chapter  1
Introduction: Understanding threat inflation
Pages 15

The Bush administration’s launching of a global war on terrorism in the wake of 9/11, coupled with its aggressive campaign to build public support for war against Iraq, have brought the term “threat inflation” into popular use. President Bush’s ability to stoke public fear about Iraq’s connections to Al Qaeda and about its weapons of mass destruction despite the lack of any hard evidence has fueled both public outcry as well as a vigorous debate among academics about why the administration argued with such certainty about Iraq and how its arguments came to dominate debate. The implications of the debate are profound. To the extent that the president can dominate debate about foreign threats, it becomes difficult for the United States to rely on the marketplace of ideas (i.e., the news media and public vetting of foreign policy) to assess accurately the pros and cons of competing arguments about foreign policy and the use of force. In extreme cases, as several scholars have labeled the invasion of Iraq, a president may convince the public to support a war that it would otherwise strenuously oppose.