by Peter

4 October 2006, 1932 EDT

Feeling safe? You shouldn’t– its the threatdown!

I’m teaching a National Security Policy class this semester, and last week our topic was Threats. The assignment that day was for each student to write a Threatdown–an ordered, annotated list of the top 10 threats facing American.

Two things struck me in reading the threats my students identified.

First, most–like on the order of 60% – 70%–were non-state threats. Things like Global Warming, Pandemic Disease, Natural Disaster, Economic Collapse, Oli, and Global Terrorist Networks figured prominently in many papers. Of the states that did appear, it was mostly Iran, North Korea, China, and sometimes Pakistan, Iraq, and Venezeula.

I bet if I gave the same exercise to government professionals over the age of 35, it would be quite the reverse, with states making up the vast majority of the threats and trans-national, non-state phenomenon in the minority.

Second, I was surprised how many students identified us as the greatest threats to ourselves. Many identifed border security, failed intelligence reforms, overstretch, and a tarnished international reputation as key threats. Makes you think the “I, Robot” people were on to something….

Some of my favorite student entries:

Karma: Simply Put, Karma is a bitch. Knowing all of the unfair and poorly planned policies that the United States has pursued in many different corners fo the world, we should, on some level, fear karma.

The Threatdown: (with apologies). The United States has a history of over simplification and overrreaction in its foreing policy due to the democratic nature of our government, and this tendency extends to the arena of percieved threats to national security. By oversimplifying and overreactin go teh threat of communism (especially “monolithic communism”) and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the United States stretched its resources needlessly and entered into costly wars of choice, most significantly, Vietnam. Now, with the overarching War on Terror topping the administration’s Threatdown, and politicians and pundits constantly asking if we are safe, US nNational security policy is in danger of once again being held capitve by its own anal-retentiveness.

Policy of Preemptive War: Yes, the US can be a threat to itself. Since the writing the doctrine of preemptive war, the current administration has not only increased its powers for protection of US interests, but laid down a precedent for other nations. IF the US is seen as having the self-appointeed power of preemptive war, then other nations could see that as tacit approval of the same actions for them. Such an interpretation of US policy would only serve to endanger the US, for not all countries have the same list of nations that should undergo regime change for security reasons. Ultimately, this could lead toward increased attacks upon the US and its interests.


(yes, several actually said Bears).

And, for those of you who can’t get enough of the Threatdown! (or if you don’t get the Bears part of the joke), watch this:

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