It’s almost Thanksgiving, beginning a six-week slot of time when millions of Americans are on the road or in the air. Last year, AAA estimated almost 99 million Americans — about a third of the country — were traveling somewhere during this time. While most were going somewhere domestically, some 13 percent (as of 2014) said they were going abroad during the holiday season.
And that’s why the State Department’s latest travel alert is so perplexing. It states:
The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests. This Travel Alert expires on February 24, 2016.
Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq. Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis. Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services.
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, it’s understandable for the State Department to urge caution. But the vagueness of this alert is unhelpful in the extreme.
By noting terrorist attacks may occur “in multiple regions” employing “a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons” and targeting “official and private interests,” this alert basically tells folks that you could die in a terror attack anywhere in the world, at any time, for any number of reasons.
Is anywhere safe from terrorism? Japan? Israel? Finland? Canada? Tahiti? No. All are equally unsafe, according to this vaguely worded Alert. And by the way, it only expires in late February 2016.
ISIS, Boko Haram, al Qaeda et al. are awful, murderous groups. But this alert needlessly stokes fear among Americans about doing what they normally would have done this season. And that’s one of the goals that some of these organizations strive to accomplish.
The State Department seems to have forgotten President Roosevelt’s adage: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
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