Arnold Kling  

Thoughts on September 11

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My Bias About Bias... From Autos to Health Care...

All of this is off topic as far as economics goes, but this day still reverberates with me.

1. I understand that if you look at history, the probability of being killed by a terrorist is low. But if you had looked at history in 1925, you would have said that the probability of a capital ship being sunk by an airplane is zero. (I recall reading somewhere that Winston Churchill came rather late to the realization that the airplane altered the strategic reality at sea.) Given the way that technology has evolved, I believe that concerns over terrorism are justified.

2. I think that the aftermath of the war in Afghanistan went much better than I would have predicted, and the aftermath of the war in Iraq went somewhat worse than I would have predicted (In both cases, it was reasonable to expect difficulties overcoming tribal violence and guerrilla war. You would think that the terrain in Afghanistan is more favorable to guerrillas than the terrain in Iraq.) Those two errors may well be related. The "positive surprise" in Afghanistan may have contributed to the "negative surprise" in Iraq. My guess is that it made our leaders less cautious about attempting regime change in Iraq, and it gave them a misleading model of how the postwar stabilization process could be managed.

3 I am skeptical of any outlook that sees a single root cause for all of the evil in the world. I am particularly skeptical of the outlook that sees the Bush Administration as the single root cause for all of the evil in the world.

4. In this blog, we often get into airy theoretical discussions of utopian anarchy and so forth. Back in the real world, the secure environment in which we can conduct these discussions should not be taken for granted. I believe that we depend, increasingly, on surveillance technology and policy for our safety. Also, I feel that
we owe a great deal to the Americans who serve in the armed forces as well as to their families.

5. I believe that civilization is a fragile thing. It is easy to imagine a more peaceful world. It is easy to imagine a less nationalistic world. But I find it even easier to imagine a world that is worse along both dimensions. My guess is that if the United States becomes less nationalistic and less assertive, then the world as a whole will take a turn for the worse rather than for the better.


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