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Gene Healy’s Common Sense

Conservatives see this when it comes to things like school shootings and gun ownership. They reject the chimera of a risk-free society, and recognize that, while in a costless world, the optimal number of school shootings is zero, we don’t live in such a world. However, when it comes to the entirely speculative chance of a WMD attack by a Third-World thug who never dreamed of it, they become tightly wound bundles of fear and rage, and cheer a costly, destructive war. If the Iran debate is any indication, “bomb today for a brighter tomorrow” hasn’t lost much of its appeal for the Right.

Meanwhile, George Will–who has been excellent of late–falls off a bit this week. Will has gone to see Flight 93. And he says “The message of the movie is: We are all potential soldiers. And we all may be, at any moment, at the war’s front, because in this war the front can be anywhere.” You can almost picture George on the way to the elevator at ABC, eyes coolly scanning the lobby for anything amiss, one hand in pocket, clutching his hidden quill pen with steely purpose.

Yes, any of us could find ourselves in the middle of a terrorist attack. And we hope that if the call comes, we’ll be able to acquit ourselves half as well as the brave men on Flight 93. But we should also realize that the opportunities for such heroism are likely to be vanishingly rare. There’s more likely to be a truck or a bloodclot or a cluster of cancerous cells with your name on it. And one ought not to be hysterical about any of it. ~Gene Healy

Hysterical is the key word here, with all the emasculation and feminisation that word implies. That has to be just about the best description of the irrational fear of Iraq (or Iran) that seems to saturate more than a few conservatives. Usually the more “informed” a conservative is about the current state of Iran’s uranium enrichment program or the alleged progress towards a nuke, the more terrified he is. What is he afraid of? He is afraid of a “threat” that does not affect him in the slightest. The links between Pakistan’s ISI and al-Qaeda? That doesn’t worry him very much at all. But Iran is so very scary. I mean, they have a crazy president and everything! Of course, the last military coup they had in Iran was in the 1920s, while in Pakistan coups have been a sort of national pastime, as they were in Turkey some decades back. But the government regards (for some good and some inexplicable reasons) highly unstable, dangerous, historically aggressive Pakistan as one of our closest allies, while relatively stable and historically non-aggressive Iran is supposed to be the wild-eyed maniac of the region. So much for knowledge being the cure for irrational fears.

The sort of American who is this fearful of Iranian nukes is like someone in Iowa staying up nights worrying about the next tsunami. He’s like a man in Nebraska who lives in stark terror of the rising of the oceans. Or maybe a New Mexican who is deathly afraid of being hit by a hurricane. There is no reason for this sort of hysteria, but that hasn’t stopped it from spreading.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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