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Question Everything

Monday, April 27, 2009

In his weekly installment of Under the Influence today, WPR columnist Andrew Bast argues that in formulating foreign policy, no received wisdom, no matter how seemingly sound, or how widely accepted, should escape scrutiny.

That principal is lately being practiced by a number of iconoclasts within the U.S. foreign policy establishment, who are making it a point to question the most sacred cows of U.S. strategy:

A growing number of experts are arguing that the core assumptions underlying American foreign policy are backed by scant evidence, or are simply fallacious. Most shocking is that these are not fringe crackpots out to challenge the legitimacy of American power, but rather powerful voices from establishment universities, think tanks and foreign policy journals. On the threat of al-Qaida, the danger of the Taliban and the insecurity propagated by failed states like Afghanistan and Somalia, the moment has arrived to take a deep breath and think twice.

Bast points to Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni and Calvert Jones on al-Qaida, Stephen Walt on the threat of terrorism, and John Mueller on the Taliban.

As it happens, work that has apppeared in WPR can also be counted among this new strain of dissension to the conventional wisdom on terrorism. I'm thinking in particular of Nathan Field's "The Limits of the Counterterrorism Approach," a feature article that was part of our Oct. 26, 2008, theme on "The al-Qaida We Don't Know." See also Field's "The Re-education of Radical Islam" for more unorthodox thinking on al-Qaida.

(Both articles are for subscribers only, but for a limited time anyone can take a four-month free trial to WPR's new subscription service by signing up here.)