Nils Petter Gleditsch
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
This is a good journalistic account of how the world is getting better and how Americans refuse to believe the good news. Fewer Americans are killed in terrorist incidents than by falling bathtubs and furniture, bathtub drownings, and lightning strikes; yet terrorism is widely seen as a vital threat to the safety of US citizens. What the authors call the Threat Industrial Complex, led by senior military and political leaders and supported by a number of think tanks, bombards the news and social media with the scariest possible depictions of the world. The real threats to the security of Americans, according to these authors, are smoking, drinking, lack of exercise, drug use, gun violence, decaying infrastructure, failing education, economic inequality – all of which could be dealt with if the priorities were right. Instead, the US has responded to terrorism with enormously costly wars of intervention, proving Osama bin Laden right when he expressed the hope that attacking the US would produce an overreaction. The book ably summarizes existing research on the state of health, development and conflict and documents its sources in detail. It does not deal with recent research that argues that a much longer period is necessary before we can conclude that the lack of major interstate wars is not a statistical fluke. It also largely ignores the potential threats from climate change.