A persistent journalist travels through war-torn Sri Lanka, seeking greater meaning in a terrorism-driven conflict.
On 9/11, Meadows was stranded in Paris, without a flight home to the United States. He stayed in Europe for a year, met his future wife and felt profoundly affected by this new kind of warfare. He decided to learn more about terrorism and picked Sri Lanka as a case study. In such a small country with a relatively isolated conflict, Meadows thought that he might be able to gain access to the nucleus of terrorism. Since 1983, the island nation off the Southern coast of India has been embroiled in conflict between the Tamil ethnic minority in the north and the sovereign Sinhalese majority. The Tamil forces are led by an insurgent militant group, the Tamil Tigers. The author sought entry into this group, hoping to apply lessons learned from them to his study of global terrorism. He began in the south, acclimating himself to the culture in a sleepy beach town, and then moved north on his motorcycle, traveling through the bustling capital of Colombo, the northern stronghold of Kandy and finally to Jaffna, the northernmost Tamil community, destroyed by years of fighting. The author’s persistence is impressive, as is his ability to gain access to some influential members of the Tigers, but his motives remain murky. Even though Meadows became invested in the country and its people, it’s unclear whether he actually gained further insight into global terrorism, or was just using Sri Lanka as a convenient, exotic example.
A somewhat interesting travelogue by motorcycle, but the author’s journey feels more like an abstract intellectual exercise than a genuine investigation into Sri Lanka’s unique, tragic situation.