Americans fear the wrong threats

Republican Rep. Steve King talks to voters at Godfathers Pizza in Hampton, Iowa, U.S., November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Scott Morgan - RC1733B79860

The authors of a new book argue that national security “fearmongering” is causing U.S. leaders to focus more on the threats that Americans perceive—like terrorism and nuclear war—than the ones that exist at home, like gun violence and the opioid crisis. In their new book, Clear and Present Safety: The World Has Never Been Better and Why That Matters to Americans (Yale University Press), Michael Cohen and Micah Zenko argue that “The American public is being fed, by politicians and pundits alike, a steady diet of threat inflation that has made them deeply fearful of the world outside their borders.” In this episode, Thomas Wright, director of the Center on the United States and Europe and senior fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy at Brookings, speaks with Zenko, a columnist at Foreign Policy, about the premise of the book, the geopolitical risks that do exist, and what role foreign policy might play in the 2020 presidential election.

Also on the program, meet Christen Linke Young, a fellow in the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy. Find out what she’s working on and why she recommends reading both Dreamland, by Sam Quinones, about the rise of the opioid epidemic, and Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace.

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The Brookings Cafeteria is part of the Brookings Podcast Network.