15 Years After 9/11, ‘We Ought Not to Inflate Terrorist Threat’

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Ground Zero. Photo by Tom Hanny via Flickr

Fifteen years after the September 11 terror attacks, “We need to take terrorism seriously, but we ought not to inflate the terrorist threat,” Brian Jenkins of the Rand Corporation tells The Atlantic. Jenkins says U.S. officials “often amplify terrorist threats. Even some generals, who should know better, describe the current contest with the Islamic State as World War III. It is not.”

It is true that U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq have been costly, with 10,000 Americans killed, 50,000 wounded, but it is not like World War II, when more than 400,000 died.

“Terrorism is aimed at the people watching,” Jenkins writes. “It is intended to produce fear, which will, in turn, cause us to exaggerate the threat. And it often works. Research focuses on the terrorist threat and the countermeasures. We devote less attention to the reactions of the audience.” The Atlantic

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