According to the Bush administration The proximal cause of the invasion of Iraq was to reduce terrorist and nukular (sic) threats to the United States. I believe the invasion was rather an attempt to calm the fear of terrorism and create the appearance of doing something about terrorism, but either explanation derives from the public's concern about terrorist threats.
For my argument to stand I must be correct in that the risk of terrorism from Iraq is overstated. I think that's a whole other topic so I'll treat it as an assertion here. If you aren't willing to give me an inch or two of rope with which to hang myself, you can stop reading now.
So how did the media create an overestimation of risks? The commercialization of the popular news media is the ultimate cause. People watch news because they feel in some way it is relevant. One great source of relevance for creatures with built-in fight-or-flight responses is the appearance of an immediate threat. Michael Moore addressed this much more amusingly than I ever could in "Bowling for Columbine," but, in short, remember the summer of shark attacks? Was there any measurable risk of anyone anywhere of being killed by a shark? Why did it lead in so many news programs and take up space on front pages of uncountable newspapers? It kind of went away when the latest hobgoblin reared its ugly head. Sharks, crime, and church arson have taken a back seat to terrorism for the past 2 years.
The reduced risk tolerance is a result of improved lifestyle. The more you have to lose, the less you are willing to risk. This improved lifestyle is due in part to the numerous entertainment options available to modern Americans.
This entertainment explanation for risk-tolerance takes two paths: the direct path of since life is more fun you're less likely to want to lose it, and an indirect but more relevant path of family size.
It may sound callous, but I believe that an examination of cultural attitudes towards risk tolerance and average number of children will show a direct correlation. When you have more children, the death of one means less. The death of an only child devastates a family. It is possible to have too many children, which leads to feral children living on the streets (Moskow, Brazil, etc) or children's wars (the crusades, some African conflicts.)
So why does media encourage smaller family sizes and therefore less risk tolerance? Simple, children are a scourge on modern adult lifestyles. Television, books, and movies are made that are targeted at adults. Just try consuming any of them if you're watching 5 pre-school children. I personally cannot imagine having more than 3 kids, I'm too selfishly addicted to my targeted, esoteric amusements.
It's been shown that educated women make family planning decisions. Women who like high heels and "Sex in the City." Just try to watch that with a four year old asking if he can go in the back door too.