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Katsos_John151 karma

My first few trips it was ulcers, then I got over it. If you are with people you can trust on the ground, it makes everything easier and less stressful. Also having a routine for pre-travel, travel, and post-travel really helps. I think you also start to get a better sense of when you're in actual danger (and when you're not) the more you travel to these places and especially the more you travel to safer parts of the same countries.

Katsos_John92 karma

What we've seen (which are really multi-decade trends) is the decline in countries directly fighting other countries and the rise of civil wars (with external actors supporting one side or the other). It's not that the direct state v. state conflicts don't happen, they're just much rarer than they used to be compared to civil wars and internal violence.

For businesses (our main research subjects) it's weird frankly. A country might have a civil war raging in one part of the country while the other is safe and relatively stable. Iraq is a great example - we did a study there when ISIS was pushing through its Western border and you wouldn't know it in large parts of the rest of the country, especially among businesses.

Katsos_John82 karma

Having excellent local contacts is the best skill you can have. Nothing can replace them. They know where to go, who to talk to, and when to leave.

The second behavior is related: blend in as best you can. It's best not to draw any attention to yourself not only for your own safety but for the safety of whoever you are talking to. When you can't blend in, smile. It usually helps.

As for defusing situations, I was traveling in Cyprus (by far the safest of any conflict you could possibly go to) and had a Northern Cypriot border guard threaten to shoot me (his English was really good!) for taking a picture of his vehicle in front of a building. Luckily I had dealt with border guards before and knew this was an aberration - these guys are normally like every other bored border officer you might ever interact with in Europe. This guy was clearly having a bad day. So I stayed calm and offered to delete the photo while he watched. After I did so, he then apologized profusely. He really was just having a bad day - his wife had just left him. I still never figured out what the issue with the picture was.

Katsos_John58 karma

I am never personally armed. I find that, the more weapons there are, the more chance of getting shot. So I'll be honest - I try to avoid the places where I need armed support!

It's usually better (and makes interviewers much more comfortable in addition) to meet somewhere where you don't need that armed protection. Even if you're in a country that generally has conflict, there are almost always large swaths of territory where it's perfectly safe.

Your second question about armed civilians has a pretty clear empirical answer - fewer weapons in general reduces deaths and more weapons generally increases the numbers of deaths.

Katsos_John38 karma

Tough to say honestly. A similar troop buildup happened earlier this year that led to a Biden-Putin meeting (and the subsequent withdrawal of the buildup). So it might just be a negotiating tactic. Or it could be a follow-through of that earlier action.

Something we've seen in other contexts though is that it's very hard to predict exactly when a conflict will "catch fire" so to speak, but really easy to tell that it's coming. People on the ground have the best sense of this - so many businesses we've spoken to that thrived in crisis times thrived because they were paying close attention and had prepared (even though they admittedly didn't know exactly when it would happen). It's like earthquake-proofing your home in California.