Home/Daniel Larison/Threat Inflation and Flynn’s ‘World War’

Threat Inflation and Flynn’s ‘World War’

Dan de Luce, Molly O’Toole, and Lara Jakes report on the foreign policy implications of the appointments Trump has made so far. Here they describe Flynn’s views on combating jihadists:

Flynn displays a single-minded focus on the danger he claims is posed by “radical Islam” — a threat he compares to that represented by Nazi Germany in World War II. He argues that the United States must fully commit to combating and defeating the Islamic State, and other extremists backed by anti-U.S. regimes, and has accused President Barack Obama of tying the hands of the military in the field, appeasing Iran, and failing to recognize the magnitude of the danger facing the country.

We’re in a world war [bold mine-DL], but very few Americans recognize it,” Flynn wrote in his book released this year, The Field of Fight. “[W]e have to energize every element of national power in a cohesive synchronized manner—similar to the effort during World War II or the Cold War—to effectively resource what will likely be a multigenerational struggle.”

Flynn grossly exaggerates the threat and proposes more war for decades to come as the answer, and this is the person whose judgment Trump trusts enough to make him his National Security Adviser. The danger is that Trump either already shares Flynn’s views, or that he is so malleable that he eventually will. Any president advised by someone with such a hard-line and dangerous view of foreign threats would be at risk of making bad decisions because of the terrible advice he would be receiving, but a president with no previous foreign policy or government experience is even more likely to heed that advice.

Conceiving of the fight against certain jihadist groups as a “world war” has always been mistaken, and continuing to think this way about about a small and limited security threat fifteen years after 9/11 suggests that Flynn is willing to endorse the most blatant threat inflation. The threat from jihadist groups should be taken seriously, but that is the opposite of what this “world war” rhetoric does. Flynn’s “world war” doesn’t just extend to jihadists abroad, but also includes Iran and, if the statements in his book are to be believed, even Russia and China. This makes the “omni-directional belligerence” of the last Republican nominee seem moderate and reasonable by comparison.

We are not in a “world war,” but if Flynn gets his way the U.S. will certainly be at war for many more years to come.

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.

leave a comment

Latest Articles