5th Edition Even Better–Valuable to Business and Government,
I have learned two important lessons from this book, and from its author Robert Young Pelton:
First, trust no source that has not actually been there. He is not the first to point out that most journalists are “hotel warriors”, but his veracity, courage, and insights provide compelling evidence of what journalism could be if it were done properly. Government sources are even worse–it was not until I heard him speak candidly about certain situations that I realized that most of our Embassy reporting–both secret and open–is largely worthless because it is third hand, not direct.
Second, I have learned from this book and the author that sometimes the most important reason for visiting a war zone is to learn about what is NOT happening. His accounts of Chechnya, and his personal first-hand testimony that the Russians were terrorizing their Muslims in the *absence* of any uprising or provocation, are very disturbing. His books offers other accounts of internal terrorism that are being officially ignored by the U.S. Government, and I am most impressed by the value of his work as an alternative source of “national intelligence” and “ground truth”.
There are a number of very important works now available to the public on the major threats to any country’s national security, and most of them are as unconventional as this one–Laurie Garrett on public health, Marq de Villiers on Water, Joe Thorton on chlorine-based industry and the environment–and some, like Robert D. Kaplan’s books on his personal travels, are moving and inspiring reflections on reality as few in the Western world could understand it–but Robert Young Pelton is in my own mind the most structured, the most competent, the most truthful, and hence the most valuable reporter of fact on the world’s most dangerous places.
What most readers may not realize until they read this book is that one does not have to travel to these places to be threatened by them–what is happening there today, and what the U.S. government does or does not do about developments in these places, today, will haunt this generation and many generations to follow. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who cares to contemplate the real world right now.