The Washington Post reports: There’s one foreign policy fact that President Obama and Mitt Romney dare not mention this election season. No American general will speak of it. Nor will it displace the usual hot topics at Washington’s myriad foreign policy think tanks.
Measured by most relevant statistics, the United States — and the world — have never been safer.
Obama says terrorist networks remain the greatest threat to the United States. “We have to remain vigilant,” he warned recently. But global terrorism has barely touched most Americans in the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, with 238 U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks, mostly in war zones, according to the National Counterterrorism Center’s annual reports. By comparison, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 293Americans were crushed during the same stretch by falling furniture or televisions.
Beyond the United States, global statistics point undeniably toward progress in achieving greater peace and stability. There are fewer wars now than at any time in decades. The number of people killed as a result of armed violence worldwide is plunging as well — down to about 526,000 in 2011 from about 740,000 in 2008, according to the United Nations.
The candidates’ rhetoric, however, suggests that the globe is ablaze. “The world is dangerous, destructive, chaotic,” Romney said this summer in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Nevada. Obama, though less apocalyptic than his Republican challenger, routinely talks about the critical need for “tested and proven” leadership in a “world of new threats and new challenges.”
It’s always useful to be reminded that the average American is more at risk of being crushed by furniture than killed by a terrorist, but there’s a gaping hole in this report’s analysis of a world that is supposedly becoming safer: it looks at threats purely in terms of those involving human violence.
It’s quite possible that there will never be another attack on America comparable with 9/11, but as for the risk of this nation getting pummeled by another Sandy — that’s not a question of if but when.
To the extent that an effective defense can be mounted, neither the Pentagon nor the defense industry are likely to contribute much to that effort.
What serves the interests of both the defense and oil industries is to sustain the idea that the dangers America faces all come from overseas instead of recognizing that the greatest threat we face comes from our own self-destructive way of living.