Ann Marlowe

Ann Marlowe, a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a writer and businesswoman based in New York City. In 2011, she made four trips to Libya to cover the revolution and war and returned twice in 2012. She is working on a book that will follow Libya's first year post-Gaddafi. Between 2002 and 2011 she traveled regularly to Afghanistan and published often on Afghanistan's politics, economy, culture and the U.S. counterinsurgency there. Her articles have appeared in the op –ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and New York Post, and in the Weekly Standard, Daily Beast,,,and many other publications. She tweets regularly (@annmarlowe) and blogs on Libya, the Arab Spring, the links between war and art and the cultural aspects of counterinsurgency for World Affairs at:

Her monograph on the life and intellectual context of David Galula was published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College in summer 2010. Ms. Marlowe has also published two memoirs and is one of the contributers to A New Literary History of America (Harvard University Press, 2009).

Ms. Marlowe is a regular guest on the John Batchelor radio show discussing Libya, Afghanistan and counterinsurgency. She has also appeared on Fox's "Happening Now", PBS’s “Ideas in Action” with Jim Glassman, VOA, RTTV, and other television programs. She has spoken at U.S. Army bases, the Army War College, U.S. State Department, the Institut d'Histoire du Temps Present in Paris, and American colleges. In 2009, she was a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution and returned there for a research fellowship in 2010.

Ms. Marlowe was born in Suffern, New York in 1958 and educated at public schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She received her B.A. in philosophy magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1979 and studied classical philosophy there in the Ph.D. program in 1979-80. In 1984, she received an MBA in finance from Columbia University's Graduate School of Business.

Libya Needs Financial Disclosure Laws for Politicians

September 13th, 2015

originally published in the Libya Herald on September 12 2015:

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Op-Ed: Rebuilding public trust in the Libyan government through financial disclosure

By Ann Marlowe.

12 September 2015:

The recent nomination of twelve names for two of the three top positions in Libya’s hoped–for unity government by the House of Representatives (HoR) will be debated on many grounds, but regardless of opinions on the candidates, or the selection process, this moment provides an opportunity for Libyans to rebuild trust in government. So does the upcoming end of the mandate of the internationally-recognised governing body, the HoR, which may lead to new elections.

One relatively quick fix that would have enormous positive effects would be introducing financial disclosure requirements for candidates for cabinet positions and for the legislature – including the twelve names from the HoR. Another related measure is requiring candidates who are currently civil servants or diplomats to pass muster under existing Libyan laws governing state officials.

Much recent political discussion in Libya has circled around the issue of legitimacy of political institutions (the rival HoR and General National Congress in Tripoli) and of past elections. To a lesser extent, there has been a dialogue about the legitimacy of political candidates, mainly around the issue of the 2013 Political Isolation Law. But issues that developed democracies take for granted, such as assuring the probity and financial honesty of political candidates, have been hardly addressed in Libya.

One unfortunate reaction to the Qaddafi era has been that anyone who was an opponent of the regime, even anyone who was jailed by the regime, now has built-in credibility. This neglects the fact that Qaddafi jailed many common criminals who would also have been convicted and jailed by American or English courts. The result has been that ex-cons have served, and still serve, in very high positions in Libya, with predictably bad results. This in turn has led to decreasing trust in government and the political process, resulting in the low turnout of around 18 percent in the June 2014 HoR elections.

Moving Libya from a low to a high trust society is a generational challenge. Establishing a culture of democracy, as well as a nominally democratic political system, is also the work of decades.

But increasing trust in government – and turnout in the next parliamentary elections – can be jump-started by some methods that have worked in other countries, including countries with difficult histories.

Requiring all candidates for the unity government to fill out a public financial disclosure is as new to Libya as free and fair elections, but a precedent for such a disclosure law is found in Libyan Law 3 of 1970, which requires a financial declaration by civil servants and diplomats. Article One of Law 3 states:

The holders of the public offices, judiciary and public prosecution, diplomatic corps and consulates members, officers of the armed forces and police, titled official of the government and local administration or public associations and corporations, and whoever is designated, as permanent or temporary, paid or unpaid, to public service or assumes public prosecution status, shall submit within forty five days from the date of his nomination or designation or gaining public service, a financial disclosure for himself, spouse and minor children. (

Law No 3/1970, of course, dates from very early in the Qaddafi period when corruption was not a hallmark of government.

The law could be extended from office-holders to office-seekers. To adopt to Libyan culture, disclosures could be posted on a Facebook page.

The US requires very extensive disclosure for Congressional candidates and even this has not completely kept the crooks out. But the burden of disclosure and resulting media scrutiny tends to discourage egregiously dishonest potential candidates. It would have the same effect in Libya.

The candidates would have to list all assets, companies, shareholdings, directorships and other business involvements that they have. And those who win office would have to do what American officials do: put their financial holdings in a blind trust while they are in power, and make an annual declaration of assets so it could be seen whether they were enriching themselves in office. Libyan law currently mandates that holders of high office declare their assets when entering and when leaving office.

The second measure, the requirement that all candidates be in compliance with existing Libyan laws, would have the benefit of increasing respect for the rule of law and knowledge of Libyan laws as well as eliminating those candidates who have violated the laws. It is often forgotten that Articles 77 and 78 of the Civil Service Act prohibit Libyan civil servants – including diplomats– from “engagement in business of any kind” or corporate board memberships, unless they are serving as representatives of the body they work for (e.g. an official of the LIA serving on a board on an LIA subsidiary).

This brings up another important point. Almost every Libyan says he or she wants “the rule of law”, but many Libyans are neither aware of the country’s laws nor aware of the many violations of these laws by recent political actors from all parts of the spectrum.

Anyone can look up most of Libya’s laws on this website:

Libya’s economic crime laws are full of repetitions and the punishments are often absurdly weak. But they are a beginning, and they are parallel to laws in other Arab countries and to Continental law. (And no, the source of these laws is not the sharia.) Enforcing these laws would have a huge effect in dismantling a culture of impunity.

Worldwide, there is plenty of precedent for financial disclosure both by candidates for office and by office-holders..

Most countries require financial disclosure for high officials:

A more extensive World Bank survey of 176 jurisdictions completed in 2012 shows that 137 (78 percent) have financial disclosure systems. 93 percent of those countries require disclosure for cabinet members, 91 percent for members of parliament and 62 percent for high-ranking prosecutors. However, only 43 percent of countries provide the pubic with open access to public officials’ financial disclosures.

Even developing countries make this information available online:

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and Paraguay have been at the forefront of efforts in Latin America to design and create electronic platforms that publish information about government officials’ personal assets (and also about procurement), according to a 2012 report by FUNDAR.

Libya has, perhaps, a second chance at a better future this autumn. Increasing the hurdles for political candidates, and increasing respect for the rule of law, can only help in the road ahead. The precedent is in Libyan laws.

The Libyan Civil Service Law
Article (77)
Combination of Employment with other Jobs
1 – A civil servant may not combine two jobs himself or through intermediation if such job may harm the performance of the duties of his profession or it is in contrary to its requirements.
2 – – A civil servant may not perform works for others , paid with salary or requital , even during the leaves or after the official work hours the unless a written permission is obtained from the competent Minister and in accordance with the cases and conditions prescribed by the Executive Regulation . The Executive Regulation shall regulate the cases in which the scientific and professional qualifications holders are permitted to perfume these professions after the official work hours.
3- The civil servant may perform , and paid with salary or requital , the of acts curatorship or guardianship or judicial assistance if the person who is under the civil servant’s guardianship or curatorship or the absent person or the person for whom the judicial assistant has been designated for, has a kinship or family relationship as to fourth degree; and he may hold in escrow the assets in which he or one of his relatives or in- laws as to fourth degree, is a partner or an interested party; and also if he is a holder in escrow in accordance with a law , provided that he shall report to the administrative units he works for.
Article (78)
The civil servant himself or through intermediation is prohibited from conducting any of the prohibited and banned activities prescribed by the valid laws or regulations or statues and particularly prohibited from:
A) Buying real estate or movables which the administrative or judicial authorities put up for sale at the entity where he works.
B) Engagement in businesses of any kind, or having interest in bids or auctions or contracting, or tenders related to his work.
C) Act to get in on the establishment of companies or to accept the membership of its board or any position in the company except when he acts as a delegate of one of the administrative unites or obtains the license for the membership or work from the competent body.
D) Renting, with an intention to exploit in the entity where he works, real estate or movables if such exploitation is related to his work.


Ann Marlowe is a writer and visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute and a consultant to a branch of the Libyan state that is neutral in the current conflict.

An Afghan Tale

June 28th, 2015

Originally appeared in The Weekly Standard:

An Afghan Tale
Reality and unreality at a Combat Outpost.
Ann Marlowe
July 6 – July 13, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 41

The Valley is marketed as a police procedural set in a remote American military outpost in Afghanistan, and it is a page-turner, all 448 of them. It’s also so cunningly constructed that I had to read it twice to be sure I understood everything that was going on—and there are still a few loose ends. But it’s also an ambitious, if reticent, novel about good and evil, friendship and leadership, courage and shame that mainly succeeds.

Like a classic Agatha Christie country-house murder mystery, The Valley has a very limited geographic area and cast of characters. We follow Lieutenant Black—no first name—who’s been sent to a small American combat outpost to conduct a routine investigation: A villager’s house was damaged when an American soldier fired a warning shot in an unruly Afghan crowd, and the village chief complained to a passing civil affairs captain. Lieutenant Black is due to spend a week filling out the paperwork. Meanwhile, he has his own demons: Something has gone very wrong in what should have been a promising Army career, and this is a chance for him to prove himself.

The ramshackle Combat Outpost (COP) Vega—supposed to be the furthest-east, most isolated, and most dangerous American outpost in a Nuristan valley that ends at the Pakistan border—is home to 47 soldiers and one translator, or “terp,” named Danny, the major Afghan character. The men are fighting with not only the Taliban but the villagers, who are also fighting the Taliban. Five days before Black’s arrival, a soldier from Vega fell behind 10 meters on a nighttime patrol and got snatched by locals. His end was gruesome.

In Army-speak, COP Vega is a “self-licking ice cream cone”: an isolated fort so poorly situated that it mainly exists to defend itself rather than to extend American control over terrain or people. Small wonder that the men are half-crazy with stress and treat Black as an enemy. It’s not even so odd that one soldier may be a killer. It is odd, though, that a soldier no one has heard of is listed on the personnel roster, and that another soldier Black meets in the flesh isn’t on the roster.

The U.S. Army doesn’t lose track of soldiers. Or does it?

The Valley draws as much on the conventions of gothic fiction as crime fiction: COP Vega is a castle clinging to a fog-wrapped mountain, surrounded by hostile, poorly understood forces. Black’s trip to COP Vega on a classically pitch-black, rainy night is full of ominous foreshadowing. There’s a joking road sign pointing to “Xanadu,” a cryptic warning to “beware he who would be king.”

The Valley gives the best description of the American military base environment (and the post-9/11 Army) that I’ve ever read, both accurate in the details and evocative in atmosphere. John Renehan nails the big Forward Operating Bases (which are anything but forward) and the tiny, patched-together COPs up in the hills or on dusty plains where the rubber meets the road. He also captures the tensions between noncommissioned officers and junior lieutenants, and between junior enlisted and NCOs. This is all, by extension, a portrait of America today. Consider this:

The room was standard-issue meathead. Heavy-metal posters and jugs of workout powder. An Xbox video game system sat on a shelf beneath a small and beat-up monitor.

Or this description of Lieutenant Pistone, the commander of COP Vega:

He became your squared-away super-soldier, in his own way. Fastidiously organized, diligent about physical training. Not necessarily a good leader. He walked around with the sound track of his freshly awesome life playing in his head. He tended to forget that succeeding in the military was not so much about his own cosmic journey to heroism as it was about how good he was at dealing with people, handling people, taking care of people.

It comes as a shock to read in Renehan’s acknowledgments that the pain-stakingly observed Afghan setting is a work of imagination. Renehan served as an artillery officer in Iraq and has never been to Afghanistan. As this suggests, Renehan is not only a brilliant writer, but a very clever one. Still, there are some first-novel fault lines here: The Valley is written in a close third-person, almost entirely from the point of view of Lieutenant Black. (The couple-dozen pages that take the points of view of other characters are far less successful.) But there’s a major surprise at the end, and the closeness of the narration makes it seem as though the author is pulling a fast one on us.

More seriously, I wish the novelist had opened up his main character more toward the end. He has elegantly avoided all the redemption clichés we might have expected, but the ending feels a bit choked, and The Valley ends on an uncertain note.

Renehan has spoken in an interview of writing a sequel, and I can’t wait; I hope there’s a movie, too. “You are [a] man who needs the truth,” the Afghan terp Danny says to Lieutenant Black. And we need these truths about our wars and our soldiers, too.

Ann Marlowe, a writer in New York, was embedded with the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions in Afghanistan.

Behind the Mediterranean Migrant ‘Crisis’

June 2nd, 2015

Ann Marlowe
Sinking Ships
06.02.154:25 PM ET

The flood of people struggling across the water from Africa began long ago. What’s new is Europe’s misreading of the situation in Libya—and the number of people dying.
We’ve been reading a lot recently about the tragic deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean en route from Libyan ports to Italy—the port of first arrival for the overwhelming majority of migrants—and also about some notably bad ideas for solving the “crisis,” including Italy’s suggestion of putting European Union boots on the ground in Libya and destroying ships in ports there. Libya’s recognized government has rejected these ideas while signaling its willingness to do all it can to help solve the problem.
In fact, just a little digging into the facts shows that politics are playing as big a role as humanitarian concerns.
First and foremost among the bad ideas is the perverse E.U. and U.N. insistence that the way to address the issue is through a Libyan “unity government,” by which they mean bringing together elements from the Islamist Fajr coalition that seized Tripoli last August with the legitimate elected legislature in Tobruk and the cabinet it chose. “As long as there will not be a unity government that will exercise its legitimate authority over the entire territory of the country and its land and sea borders, the situation is likely to continue this way,” E.U. foreign policy head Federica Mogherini declared last month.
Problem is, most of the illegal migration to Europe relying on Libyan boats originates from the western coastal towns of Libya from Misrata to Zwara, with the cooperation of the Taliban-ish Fajr militias controlling these areas who cash in on the traffic. Tobruk, where the recognized legislature sits, is just 194 nautical miles or 360 km from Crete, yet there is no problem with vessels leaving Tobruk packed with migrants heading to Crete.
So the E.U./U.N. approach is like “solving” Mexico’s drug problem by bringing the cartels into the government.
Libya already tried that—it was called the Gaddafi regime. Under Gaddafi, as a 2014 U.S. Institute of Peace report on migration states, “the illicit economy was largely state sponsored.” Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had warm relations with Gaddafi. So the Italian approach to migration in the Berlusconi years was a bit different. In fact, it involved forcibly returning migrants to Libya without investigating asylum claims.
According to a September 2009 Human Rights Watch report, “Italian patrol boats tow migrant boats from international waters without determining whether some might be refugees, sick or injured, pregnant women, unaccompanied children, or victims of trafficking or other forms of violence against women…. The policy is an open violation of Italy’s legal obligation not to commit refoulement—the forced return of people to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened or where they would face a risk of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.” The full report is well worth reading.
The E.U./U.N. approach is like “solving” Mexico’s drug problem by bringing the cartels into the government.
So, because Gaddafi’s minions had their fingers in the smuggling pie, and Gaddafi was pals with Berlusconi, Italy was not asking the E.U. to put boots on the ground in Libya or destroy fishing boats to stop the human trafficking.
Reading news reports, one might have the impression that the number of migrants to Italy has increased dramatically in 2015, but this is only true of recent weeks, after the E.U. announced new rescue efforts (and threatened a crackdown on smugglers’ boats). Just last weekend, more than 5,000 were rescued, bringing the total this year to upwards of 40,000.
But until May the numbers in 2015 were running well below the 35,000 for the first five months of 2011 when the Gaddafi regime wobbled and Libya’s borders became more porous.
About 26,000 migrated by sea in the first five months of 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration. But in 2006, even when the Gaddafi regime was firmly in control, 22,000 people arrived in Italy by boat from North Africa, and 19,900 in 2007.
There has been a migrant crisis in 2015—but of deaths, not of absolute migrant numbers. More than 1,800 migrants have died in 2015 to date.
The terrible death rate in 2015 is due to many factors, including the suspension in October of Italy’s Mare Nostrum search and rescue program which covered a much wider area of the Mediterranean than that now patrolled by what’s called Frontex; the switch by some traffickers to using plastic Zodiacs rather than sturdier wooden fishing boats; and the fact that many migrants are no longer supplied by traffickers with life jackets. (Nice folks.)
Of course, all of this begs the question of why tens of thousands of Africans think it worth a more than 4 percent risk of death to escape their home countries, and why the world won’t pressure governments like Eritrea—the single largest source of migrants as of the end of April—as well as Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria and Gambia to improve conditions. Not to mention Syria. But it’s easier for the E.U. and U.N. to pretend that the citizens of these tyrannical, corrupt or failed states have a right to become citizens of the E.U. than to deal with their rights under the U.N. Charter to have a decent, free life in their home countries.
Until the E.U. and U.N. are able to identify and punish the real culprits for the tragic deaths in the Mediterranean—ranging from Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to the rulers of the Sub-Saharan African countries that most of the migrants flee, to the Islamist militias that fund their reign of terror in Libya by human trafficking—it is unlikely that there will be any solution to this problem. And until the west coast of Libya as well as the east is governed responsibly, the human traffickers will continue to prey on these desperate refugees.