What makes a place dangerous for travelers?
If we believe the newspaper, or even worse, the advisories of the government, traveling is one of the most dangerous things men can do. A trip of a month through Central America seems only slightly safer than a blindfolded stroll on the highway.
How much can we believe about this?
Are we really playing with our lives if we choose for a different trip than a fully arranged package holiday?
To me it seems like the government is always overreacting, as soon as there's only the slightest danger, they publish a negative travel advise. Of course it's the duty of the government to protect all of its citizens, even the - euhm - ones that are not smart enough to realize that they do not want to travel to Gaza unless they have some kind of interest there.
If people want to know if a certain region is safe for travel or not, the first place they look is the website of their government. Following are some advisories I've found.
Australian Government about Indonesia (2010)
Reconsider your need to travel: In past years, we have received information about possible terrorist attacks in Indonesia in the Christmas and New Year period. Analysts consider that gatherings of Westerners over the Christmas and New Year holiday season may again be appealing targets for terrorists.
UK Government about Argentina (2010)
There is an underlying threat from international terrorism. Attacks, although unlikely, could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
US Government about Singapore (Aug. 2009):
Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets, and Americans residing in or traveling to Singapore and neighboring countries should therefore exercise caution and remain vigilant about their surroundings, particularly in areas where Americans and other Westerners live, work, congregate, shop or visit.
US Government about Germany (Nov. 2009):
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens that over the past few months, Al Qaeda has released videos threatening to conduct terrorist attacks against German interests [...] The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to maintain good security practices at all times, and to maintain a heightened situational awareness and a low profile.
It's quite obvious that 9/11 did something to the global feeling of security, but come on, a travel alert against Germany because of possible terrorist attack?
This makes me wonder a lot about how the advisories looked like before the threat caused by terrorists. Was every country safe in those days? Or was there something else where everybody was afraid of?
On the other hand, the US Government even mentioned Luxembourg- the lamest country in the world - as a country with possible terrorist attacks, because it has open borders so terrorists can get easily in and out the country. This just means that you cannot be afraid for terrorism anymore, you can't hide for it because the threat is really everywhere, even in goddamn Luxembourg.
Next to terrorism, the government also does a lot to patronize their people while they're on a trip out of the country, which sometimes makes me feel a lot like I'm fourteen again.
"Don't have unprotected sex", "don't join any demonstrations", "don't trust people you don't know" and - I kid you not - "Be home before dark", or at least don't be on the street after dark.
When I'm passing border security back home, I'm kind of expecting them to say: "Let me smell your fingers... have you been smoking? Well have you? You're grounded buster!"
I think we can conclude here that if you're following the guidelines of the government, you'll be missing out on all the fun and probably have quite a risk for being attacked by a terrorist at your own home. Unless you live in Sierra Leone - where the government doesn't have a website - or in Liberia - where the government website doesn't have travel advisories.
Then what makes a country dangerous?
Luckily, in general you're not forming much threat to others - unless you're friends with Osama Bin Laden or just plain irresponsible - but only to yourself.
My point is that I think that you'll never be in danger if you are able to assess situations, and if you can't do that you probably also form quite a high risk at home. Actually the most dangerous is when something happens that you cant' expect, for example, being mugged in Luxembourg. You could never have assessed this, that's why I consider this similar to being hit by lightning. Shit does happen.
On the other hand, if you travel to Guatemala, you ought to know that buses on some routes are picked out very often by gangs. You can easily solve this threat by just not going on that route, fly if necessary or take a cab through the dangerous parts. If you do ride that bus, this means that you would do things of equal stupidity everywhere else too, so I think that you're in not less danger somewhere else.
Smartass says: "So you think I can safely travel in Liberia?"
No I do not, if you have any common sense you stay away from Liberia unless you really have a good reason to be there.
Even though I told you not to rely on the Government's advice, when you look at the BootsnAll article page for Liberia, you will find zero articles, I guess this must say something. If you're not convinced yet, have a look at the latest articles about Liberia on your favorite news website.
If you're still planning on going, that's totally your own right. There's nothing wrong with people who like to live on the edge and seek the danger.
But you can't make the country responsible for the danger, you're the one that has chosen to go there even though you knew about the current situation, so what really brought yourself in danger is...