What is a jaded rock journalist doing dodging landmines to talk to mercenaries and terrorists? And what kind of conversation can a man who prefers hunting for perfect three-minute pop songs and tubes of beer have with devotees of fasting and ferocity?
Sarajevo. Jerusalem. Kabul. Belfast. Kosovo. Gaza. Basra. New York City. Every place where recent history advertises the stubbornness, intolerance, bloodlust, and cowardice that sully our collective record, there the intrepid Andrew Mueller goes, skidding around the globe from failed state to ravaged war zone to desolate no-man’s-land to try to unpick why we humans seem so prone to plucking war from the jaws of peace.
En route, he meets various influential panjandrums (Al Gore, Gerry Adams, Bono, Paddy Ashdown), any number of assorted warlords and revolutionaries, and a sprinkling of peacemakers and do-gooders. He also manages to get shot at, locked up, and taken on a tour by one of the world’s most infamous terrorist organizations. It’s like a Bond film with much, much less sex, and might appear for that and other reasons to be substantially a story of disappointment. Yet it’s a surprisingly sunny book given the mire in which he finds himself.