Leading article: A damaging climate of fear

Share
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Balls has ruled out a return to politics - for now  

For Labour to now turn round and rubbish what it stood for damages politics even more

Ian Birrell
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?