There was another section of Noah Millman’s valuable post on threat inflation that I wanted to address. Millman writes:
So when the question gets raised, “is it in our interest to help?” there’s a part of us that feels such a question is churlish; when the question gets raised, “can we actually be of help?” there’s a part of us that feels such a question is insulting. Are we really suggesting that this little pipsqueak country – whether it’s Israel or Taiwan or Georgia or whatever – has the guts to stand up for itself, but we, the great big superpower, are afraid to stand with them? Or aren’t sure it’s worth the bother? And this, in turn, creates a need for threat inflation – because these sentiments only go so far on their own in motivating action. It’s better if we are convinced that what we want to do is also what we need to do [bold mine-DL].
I take Millman’s point, but in these cases it is usually more likely that advocates for U.S. support of client states understand that Americans generally don’t want to provide the amount of support that the hawks deem necessary. It is therefore up to the hawks to agitate for continued or increased support for such states by creating the illusion that this is of vital importance for U.S. interests. This is almost always not true, but it is essential for the hawks to pretend that it is. This is aided greatly by the habit of conflating the interests of clients with those of the U.S. and carefully minimizing any divergent interests that must exist. That is why interested activists promote overblown fears of Iranian or Russian or Chinese threats, but it doesn’t explain why they have been so successful over the decades in selling their exaggerations to so many Americans.
Elsewhere in his chapter on fear, Fettweis relates American anxieties about security with America’s status as the world’s preeminent power:
The unipolar power, therefore, tends to perceive threats where other powers do not and is more tempted to get involved in far-off turbulence that it can imagine would have the potential to threaten its hard-won international order. Its insecurity has no natural limits, and if not kept in check can easily lead to over-expansion, overspending, and decline. (p. 89)
That suggests that relative decline might prove to be a very welcome development for the U.S. insofar as it places a limit on our anxieties about security. That could allow it to have a more realistic view of its vital interests and the threats that it faces.