“Fear Appeals” and Security in American Foreign Relations

Authored by: Christopher J. Fettweis

Handbook of Personal Security

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9781848726758
eBook ISBN: 9781315713595
Adobe ISBN: 9781317498476


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Fear, more than any other single factor, compelled the United States to attack Iraq. The war’s supporters both within and outside of the Bush administration were afraid that Saddam Hussein would eventually share his dreaded mega-weapons with terrorists, and that the window of opportunity to prevent that nightmare was rapidly closing. Images of U.S. cities disappearing under mushroom clouds haunted decision makers and encouraged action, even if they knew the probability of such events was low. If there was even a 1 percent chance of catastrophe, Vice President Dick Cheney notoriously argued, prudence demanded that Washington treat it as if it were certain (Suskind 2006). “We will not live in fear,” President Bush assured a Cincinnati audience in October 2002 (Jervis 2003, 371). In this case, as in so many others, that meant war.

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