Under the Influence: What If We’re Wrong?

Under the Influence: What If We’re Wrong?

Few took issue with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's bold assertion on Wednesday that the Pakistan-based Taliban pose a "mortal threat" to the United States. The stakes, of course, are high. The Taliban provided safe haven to Osama bin Laden prior to the 9/11 attacks, and could very well be doing so now. Since fleeing Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion in 2001, they have mounted stubborn insurgencies on both sides of the border that separates Afghanistan from Pakistan's tribal areas, and have now established footholds in formerly secure parts of Pakistan. The fact that Pakistan is a nuclear-armed power makes the precarious situation there all the more worrisome. In her testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Clinton stated, "We cannot underscore [enough] the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan," and therefore to the U.S.

In the face of such certainty, it might seem naïve to consider the possibility, but what if that sentiment is simply wrong?

The question is worth asking, if only to make sure the foundations of current policy stand up to scrutiny. But if that weren't enough, today there is another reason to consider it: 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.

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