The U.S. Department of State released a travel alert Tuesday, following recent attacks in Paris, Beirut and Mali. The alert expires on February 24, 2016, and does not suggest avoiding travel altogether. It rather urges citizens to “exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation.” This is an alert, not to be confused with a worldwide “caution.” We are told that the main distinction here is that an alert is time limited to 90 days and is not necessarily stronger or weaker than a caution.
Ryan Crocker, Dean at the George Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University, has served as ambassador to several countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. He says the alert serves to tell us that in the current environment there is a global danger. The Islamic State, Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda could strike anywhere, at any time.
“It’s just a reminder that wherever you are, don’t consider that it’s 100 percent safe,” Crocker says. “Just keep in your mind the possibility of danger. Be alert. Be cautious. It doesn’t mean be panicked or be paranoid. Just be aware of what’s going on around you and continue on with your activities. You’ve got to find a balance here. There is a clear and present danger out there, [but] we should not react in a way that causes us to dramatically change the way we live our lives. That is not what this alert is trying to do.”
Some might think the generic nature of the alert, providing no specifics other than to avoid large crowds and public places, is a message that travelers may easily tune out.
“I think this alert is an effort to get Americans to tune in, Crocker says. “The world is a little different after the Paris attacks… so it’s time just to pay attention to what’s going on around you.
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.