"Ever since World War II, the United States has tended to make its strategic missteps by exaggerating dangers. During the 1950s, conservatives argued that Dwight Eisenhower was guilty of appeasement because he was willing to contain rather than roll back communism. The paranoia about communism helped fuel McCarthyism at home and support for dubious regimes abroad. John Kennedy chose to outflank Nixon on the right by arguing that there was a dangerous missile gap between the Soviets and the United States (when in fact the United States had almost 20,000 missiles and the Soviets had fewer than 2,000). The 1970s witnessed a frenzied argument that the Soviet Union was surpassing the United States militarily and was about to "Finlandize" Europe. The reality, of course, was that when neoconservatives were arguing that the U.S.S.R. was about to conquer the world, it was on the verge of total collapse.
Since end of the cold war, similar alarms have been sounded several times. In the 1990s, the Cox Commission argued that China was building a military to rival ours, citing numbers that soon proved to be bogus. Then there's Saddam Hussein, who was described as a powerful and imminent threat to the United States. In fact, the greatest problem that we have faced in Iraq is its weakness, its utter dysfunction as a state and a nation. Rhetoric about transcendent threats and mortal dangers grips the imagination of the American people. But it also twists U.S. foreign policy in ways that can prove to be extremely costly to the country and the world." — Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek