by Nathan Hamm on 7/5/2004 · 3 comments

I’ve said many times that I thought I met Lutz Kleveman. He emailed me (I’m guessing it was his fact-checker, Ben, that alerted him) and clarified that he didn’t get to Tashkent until the beginning of October. Whoever I met was there a few days earlier. Both worked for London papers.

Regardless, I still disagree with Kleveman’s “it’s all about oil” analysis of Central Asia and the Caucasus and place very little stock in the work of journalists covering the region. This includes journalists I otherwise enjoy such as Robert Kaplan, whose The Ends of the Earth is short on facts and weak on analysis of Uzbekistan. I don’t care who you are, if you want to “solve the riddle,” you need to have qualifications. Journalists, sadly, rarely do. In places like Central Asia and the Caucasus, they doubly suffer from being cut out of “what’s really happening” by being both a foreigner and having to speak through local translators (who, in my experience in Uzbekistan, are more hindrance than help).

So, for whatever it’s worth, sorry Lutz. I was mistaken.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Lutz Kleveman July 5, 2004 at 2:59 pm

I, as well as all other journalists covering Central Asia, look forward to your book on the region which will undoubtedly be excellent. Keep up the good work!

praktike July 5, 2004 at 8:59 pm

I haven’t read the work in question, but I don’t think it’s fair to slam Kaplan as out-of -touch in the same way might slam your random NYT reporter in the region. After all, the dude did spend a fair bit of time hanging with the muj in Afghanistan during the 80s. Perhaps his limitations are elsewhere.

Nathan July 5, 2004 at 9:32 pm

Maybe I didn’t make it clear enough, but I was trying to just single out his Uzbekistan part of that book. I was trying to grab a journalist that I truly admire and really like who has written on Uzbekistan.

He is a sharp tack, that I don’t deny. He got some silly things wrong in his Uzbekistan stuff though. It’s not just that, but, as Tom Bissell put it, his “hammering insistence upon figuring out What Culture Means requires an accuracy commensurate to the conclusions he draws.”

I prefer Kaplan when he’s reporting or he’s more on the political theory/history side of things. When the twain meet, it’s really hard to get it right unless you’re a specialist, even if you’re as great as Kaplan.

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