One Percent Solution

June 22, 2006

Ron Suskind's The One Percent Solution is titled based on VP Cheney's alleged statement that "if there was even a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction… the United States must now act as if it were a certainty." Richard Posner uses cost-benefit analysis to discuss similar problems in Catastrophe and on his blog. Consider this problem: if there's a 1% chance that terrorists could kill 10,000 people with a nuclear bomb, what should be America's response? If a major hurricane wipes out a city every century, how much (if any) should we spend to protect all vulnerable coastal cities?

Though I detest the Bush administration, I'm willing to cut them some slack on this very difficult issue. The President's primary duty is to protect America and Americans at all costs. There are no second chances with WMDs. So I can totally understand Cheney's hyper-aggressive, militaristic foreign policy. However, I'm reminded of the book Blowback, which describes the unintended consequences of America's activities. For example, supporting the mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan probably led to the growth of al Qaeda and bin Laden. Similarly, playing hardball may realize short-term goals (killing terrorists) but worsen long-term positions (global hostility to US). The Bushies are irritated that the world doesn't appreciate the immense danger of terrorism + WMDs. While other countries are worried that the Iraq war will breed more terrorists determined to hit back with WMDs. Stalemate.

Of course, you want an anonymous blogger to provide a concise solution in a short post. That'll have to wait for another post. Meanwhile, watch Frontline's The Dark Side to learn more about Cheney's role post-9/11 to assert executive power in the "War on Terror".

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