We’re Fine, Mom

A bomb went off in the Khan mar­ket­place in Cairo. We vis­it­ed the area sev­er­al times in the past week (and have plen­ty of authen­tic Pha­ron­ic crap to prove it). From what we’ve been told, the grenade injured sev­er­al French tourists and Egyp­tians, killing one young French woman. No one among the Amer­i­can embassy staff knows what this will mean. Do we issue secu­ri­ty warn­ings or advice Amer­i­cans not the vis­it the Khan? Egypt needs its tourism dol­lars, and on a geopo­lit­i­cal sense, we want Egypt as an ally.

An inter­est­ing con­cept this sad episode revealed to us is the notion of the “reverse trip­wire.” The secu­ri­ty staff here won­ders, if we advise Amer­i­cans not to vis­it the Khan, what event that makes it safe in the future? The trip­wire is easy to see: the explo­sion and death of a tourist. What is the reverse event that could make the mar­ket safer? Three months of peace? A year? The thing is: A nutjob will always be able to toss a grenade out of a win­dow.

Some may view this as crass polit­i­cal com­men­tary on a trag­ic day… so feel free to stop read­ing. But the reverse trip­wire con­cept applies on a larg­er scale. When does the war on ter­ror­ism end? When do we go back to “nor­mal” and say that full civ­il lib­er­ties are restored? Eight years of no ter­ror­ism by a for­eign nation­al on Amer­i­can soil? Osama dead? The thing is: Nutjobs will always be able to blow stuff up.

Self-evi­dent by my unplanned post­ing, we’re all fine here in Egypt. Today we’re hun­dreds of miles away from Cairo, cruis­ing down­riv­er on the Nile towards Lux­or and the Val­ley of the Kings.

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