6 B.S. Myths You Probably Believe About America's 'Enemies'

#3. Al-Qaida Is Still a Huge Threat!

What You've Heard:

In the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, the government was quick to tell us that al-Qaida is still dangerous. After all, bin Laden was just one man -- there are plenty of al-Qaida members ready to stand up and be the Simon Gruber to Osama's Hans. These people are ideologically motivated, and they won't stop until they've defeated us.


They hate our freedom almost as much as they hate our lack of beards.

Actually:

They're stopping, or at least slowing down to the point that it's hard to tell the difference. It's true that bin Laden's death didn't cripple al-Qaida, but that's mostly because they were in terrible shape to begin with. In what had to have been at least a little anti-climactic, the computers seized from his fortress revealed that bin Laden had spent his final months worrying about al-Qaida's bank balance.

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Apparently cave dwellings and camcorders from 1986 add up after a while.

One problem is that al-Qaida has a terrible business model. They're trying to fund a war against the richest military in the world by asking people for charitable donations that would get you yoinked out of your home country and taken to international jail instead of getting you tax breaks. In fact, the head of al-Qaida's counterintelligence wing complained that his budget was too small to be effective right before bin Laden was located and killed. For comparison sake, the American military was in the process of training spy crows to locate bin Laden at that time. If you can't fund the guy whose job is to keep you alive and your enemy has money to throw at Wizard of Oz science, you're in trouble.

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"Here's a billion dollars. Science me up one of them flying animal spy things."

Another problem for al-Qaida is recruitment. As much as the media loves to make it seem like we live in a world of dedicated lunatics, al-Qaida has been struggling for years to attract new members. When your health care plan is "blow yourself up in that bus," you're going to need to compensate with some serious perks to make up for it. But new al-Qaida recruits faced terrible living conditions, which produced disillusionment among people who were already in bad enough shape to join al-Qaida in the first place. The al-Qaida HR department is in need of a serious overhaul.

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Some wacky posters might help.

Most importantly, support is plummeting around the world. For all of their talk about destroying America, most of al-Qaida's victims are Muslim -- which is why, year after year, polls in countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Jordan find that fewer and fewer people support them. Meanwhile, more and more Islamic clerics are speaking out against terrorism. Most anti-terror intelligence comes from the friends and family members of would be bombers, who are increasingly likely to view al-Qaida membership as falling in with the wrong crowd. Al-Qaida's message is becoming irrelevant in a world where change can be made peacefully. Some analysts describe it as a failure to appeal to the younger generation. How bad is it? They're resorting to terrible rap music.


Something tells us democracy is safe for, oh, at least the next week or so.

#2. North Korea's Military Is Dangerous and Insane!

What You've Heard:

On paper, North Korea's military looks pretty scary. It's the most militarized country on the planet, has the fourth largest army in the world and spends a larger portion of its GDP on the military than any other state. Shit, how is it not dangerous?

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Their camcorder technology is decades ahead of al-Qaida.

Actually:

North Korea may spend a huge chunk of its GDP on its army, but its GDP is tiny -- which shouldn't surprise you, considering the chief exports are requests for food aid and passive-aggressive threats. In actual dollars, North Korea's military budget is only five to eight billion dollars. By comparison, South Korea's military budget is over triple that. Actually, South Korea spends more on its army than North Korea has in its entire budget.

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And their StarCraft players get paid more than North Korea's generals.

This is important because South Korea is North Korea's most likely target, and most experts agree the South would now destroy the North before America had time to get their aircraft carriers wet. That's because North Korea's advantage in raw numbers has some pretty serious caveats. Their most advanced weapons are based on technology from the '60s, and some of that cutting-edge equipment probably isn't functional because of fuel shortages and poor maintenance.

Of course, you could have an army of a dozen paraplegics with Nerf guns and still be a threat if you had nuclear weapons. But while it's true that North Korea does have a nuclear program, they lack the technology to effectively deliver a warhead.

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Those missiles actually double as septic tanks.

Imagine North Korea as Wile E. Coyote, and the rest of the world as the Road Runner. The Coyote may be able to afford a giant ACME anvil, but he doesn't know how to accurately drop it on the Road Runner -- he'll miss, and maybe even hurt himself in the process. North Korea's nuclear program is like that, except if the Coyote got lucky and somehow scored a hit, the Road Runner would turn around and obliterate him.

Again, the media's version of events relies on the very specific appeal to reason that assumes because a country could do something, they might actually do it. For instance, President Obama could text a picture of his junk to The New York Times right now. He has the technological capacity to do it. Nevertheless, we can say with one hundred percent certainty that he won't do that because it would be suicidal.


"Also, those fuckers have my number blocked."

That's why experts agree that North Korea isn't going to start a war, nuclear or conventional. It knows that if it did that, step two would be getting quickly turned into the world's largest parking lot. So instead, it's going to sit around and lob ridiculous threats at the West like the YouTube commenters of the international community. And our media is going to read them to us on the nightly news.

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Look at the size of their flags! North Korea is unstoppable.

#1. The World Hates America!

What You've Heard:

This one takes different forms depending on who's talking. The right wing will tell you that everyone from France to Iraq hates our freedom, or our democracy, or our ability to get chili cheese fries added to any meal. The left will tell you with a grim fatalism that the developing world hates us because we've been occupying their countries, damaging their culture and our reputation for years. The idea that the rest of the world hates America isn't really an argument so much as it's the assumption that every argument about American foreign policy starts from.

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This is pretty much a normal afternoon anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line or south of Texas.

Actually:

Since 2005, the BBC has conducted a poll on world attitudes toward various countries. In 2011, 49 percent of people surveyed said America had a positive influence on the world, while 31 percent held negative views. That's better than most presidential approval ratings from the past 20 years, and we elected those guys.

Even some of the most well known haters of our freedom in reality are more likely to give the U.S. a slap on the back and a "This guy! He's crazy, but he's alright." Unfortunately for purveyors of freedom fries, even the French attitude toward the U.S. has recently shifted from negative to positive (as has the U.K.'s and Canada's). And as for all those claims that the developing world hates us, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and the Phillipines actually have a more positive view of America than Americans do.

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"We hear you have very few lions."

Granted it's not all pen pals and warm wishes out there, but when you look at the world's six largest economies, the U.S. is better than average. The world views America more positively than countries like China, Russia and India.

The statistics from countries considered America's enemies are also pretty surprising. In Iran, for instance, a majority of Iranians are cool with the American people, and just dislike the American government. Better yet, most Iranians and Americans want to see diplomatic relations between the two countries improve. Even more encouraging is the fact that a majority of people in both countries believe the Islamic and Western worlds can find common ground -- not bad for two states whose governments have referred to each other as the Great Satan and a member of the Axis of Evil. It is kind of cool that our foreign policy disputes sound like Dio albums.

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"The Great Satan" is almost too metal for metal.

So where is all the hatred coming from? Well, the people who have the weapons for one. Just as the Western media is better off when you think the world is a horror movie teetering on the brink of a post-apocalyptic tale of survival, the guys controlling every army in the world are better off if you think you need them. If everyone likes each other, then they're the weirdo bringing a gun to a tea party.

So the next time you hear a politician or pundit going on about how people from countries like Iran want to see America destroyed, think of them like the mean girl in middle school who makes up rumors because it's the only way to get people to listen to her. Saying, "Iran is a little suspicious of America but wants to get to know her better," may not make for good television, but it's way closer to the truth.

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America thinks Iran is really cute, but we've been burned so many times before.

You can read more from Mark at The Smoking Jacket. Or see him explore the Internet's strangest communities at Zug.

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