Michael Cohen offers a useful reminder that the world is still mostly much more secure and peaceful than it used to be:
Worst of all, the constant calls for a quick and usually muscular response to perceived national security threats gives Americans a false sense of insecurity. The fact is, while people may be relentlessly, breathlessly trying to make us believe that we’re on the cusp of World War III, the world is actually pretty safe.
From Latin America and Europe to the Far East and broad swathes of sub-Saharan Africa, most of the world is at peace. While 2014 has been a particularly violent year, we are nonetheless in the midst of a more than two-decade-long decline in the number of wars and their lethality.
It suits many interventionists to insist that the world is exceedingly dangerous, because this tends to inspire panic and overreaction in Western capitals, and that can make hard-line policies seem more appealing. It is easier to win support for resorting to the use of force by carelessly throwing around warnings about “imminent” and “existential” threats that are in reality neither imminent nor existential. If one assumes that “the world” is in chaos, that makes it a bit easier to sell the idea that the U.S. must restore order in various parts of the world. It doesn’t seem to matter that the U.S. stake in current conflicts is actually very small, or that far worse and bloodier conflicts have taken place around the world during earlier eras when the U.S. was supposedly demonstrating more “leadership.”
Hawks promote the false belief that “the world” is on fire because they believe that this makes otherwise awful and unpopular hawkish policies more attractive, and it also saves them from having to account for the fact that these policies have a record of making foreign conflicts worse. Having spent years lying about a supposed U.S. “retreat” from the world that never happened, hawks are eager to seize on any bad news overseas as “proof” of what comes from “retreat.” Some of this is just bad-faith partisan sniping, and some of it comes from an ideological commitment to the idea that U.S. hegemony is essential to international peace and security, and the rest is the usual inability to keep a sense of proportion about foreign threats. Whatever may be behind it, these claims should be greeted with extreme skepticism and should be taken as a warning that those making them are trying to sell you something you would normally reject.