Front lines

Reporting on economics and finance ordinarily does not mean putting yourself in mortal danger.

Unless, that is, the stories -- like those that make up this month’s cover package, “Under the Gun” (beginning on page 38) -- require travel to Iraq and Afghanistan. To get the lowdown on the reconstruction efforts in those war-ravaged countries, we turned to two intrepid veteran foreign correspondents, Contributing Editor Donald Kirk, who has been writing for Institutional Investor since 2001, and Contributor Eric Ellis, a newcomer to these pages.

Seoul-based Kirk arrived in Baghdad on June 28, the day the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority turned over the government to interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Kirk spent the next month interviewing senior officials as well as ordinary Iraqis for “Up from the Ruins.” The author of five books (the latest: Korean Crisis: Unraveling of the Miracle in the IMF Era, Palgrave Macmillan), Kirk found himself in harm’s way when his hotel was hit by rocket fire on July 2.

Kirk, who covered the Vietnam War for nearly a decade for the Chicago Tribune and the now-defunct Washington Star, is hopeful about Iraq’s future. “There is such potential here, such a yearning for peace,” he says. Vietnam, Kirk adds, was safer for reporters and “didn’t have the kidnappings and threats of beheadings.”

On assignment for II and other publications, Ellis spent five weeks this year in Afghanistan, where he was impressed by the courage and grace of its extraordinary Finance minister, Ashraf Ghani, who must struggle not only with local warlords but with the cancer that has claimed nearly all of his stomach. “One is struck by the dynamism and entrepreneurism there: Ordinary people are genuinely committed to making the place normal,” says Ellis.

Together his and Kirk’s accounts provide fresh insight, through an economic prism, into a vital if turbulent part of the world.

I am saddened to note the untimely death of David Fairlamb, an award-winning journalist who was most recently with BusinessWeek. Many readers will remember David’s work for Institutional Investor from 1987 to 1999, particularly his groundbreaking stories on the transformation of the Russian economy post-perestroika. II’s European editor from 1994 to 1999, David was a first-rate writer and a fine colleague.