Clear and Present Safety


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The World Has Never Been Better and Why That Matters to Americans

Michael A. Cohen and Micah Zenko

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An eye-opening look at the history of national security fear-mongering in America and how it distracts citizens from the issues that really matter
What most frightens the average American? Terrorism. North Korea. Iran. But what if none of these are probable or consequential threats to America? What if the world today is safer, freer, wealthier, healthier, and better educated than ever before? What if the real dangers to Americans are noncommunicable diseases, gun violence, drug overdoses—even hospital infections? In this compelling look at what they call the “Threat-Industrial Complex,” Michael A. Cohen and Micah Zenko explain why politicians, policy analysts, academics, and journalists are misleading Americans about foreign threats and ignoring more serious national security challenges at home. Cohen and Zenko argue that we should ignore Washington’s threat-mongering and focus instead on furthering extraordinary global advances in human development and economic and political cooperation. At home, we should focus on that which actually harms us and undermines our quality of life: substandard schools and healthcare, inadequate infrastructure, gun violence, income inequality, and political paralysis.

Michael A. Cohen is a columnist for the Boston Globe. Micah Zenko is a columnist with Foreign Policy.

“Beware the threat-mongerers: That’s the core message of this cogent, timely, penetrating book. Politicians and leading voices see it in their personal interest to talk up the dangers abroad, regardless of the actual external conditions. The result, Cohen and Zenko show, is to distort reality and take attention and resources away from the pressing national concerns that should matter most. It’s an urgent message for our time.”—Fredrik Logevall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam

“This excellent and timely book refutes the lazy assumption that mongering fear and dread is necessary to prevent complacency and to spur reform. On the contrary, Michael Cohen and Micah Zenko show, the fact-free pessimism sown by journalists and politicians alike leads to reckless decisions and diverts resources from efforts that are bringing genuine good to the world. Cohen and Zenko make a strong case for an evidence-based look at the bright side, not to lift our moods (though that can be a happy by-product) but to realign our priorities.”—Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now and The Better Angels of Our Nature

“How confounding that some people  would call Clear and Present Safety ‘counterintuitive’? Good for Cohen and Zenko for laying out the reality that everyone’s afraid to admit: In the battle of ideas and the daily contest of communications, hope and  facts have to counter hyperbole and fears. Saying the world is safer than it’s been doesn’t mean we should be satisfied, but it sure as hell means we should be smart about the policy choices that get us where we need to go and avoid the paths that lead us to quagmire and decline. Cohen and Zenko lay out a reality that’s purposefully been overlooked by all the paranoia peddlers invested in a dystopian alternative.”—Former Secretary of State John Kerry

“In Clear and Present Safety, foreign policy experts Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen offer something that has become far too rare in these overwrought times: a hefty dose of common sense. The book is an urgent reminder that the business of threat-inflation is hazardous to our health and welfare, leading us to ignore more serious issues. Smart, incisive and full of revealing facts and statistics, it should be required reading not only for policy-makers but for all Americans.”—Rosa Brooks, Georgetown University

“This terrific book will inform, enrage, and entertain you. In clear, lively prose, Clear and Present Safety demolishes the self-serving fear-mongering that has warped our national priorities and left us a poorer and more vulnerable nation. Cohen and Zenko show that a safer and saner America is within our grasp, and tell us how we can get there.  Buy it, read it, give it to a friend, and send a copy to your favorite Senator too.”—Stephen M. Walt, Harvard University

Clear and Present Safety is constructive . . . Cohen and Zenko march through the evidence commandingly and comprehensively; and their case has never been more apt and important than it is right now, when a professional fearmonger leads the country.”—Jonathan Rauch, The New York Times 

“A poignant call to reprioritize US political focus domestically.”—M. Gunter, Jr., Choice

“Ably summarizes existing research on the state of health, development and conflict and documents its sources in detail”—Nils Petter Gleditsch, Journal of Peace Research
ISBN: 9780300222555
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
272 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4