Pros and Kons
The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert yesterday warning citizens to exercise extra caution if traveling to Europe, effective from now until Jan. 31. Apparently, when the name “Osama Bin Laden” enters airwaves, it’s time to stick our heads in the sand and wait until the safety of February travel. Unfortunately, the world does not strictly follow U.S. travel alerts. It’s never particularly safe to travel—and that shouldn’t matter.
In a nation overloaded with counter-terrorism and security experts and watchers, we have become masters of the vague threat alert. The latest: terrorists mimicking the tactics of the tragic 2008 Mumbai attacks in any one of Europe’s three biggest countries. Osama Bin Laden may or may not be involved; so might other leaders. Of course, the same experts who can divine terrorists’ intent do so only before strictly necessary. The official who spoke to the Associated Press also said there were no indications that there was a capability of such attacks to actually take place. So to summarize: Al-Qaeda wants to attack tourists in Europe but probably doesn’t have new methods to do so.
It’s been called “the joke of journalism.” Osama Saraya, the man ultimately responsible for its publication, fancies it “expressive.” There is a lot one can say about the doctored photo of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which upon its discovery has become a media sensation and a source of embarrassment to the Egypt government and its official newspaper (and apparent Photoshop user) Al-Ahram. Funny? The comparison of the photos is, undoubtedly. Inspiration for online parodies? Done—you can see Mubarak lead the moon landing. But CNN has called the controversy a triumph of new versus old in media—and in this case falls guilty of wrongly extrapolating from Western expectations.
Al-Ahram’s sneaky attempt to place Egypt in the forefront of the peace process was spotted by blogger Wael Khalil, whose blog post has since made the rounds of major media publications. Khalil himself seems to be amused by the attention his post has received—as recounted by the Huffington Post, his Twitter account announces, “Currently enjoying my moment as a famed blogger.” Video of the procession of leaders confirms Khalil as correct.
The Tea Party movement fancies itself the heir of those Founding Fathers who resisted additional British taxation in 1773. Tea partiers consider themselves at the vanguard of a grassroots, nationwide movement. Yet these “true” Americans could use a reality check by following the efforts of the Maoist movement in Nepal.
It is unlikely that the tea partiers will ever look for inspiration from a party seeking to introduce a Marxist administration in its home government. The Maoists, however, know how to convey their intentions to the utmost effect. The nation’s capital, Kathmandu, is currently under a general strike shutting down the city’s operations. While tens of thousands of protesters remain in the streets, only emergency vehicles may pass.
Every day, Harvard Square moves a little closer to Leicester Square in London and Huacaypata in Cusco. Of course, the earth is not shrinking. The natural features of the earth do not dramatically change—our expectations of transportation do. This past week, the earth has reminded us of our own limits through a volcano that has spelled even with its name: Eyjafjallajokull.
Iceland, geographically an isolated island, has become a symbol of the interdependence of the global community, both in the good and in the bad. When the financial crisis struck economies across the globe, the collapse of Iceland’s banks exacerbated the problem. In its aftermath, The Wall Street Journal has reported that investment from foreign banks in Iceland’s banking system severely worsened the damage.
In the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Harvard Square station, the printed motto of the United Services Organizations, the “bridge” between the American public and its military overseas, demands attention with its simple message: “USO: Until Every One Comes Home.” For decades and for the foreseeable future, this motto will remain. In today’s political reality, if you serve a world power, you can’t go home again.
The “War on Terror” marches on—and so do American soldiers. The United States has currently transported only a small amount of the 30,000 troops reassigned to Afghanistan from duty in Iraq. While one may find comfort in the simple fact that the situation in Iraq remains stable enough that American withdrawal can continue, the situation in Afghanistan provides no such cause for even cautious optimism. With President Hamid Karzai, the United States has likely created a monster it can neither easily control nor destroy. One cannot reasonably expect a day without U.S. troops in Afghan territory to come soon. As a global superpower, the U.S. will also continue to maintain personnel in Europe, Central America, and East Asia.