Leading article: A damaging climate of fear

Related Topics

Last week's reports that terror attacks are being planned in Europe on the model of the atrocities committed in Mumbai in 2008 have prompted action from the US authorities. The State Department yesterday issued a "travel alert" to all US citizens planning to visit Europe, warning them to be vigilant. And our own Foreign Office followed soon after, suggesting that there is a "high threat" of an attack on the continent.

The intelligence reports which prompted these alerts should be taken seriously. It is clear that European cities are potentially vulnerable to the sort of commando-style suicide raid that took place in India's commercial hub two years ago. The death toll of the Mumbai attacks (which left around 173 dead) was fearful, especially considering the relatively small number of terrorists involved.

But the US alert, though less serious than an official advisory not to travel, is an unhelpful overreaction and a kick in the teeth for the European tourist industry. If intelligence had suggested US citizens were a specific target, the alert might have been justified. But there was nothing in the intelligence reports last week to suggest that. And the fact that no arrests were made after the report was leaked indicates how nebulous and undeveloped these plots must be.

Yet these sorts of alerts give the damaging impression that Europe is somehow unsafe in general. The implication is that the continent is made up of weak states such as Pakistan or Yemen which lack the capacity to disrupt these attacks or protect their populations. The Foreign Office's latest advice is even more misguided, since the UK is surely just as much a target as France or Germany.

What is most distasteful about the US warning, however, is the lack of solidarity it implies. America is hardly without its own domestic terror threat, as witnessed by the attempted car bombing in Times Square in May. Yet if European governments were to issue a travel alert on America, the US would, understandably, be irritated. Further, it has been suggested that this latest flurry of activity from terrorists with regard to European targets is a response to the increasing number of US drone attacks in Pakistan. This is a common danger and we surely need to face it together.

Terror threats are, sadly, now a fact of life across the Western world. Governments should, of course, act on specific information and warn their citizens accordingly. But the issuance of vague and slightly panicked travel alerts merely exacerbates a climate of fear and helps do the terrorists' job for them.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teacher require...

KS1 Teacher

£21500 - £31500 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work...

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Cyclists v the rest of the world – can we please call a truce?

Philip Hoare
Brooks Newmark  

If Brooks Newmark is ‘sick’ what does that say about the rest of us?

Simon Kelner
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style