2008

Terrorism Presents a Serious Threat—But the “War on Terror” is the Real Catastrophe
U. of Penn Professor Argues We Are Suffering from a Self-Inflicted Disaster

OAKLAND, Calif., March 25, 2008—Five years after invading Iraq—a war that was sold as short-term—the U.S. is constructing permanent bases in the country and has no plans to withdraw. Presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, has endorsed an indefinite presence, lasting even a hundred years.

Taken as a whole, the War on Terror has cost the U.S. $650 billion, 30,000 wounded Americans, more than 4,000 lives, and invaluable civil liberties. Yet the conflict has uncovered no weapons of mass destruction and has succeeded only in radicalizing and augmenting the terrorist threat.

“The War on Terror is much more than a colossal waste. It is the most potent threat Americans face to their liberties and security,” says Independent Institute Research Fellow Ian S. Lustick in his new policy report Our Own Strength Against Us (April 2008 / The Independent Institute). In fact, the first official assessment sponsored by U.S. intelligence agencies and released in 2006, determined that the Iraq War has ultimately exacerbated the problem of terrorism worldwide.

At home, the price has been paid in a weakened Bill of Rights and increased threats to national security. Abroad, the Bush administration has pursued a failed program of perpetual regime change and nation building. While the catastrophic project in Iraq may be the most conspicuous example to date, future wars may remain on the agenda.

Additionally, alarmist media coverage “exploits and aggravates normal anxieties,” says Lustick. Bombarded by sensationalized news programs such as CNN’s “The Edge of Disaster,” Americans have been reduced to believing that the only thing standing between them and impending catastrophe is the War on Terror. But in Our Own Strength Against Us, Lustick shows how these threats have been greatly exaggerated, while the real perils of the government’s response have been neglected.

Unfortunately, when public discourse focuses on “whether the War on Terror suffers from insufficient resources and incompetent implementation,” fundamental questions about the necessity of war are never raised. But after offering a series of diplomatic, military, and legal alternatives—Lustick poses the question: Does terrorism actually warrant war? Instead of considering such strategies that would have isolated the terrorist threat and united America and the world, national leadership chose to pursue an intractable pre-existing agenda that is squandering America’s blood, freedom, and international goodwill, and making the world more dangerous.

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