A Dangerous World

Threat Perception and U.S. National Security

In 2012, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey contended that “we are living in the most dangerous time in my lifetime, right now.” In 2013, he was more assertive, stating that the world is “more dangerous than it has ever been.” Is this accurate? In this book, an edited volume of papers presented at the Cato Institute’s Dangerous World Conference, experts on international security assess, and put in context, the supposed dangers to American security. The authors examine the most frequently referenced threats, including wars between nations and civil wars within nations, and discuss the impact of rising nations, weapons proliferation, general unrest, transnational crime, and state failures.

Praise for the book

“This collection provides an important and refreshing perspective on American security. Most often we are told by Washington analysts and officials that we are on the edge of disaster, facing annihilation unless we invest billions to counter this threat or that. Here we learn from experts on the relevant topics that for Americans at least, but many others as well, the world is not such a scary place.”

—Harvey M. Sapolsky, former Director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“This edited volume seeks to put modern threats to U.S. national security in perspective. With so many politicians, policy makers, and media types eager to identify the next great calamity, much of what we read about emerging threats in the news is overblown and misdirected, with U.S. policy suffering as a result. This edited volume provides a welcome corrective, providing thoughtful analysis of issues like terrorism, climate change, and cyber conflict and policy recommendations for a not‐​so‐​dangerous world.”

—A. Trevor Thrall, George Mason University

“Is the world more dangerous than ever? Pundits, politicians, and military spokesmen all have a vested interest in answering “yes,” while blowing off the costs (in money, opportunities, and lives) of responding to their exaggerated and sometimes hallucinated threats. These essays restore sanity to threat assessment. Engaging, eye‐​opening, and evidence‐​based, they offer a sounder basis for specific policies and for our conception of the world we live in.”

—Steven Pinker, Harvard University

About the Editors

Christopher Preble was the vice president for defense and foreign policy studies, at the Cato Institute.

John Mueller is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a political scientist at Ohio State University.