Wednesday, June 28, 2006

One Percent Madness

One Percent Madness
By Robert Parry
Consortium News
June 27, 2006

Author Ron Suskind’s account of Dick Cheney’s “one percent doctrine” – the idea that if a terrorist threat is deemed even one percent likely the United States must act as if it’s a certainty – supplies a missing link in understanding the evolving madness of the Bush administration’s national security strategy.

A one-percent risk threshold is so low that it negates any serious analysis that seeks to calibrate dangers within the complex array of possibilities that exist in the real world. In effect, it means that any potential threat that crosses the administration’s line of sight will exceed one percent and thus must be treated as a clear and present danger.

The fallacy of the doctrine is that pursuing one-percent threats like certainties is not just a case of choosing to be safe rather than sorry. Instead, it can suck the pursuer into a swollen river of other dangers, leading to a cascading torrent of adverse consequences far more dangerous than the original worry.

For instance, George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq may have eliminated the remote possibility that Saddam Hussein would someday develop a nuclear bomb and share it with al-Qaeda. (Some intelligence analysts put that scenario at less than one percent, although Bush called it a “gathering danger.”)

But the U.S. military invasion of Iraq had the unintended consequence of bolstering the conviction in North Korea and Iran that having the bomb may be the only way to fend off the United States.

The unending scenes of bloodshed in Iraq also have inflamed anti-American passions in other Middle East countries, including Pakistan which already possesses nuclear weapons and is governed by fragile pro-U.S. dictator Pervez Musharraf.

So, while eradicating one unlikely nightmare scenario – Hussein’s mushroom cloud in the hands of Osama bin-Laden – the Bush administration has increased the chances that the other two points on Bush’s “axis of evil,” North Korea and Iran, will push for nuclear weapons and that Pakistan’s Islamic fundamentalists, already closely allied with Osama bin-Laden, will oust Musharraf and gain control of existing nuclear weapons.

In other words, eliminating one “one-percent risk” may have created several other dangers which carry odds of catastrophe far higher than one percent. Bush now must decide whether to swat at these new one-plus-percent risks, which, in turn, could lead to even greater dangers....