— Volume III No. 1: February 2007 —

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Fractured Fairy Tale: The War on Terror and the Emperor's New Clothes 2


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Ian Lustick

Ian S. Lustick is professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania where he holds the Bess W. Heyman Chair. Professor Lustick is the author of numerous books, including Trapped in the War on Terror (2006) and the author of articles on ethnic conflict, Middle East politics, American foreign policy, social science methodology, and organization theory that have appeared in many journals. His current research focuses on aspects of the long-term dynamics of the Israeli-Arab conflict as well as development and applications of agent-based modeling techniques for the solution of problems pertaining to identitarian conflict, political cascades, and political violence. He can be contacted via his website, www.trappedinthewaronterror.com

The War on Terror continues to attract the allegiance of every politician in the country, whether as a justification for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq (to win in the “central front” in the War on Terror), or as a justification for withdrawing them (to win the really crucial battles in the War on Terror at home and in Afghanistan). Both official rhetoric and practice, including wars abroad, massive surveillance activities, and colossal expenditures, have bolstered the reigning belief that America is locked in a death struggle with terrorism. Yet it is difficult, indeed, impossible to find a survey by a major American polling organization that has even asked the question “Do you think there should be a War on Terror?” What accounts for the prominence of the terrorist threat in the American imagination and the stupendous success of the War on Terror as a political program, frame of reference for policy? Certainly it is not the scale of the threat to the homeland. Since 9/11 there has been no evidence of any serious terrorist threat from Islamic extremists inside America, no sleeper cells, no attacks, no serious planning or preparation for an attack. In this essay, Ian Lustick, author of Trapped in the War on Terror examines how the War on Terror was triggered, how it sustains itself, and how it conceals its irrationality.

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Lustick, Ian. “Fractured Fairy Tale: The War on Terror and the Emperor's New Clothes 2.” Homeland Security Affairs 3, issue 1 (February 2007)