A fellow named David Bell, writing in the L.A. Times, asks: Was 9/11 really that bad?
His answer appears to be “no.” Bell’s thesis is that we are overreacting to a terrorism threat that poses no mortal danger to this country:
The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.
He goes on to suggest that the terrorists don’t pose an “apocalyptic threat”:
[D]espite the even more nightmarish fantasies of the post-9/11 era (e.g. the TV show “24’s” nuclear attack on Los Angeles), Islamist terrorists have not come close to deploying weapons other than knives, guns and conventional explosives. A war it may be, but does it really deserve comparison to World War II and its 50 million dead? Not every adversary is an apocalyptic threat.
So why has there been such an overreaction?
This is reminiscent of a similar statement made a few years back:
Judging from news reports and the portrayal of villains in our popular entertainment, Americans are bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism. They seem to believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to the United States and that it is becoming more widespread and lethal. They are likely to think that the United States is the most popular target of terrorists. And they almost certainly have the impression that extremist Islamic groups cause most terrorism.
None of these beliefs are based in fact. … While terrorism is not vanquished, in a world where thousands of nuclear warheads are still aimed across the continents, terrorism is not the biggest security challenge confronting the United States, and it should not be portrayed that way.
That statement was made by “Larry Johnson, a retired CIA and State Department counter-terrorism expert” . . . in July 2001. (Hat tip Mike K.)
Shortly after 9/11, Tim Noah called Johnson’s analysis “bold, persuasive, and 100 percent wrong.”
I sure hope David Bell is not similarly wrong.
But I’m afraid he may be. And I’m not willing to risk my family’s safety on Bell’s complacent analysis.