Fourth and Long

Discussion in 'Politics' started by KenH, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. KenH

    KenH
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    An very good use of a football controversy to examine our policy in dealing with al Qaeda.

    Fourth and Long

    by Benjamin H. Friedman

    The business of fighting terrorism is particularly prone to this problem. As with most national security dangers, information about terrorism comes mostly from public institutions that combat it. Their bureaucratic interest is often to promote worst-case estimates. Furthermore, terrorism's attributes make people overly fearful of its consequences. Psychology shows that traumatic events like the Sept. 11 attacks sear themselves into our consciousness, causing us to overestimate their likelihood. We also tend to fear mysterious, uncontrollable risks like biological terrorism far more than more mundane and deadly ones, like driving.

    ...

    The exaggerated fear of al Qaeda creates a sellers' market for policies advertised as confronting terrorism, like surging troops in Afghanistan. Without threat inflation, the war flunks a simple cost-benefit analysis. Nearly 500 coalition troops have died fighting this year. By some estimates, sending another 40,000 troops to Afghanistan will bring the war's cost to about $100 billion a year, and that's not even counting long-term expenses like veteran's care, and investments foregone at home. Given a realistic threat assessment, it is hard to see how a drawdown in Afghanistan would allow al Qaeda to do enough damage to justify these costs. That's true even if you grant hawks their questionable assumptions that our troops don't just inflame the Pashtun separatism that fuels the Taliban and that Afghan Taliban commanders would again harbor al Qaeda.

    The Belichick controversy suggests a possible solution. By drawing attention to analysis that challenged conventional wisdom, the debate convinced some fans, including me, that the coach was right. Growing dissent could encourage more coaches to go for it. Likewise, iconoclasm in foreign policy debate, abetted by events, can change public opinion and empower doves. The purpose of political science ought to be to provide its own version of AdvancedNFLStats, directed toward the national interest. Belichick has long provided a blueprint for how to win football games -- given help, his rational approach can also provide insight into how protect America.

    - more at www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=11011
     

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