Over the years since President Obama first took office, he has lectured Americans about the receding tide of war, al Qaeda on the run, and, more recently, ISIS (or, as the administration has it, ISIL) being degraded, slated for ultimate destruction, and, even more recently, “contained.” Meanwhile, the world is getting ever more dangerous. Over the past six months alone, the State Department in its efforts to keep up with the turmoil and threats has issued more than three dozen travel warnings for Americans thinking of visiting places from Eritrea to Mali, Lebanon, Colombia, Sudan, El Salvador, Nigeria, Tanzania, Cameroon, Burma, Nepal, Mali, the Philippines, Kenya, Turkey… and of course Syria, Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
Now, in the aftermath of the ISIS terrorist attacks on Paris, with ISIS threatening strikes on America, and Brussels heading into its fourth day on lockdown, the State Department is taking a more wholesale approach. Today, as PJ Media’s Bridget Johnson reports, the State Department issued a “Worldwide Travel Alert,” warning U.S. citizens of “possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats.”
The warning applies not only to the threats from ISIS/ISIL/Daesh (or whatever else we’re calling the Jayvee team these days) but also to threats from “unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations, but conducted on an individual basis” (in business, we’d call that a franchise). State’s worldwide travel warning gives examples of the kinds of events and locations that have been targeted this past year by “extremists,” and are presumably to be avoided, including “large sporting events, theaters, open markets, and aviation services.” State is advising Americans to “exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation,” and to avoid both crowded places and “large crowds.”
So, what might this translate into in practice?
Two things come to mind. On the lighter side, for the sake of the State Department I hope no one allows this travel warning to reach the university campuses of the United States. Trigger warning: State’s advice is on a collision course with those “safe spaces” that are now the prime mission of the academy. There’s a “conversation” in the making here that could rival the final moments of HAL the computer, in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Then there’s the broader question: For Americans who wish to travel, or even do business abroad, in this brave new world, with its “receding tide of war” and whatnot, what’s still safe to do?
Tough one. Aviation is threatened, and so are crowded places, so forget airplanes and airports. Forget most travel terminuses generally, because they are often crowded, and though State did not mention it in this global alert, past jihadi attacks have also targeted trains (Madrid) and other forms of public transportation (London), as well as hotels (Mumbai, Mali). Theaters and sporting events are potentially places of danger. So is anyplace that might attract a large crowd. So forget popular entertainment, busy hotels, lively restaurants, or major tourist attractions.
Open markets, as State reminds us, are also places of potential peril. So don’t figure you’re safe if you duck away from the train station, or the hotel, or the main tourist square, to go shopping among the locals. And be especially careful during the holiday season, or at “holiday festivals or events” — which, if you check the calendar of holidays worldwide, pretty much means that you should be especially careful most of the time, as well as pretty much anywhere.
So, for Americans who wish to travel safely abroad in this era of Obama’s outstretched hand, amid U.S. “engagement” with the world and the ending of “overseas contingency operations,” what’s left? Go figure. Maybe while sheltering in place some American tech wizard will come up with a way to teleport travelers direct to such havens as New Zealand — way out there in the Pacific, with lots of gorgeous terrain, inhabited by 4.5 million people and 30 million sheep. Though even there, in this era of the receding tide of war, the authorities have been warning of individuals with links to “extremist” groups — so maybe you still want to avoid the cities.