On Sunday the State Department issued a travel alert to Americans in Europe. Americans are warned to be aware of their surroundings and protect themselves when traveling. Al Qaeda’s agents lurk somewhere in Europe, planning terror attacks. Probably the US have intelligence to support this warning. But what should US citizens take from this Alert? Should they stay home and not go to Europe? Should they refrain from climbing the Eiffel Tower or visiting the Cathedral in Cologne?
Under Secretary Kennedy said in a telephone interview “We are not, repeat not, advising Americans not to go to Europe. That is not – this is an alert, and we put out an alert, as you said – as I’ve said, and I think you’ve noted, to ensure that American citizens are aware of the possible incidents.”
Fine, no tourist can sue the US administration if he or she happens to be in the middle of a terror attack in Europe, but what else do we get from this message?
Under Secretary Kennedy goes on: “Now, we tell them that – basically, to use common sense if they see unattended packages or they hear loud noises or they see something beginning to happen that they should quickly move away from them. These are common sense precautions that people ought to take – don’t have lots of baggage tags on your luggage that directly identify you as an American, know how to use the pay telephone, know how to contact the American embassy if you need help.”
Fine. But does this alert help? How many Americans will be killed or wounded by the next terror attack in Europe? How many Americans travelling abroad will be killed or wounded by other means during the coming month? How many of those who will cancel their trip to Europe because of the alert will be hurt while remaining in the US? Is there indeed a higher probability of being hurt in Europe in the coming month than in the US? Is travel alert the best way to achieve the goal of raising awareness to terror attacks? I hope that next time that the State Department issues such a nonsensical travel alert, they will think more deeply into the matter.