John Mueller

Man-Made Disaster

Michael Chertoff needs an office. When I interviewed the secretary of Homeland Security this summer, we met in a pair of temporary locations between which he shuttles--first in the decaying Nebraska Avenue Complex of the naval station at Ward Circle (a center for signal analysis during World War II) and later in an unmarked and unfurnished office in the nondescript headquarters of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the Ronald Reagan building, near the White House.


The Case for Fear

Overblown: How Politicians And The Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, And Why We Believe Them By John Mueller (Free Press, 259 pp., $25) What's Wrong With Terrorism? By Robert E. Goodin (Polity, 246 pp., $59.95) In 1995, the political scientist Aaron Wildavsky published a provocative book under the title But Is It True? Wildavsky's central claim was that many environmental risks are ridiculously exaggerated. In his view, governments often devote substantial resources to trivial or even nonexistent problems.


by Cass Sunstein David Bell says that it is "a pity" that Overblown, by John Mueller, "isn't getting more attention," because its central thesis--that the risk of terrorism is wildly exaggerated--deserves to be part of public debate.



by David A. Bell It's a pity that John Mueller's book Overblown isn't getting more attention. Its provocative--and certainly debatable--thesis is very simple: The threat to the United States from Islamic terrorism has been exaggerated, and may be close to non-existent. There is little evidence that Islamic terrorists have the capacity (as opposed to the desire) to carry out further attacks on the scale of 9/11 on U.S. soil, let alone anything more destructive. Anxieties about chemical, biological, and radiological weapons are particularly unjustified.


Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films by W John Mueller (Knopf, 448 pp., $45) Sinatra: My Father By Nancy Sinatra (Doubleday, 340pp., $50) One mercy of living between 1930 and 1960, if you took notice, was the good fortune of having the show put on by Astaire and Frank Sinatra. Not that their worth erased in 1960, when they started to move toward saloon chairs, golf, and more humdrum ways of passing their tune.  You can still see The Gay Divorcee, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” from Blue Skies, or Silk Stockings; and you can listen to In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, or Only the Lonely.



DOWN THE MEMORY HOLE: Columnist James J. Kilpatrick recently denounced critics of William Bradford Reynolds, President Reagan’s nominee to be associate attorney general. These critics, he said, “do not truly believe in equal rights or in an end to discrimination. Theirs is the Orwellian doctrine that some are more equal than others. In their curious vision, it is wrong to discriminate against blacks, but it is not wrong to discriminate against whites.” What’s truly Orwellian is for James J. Kilpatrick to pose as a defender of equal rights.