THE BLOG
08/07/2013 11:39 am ET Updated Oct 07, 2013

Latest Terror Threat: Looking for More Than Just a Headline

The American people deserve better. Over the course of the last few days, anyone who's caught a glimpse of the news is cognizant of the fact that the United States and several European nations have taken stringent action to protect their citizens and diplomats overseas. After intercepting what it deemed credible threats, the U.S. closed nearly two dozen of its embassies and diplomatic posts located primarily in the Middle East and North Africa, and most recently announced that 19 closures would extend through August 10. Britain, France and Germany followed suit and announced closure of their embassies in Yemen specifically for a few days, while INTERPOL issued its own global security alert. Americans have been issued travel warnings, and all four nations reserve the right to take further precautions depending on the situation on the ground. While no one is questioning the need for such drastic measures (as evidenced by the latest reports that al Qaeda in Pakistan reportedly communicated with al Qaeda in Yemen to carry out an attack), it does warrant a deeper focus into the root causes of the current unprecedented crisis. Why such severe action? Why these countries in particular? Why is it that only four nations had to close their embassies? And why is Yemen especially a cause for concern? Instead of just reading quick headlines and talking points, how about a more nuanced candid conversation.

Whether it's in journalism circles, on college campuses, around dinner tables or on TV programs like the The Daily Show, the discussion surrounding the demise of substantive journalism in this U.S. is prevalent everywhere. With limited overseas bureaus and reporters, news outlets have subsequently scaled back their focus on international stories. Couple that with corporate dollars funding our media and shaping our views, and you're left with an increasingly less informed and isolated public. The elimination and reduction of in-depth reporting/coverage has unquestionably resulted in a population that is more focused on itself and less concerned with its role in the world. But the reality is, we, arguably the most powerful country still, are more entrenched in global activities than ever before. And it's that disconcerting combination that should make everyone pause.

In a post-9/11 era, the U.S. has been fighting a seemingly endless war on terrorism. At a time when Bin Laden is no longer in existence and the Bush administration is no longer in office, we must ask ourselves why we are so proactively entrenched in every corner of the world -- specifically in those countries located in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Every reasonable American believes in preventing terrorism and keeping ourselves safe, but does the need for safety balance our involvement abroad? Every time we put boots on the ground, or utilize predator drones to do the dirty work, we are not only getting the bad guys, but also killing innocent civilians in countless numbers -- literally, because there are no accurate accounts of such tragedies released by the government. For each terrorist killed, there are unknown amounts of individuals who then become radicalized because their wives, mothers, children, fathers, husbands, distant relatives, friends and neighbors have been killed or injured. Aren't we then, in effect, creating more of a problem than actually solving one?

What I'm arguing is nothing new; others have stated it before. But unfortunately, it seems to fall on deaf ears more often than not. Because we as Americans don't see the images of slain babies, children with lost limbs, mothers flattened to the ground while clutching their young and other horrid realities, we are not even aware of many of the atrocities committed under our name. It's a vicious, troubling cycle because the more we attack and ostensibly occupy, the more extremists we create as a result. Just in the last few weeks, several prison breaks in places like Pakistan, Libya and Iraq have potentially released hundreds of individuals possibly ready to seek some sort of revenge. And only upon the announcement of embassy closures has there been some coverage of these prison breaks here at home.

Now before the Islamophobes and others begin to attack me, let me be perfectly clear and say that I would never ever condone or justify the activities of terrorists, just as I do not condone or justify the killing of innocent civilians. What I am doing however, is attempting to raise the level of consciousness of sound, reasoned people who should be worried when we receive headlines about the closure of our embassies without a larger conversation of the surrounding issues. At a time when our drone campaign in Pakistan has reduced somewhat, it has only increased exponentially in Yemen. And unsurprisingly, that has spawned more militants and a more dangerous environment.

Whenever we now speak of our involvement overseas, it's always done in the context of our allied partners who are assisting us. It should also come as no shock then that it is precisely those partners that are now forced to close their embassies. Because we still lead the way, we were forced to take the most dramatic steps; the others shut down in Yemen and issued their own alerts because that is where the most action has been taking place. The allied partners' particular vigilance at this moment in Yemen is a direct result of everyone's particular military vigilance in that region. This is not to say that retaliation is acceptable, but we cannot continue to pretend that our own actions won't be used against us. It's a reality that we must confront because it is clearly knocking on our doorstep.

It's a sad day when our government has to shut down our embassies and diplomatic posts in such vast numbers. But it's an equally sad day when nobody really questions or digs beyond the surface into why such extreme actions must be taken. Americans have been warned not to travel to certain areas, but they have not been educated as to why those warnings were instilled. As we continue to heed this caution and watch events play out, it would be nice if somebody, anybody, told us exactly why.