The Anti-Terrorist Bureaucracy
By David Henderson
Now that the big kahuna — Osama bin Laden — has been killed, the “War on Terror” is much less exciting. Even before Osama’s demise, experts sent chills through the massive post-9/11 U.S. government anti-terrorism bureaucracies by concluding that the threat from al-Qaeda had been much weakened by the group’s own bloody excesses against civilians, many of whom were Muslims. Yet the way government works, every agency — whether fighting poverty, obesity, childhood acne, or terrorism — needs a threat to hype to keep the cash flowing in from scared taxpayers. So the anti-terrorism agencies need to keep the threat, however declining, fresh in the public mind and publicize their efforts to successfully combat the danger. Recently, two incidents illustrate the extent of the government’s refrain that the “terrorists are (still) coming, the terrorists are (still) coming!”
This is from “The Government’s Illusory Terrorist Threat,” Ivan Eland’s public-choice perspective on the “war on terror.” The whole thing, which is not long, is worth reading.
In sum, in the war on terror, the U.S. government hypes the threat to justify expanding anti-terrorism efforts and budgets, argues that war is the only means to effectively combat the inflated threat (instead of using low-key intelligence and law enforcement measures, which don’t generate more terrorists by poking the hornet’s nest), and creates a wider retaliatory threat by using such draconian military action. This wider danger is used to justify the need for even harsher military action, and the action-reaction cycle escalates. In sum, the government is creating the demand for its own services; private businesses should be in awe of such ability.