Many times this manifests itself in ways that are more comical than anything else. Lewis Black, my favorite comedian, tells a story about how they used to have mandatory air raid drills when he was in elementary school. During these drills he was told to hide under his desk in the event of a nuclear attack. The punchline of the joke comes when Black wonders what idiot thought it was a good idea to avoid a nuclear fireball by hiding under a pile of kindling. More recently, I am sure everyone remembers the duct tape and plastic sheathing panic right after the September 11th attacks or the meaningless color-coded "terror alert" system of the Bush administration.
Other times, however, the cost of our culture of fear is downright tragic. The combined death toll of our wars in Vietnam and Iraq stands at a shocking 63,000. In both of these conflicts, the American people allowed themselves to be marched off to war under completely false pretenses, simply because the succumbed to irrational fear. In Vietnam, the rationale was "if we don't fight the communists in Vietnam, we'll soon be fighting them in San Francisco". Well, San Francisco may have fallen to the communists, but the invading hoards came from across the bay in Berkeley, not the jungles of Southeast Asia. Most of the communists in that part of the world didn't even make it next door into Thailand, and the ones that did probably found drugs and hookers a lot more fun than bombs and bullets. With the Iraq War we were introduced to the concept of "preemptive war", perhaps the most preposterous concept in human history. The whole concept is bit like saying someone should commit suicide to avoid death. George W. Bush's logic behind invading Iraq was that he was sending Americans to die so Americans wouldn't have to die and just like in Vietnam, the threat to the United States wasn't just minimal, it was completely non-existent.
Even after it becomes obvious to the American people that they have been duped there still is never a full acknowledgement of what actually took place. It seems like every day I turn on the television I have to hear some self-righteous a**hole tell me that some poor bastard lost their arms or legs in Iraq protecting me. Protecting me from what? If they were really going to give an honest accounting, they would say that the poor bastard in question was marched uninvited, by some equally self-righteous a**hole in Washington, into a really tough neighborhood, whose residents, not unlike people in any other part of the world, decided that they objected to outsiders blowing their sh*t up and decided that they were going to employ any means at their disposal to get rid of them. Instead, I'm told that all this was done for my benefit. Like they say in Missouri: "Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining".
Which brings us to the current situation with Iran. Over the last several weeks I have been bombarded, no pun intended, with the implication that I will have to spend the rest of my life hiding under my bed if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon. Apparently, if the fear mongers are to believed, the United States has never faced a bigger threat in its entire existence, that the so-called "unprecedented" combination of nuclear weapons in the hands of people who may be "mentally unstable" and have close ties to terrorists organizations is something that more young Americans will have to die to prevent. I would concede that this might be a credible argument, if not for the fact that we have been willingly living under this very scenario for the last sixty years.
Without even considering Josef Stalin, whose genocidal record makes Hitler look like a humanitarian, at no time in our recent history was the potential nuclear threat greater to the United States than that posed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Even with Nikita Khrushchev threatening "We will bury you!" while having nuclear missiles stationed ninety miles away in Cuba, military action was unnecessary. I wonder how it would be portrayed on American television if Ahmadenijad took off his shoe and started banging it on the podium at the UN, like Khruschev did in 1960. More recently, the United States seems to have no problem living with a nuclear North Korea, despite the "existential" threat it poses to South Korea, one of our most important economic allies, whose capital, Seoul, now the second largest metropolitan area in the world, lies just thirty miles from the border with the North. And I almost forgot, the two countries are currently in a declared state war that has been in place for the last fifty years, which the United States provides 30,000 soldiers a year to referee.
Many people I speak to tell me they are most concerned about Iran giving its nuclear weapons to terrorists. If that is their concern than they should be screaming that we should have invaded or nuked Pakistan yesterday. Forget Iran, the Pakistani military has had an active nuclear weapons program for the last forty years and they were sheltering Osama bin Laden right next to the Pakistani version of West Point. Not to mention the fact that the masterminds of the first World Trade Center bombing and the September 11th attacks were both found hiding in Pakistan. However, in the upside down world that is Washington, D.C., we are sending Pakistan $10 billion of taxpayer dollars while actively talking about war with Iran, a country who our Secretary of Defense conceded isn't even developing a nuclear weapon and our top military commander said is a "rational actor". A rational actor is not going to spend billions of dollars developing the greatest deterrent in human history just to give it way to some group of dead-enders. They also understand that Israel possesses as many a three hundred nuclear weapons of their own.
Now I don't disagree with anyone who says that Iran poses some security concerns for Israel but certainly nowhere near the threat posed to South Korea, a country vastly more important to our economic fortunes. Whatever Israel feels is a threat to their security is their own business. When every Israeli citizen begins filing a 1040 in Washington then our government should worry about their security. Until then, we've got enough f*cking problems to fix here at home. And stop telling me that an unprovoked war with Iran is for my benefit. You know what they say in Missouri.