I think there is a logical error that undermines Fareet Zakaria’s Newsweek column on the purported American overreaction to 9/11. Indeed, the premise of his column is based on the error. According to Zakaria, the war on al Qaeda and related actions undertaken by the United States since 9/11 have proved unnecessary because al Qaeda has been unable to mount another successful attack on a major target in the United States or Europe. Hmmm. Why might that be?
Zakaria tries to dispose of this point in a subordinate clause conceding the efficacy of “serious countermeasures.” Zakaria decries a number of countermeasures that are supposedly excessive, but he nowhere bothers to make the case that they have not contributed to the prevention of another successful attack. He simply assumes the conclusion.
Zakaria’s column calls to mind the tendentious New York Times headlines on crime rates falling while incarceration rates rose. George Will usefully collected these classics a couple of years ago: “Crime Keeps on Falling, But Prisons Keep on Filling” (1997), “Prison Population Growing Although Crime Rate Drops” (1998), “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction” (2000) and “More Inmates, Despite Slight Drop in Crime” (2003). Hmmm. Why might that be?
Zakaria’s Newsweek column raises another question. Is it possible that Sidney Harman overpaid for Newsweek?
UPDATE: Memeorandum compiles comments on Zakaria’s column. I see that Patterico makes precisely the same point that I do. In the style of the New York Times, Patterico titles his comment “Newsweek: U.S. Uses strong anti-terror measures despite the lack of another 9/11.”
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