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, Forbes.com, TNR.com,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: http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/new/blogs/marlowe

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, BloggingHeadsTV.com 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.


Will Donald Trump’s Data-Analytics Company Allow Russia to Access Research on U.S. Citizens?

August 23rd, 2016

Originally published in tabletmag.com on August 22 2016 (http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/211152/trump-data-analytics-russian-access)

Tracing the suspicious-looking, and messy, ties between a Ukrainian oligarch, an elections-information firm, and the GOP candidate’s former campaign manager

The Trump campaign has hired Ted Cruz’s former data-analysis firm, Cambridge Analytica—and in doing so, it has connected itself with a British property tycoon, Vincent Tchenguiz, and through him with the Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, a business associate of Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who resigned last week. It would be hard to find a better example of why the ownership of the companies that collect data on the American electorate matters.

What Cambridge does is what marketers have done for some time now: segment potential customers (in this case, voters) by their buying habits, lifestyle, and psychology. It most famously worked on the “Leave.” campaign during Brexit voting in the United Kingdom.

Cambridge Analytica’s British parent company, SCL, has attracted criticism for some unusual strategies, such as trying to persuade opposition supporters not to vote in a Nigerian election, using the influence of “local religious figures.”

Mainly, though, SCL and CA both seem to have some pretty tired ideas. “The firm groups people according to where they fall on the so-called OCEAN scale, which psychologists use to measure how open, conscientious, extroverted, agreeable, or neurotic they are,” Wired reported in April. There’s nothing evil—or particularly smart—about this “psychological profiling,” which has been around for decades, and it’s questionable if it actually works to predict voting behavior.

CA obviously didn’t sprinkle the right kind of fairy dust for Cruz; a recent news item has it that the campaign felt it was CA to develop its product. Others say the firm doesn’t quite “get” American politics and has reliability issues: As Advertising Age quoted a consultant: “The product comes late or it’s not quite what you envisioned.”

But what’s worrisome is that CA, as The Wall Street Journal reports, is not just relying on public records:

Cambridge Analytica is surveying tens of thousands of Britons across the country on issues including partisanship, personality, and their concerns about EU membership. The company will then fuse those findings with other publicly available data on voters to produce advice for how “Leave. EU” should target their messaging more specifically through multiple channels.

Between “big data,” cyberwarfare, and new levels of detail in election polling, Americans ought to be thinking seriously about who owns the firms that collect this data.

And because CA is linked to U.K. property mogul Vincent Tchenguiz, who himself has connections to Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, a Putin protégé (and Paul Manafort business associate) it’s possible the information CA collects might be shared with people who are not friendly to American democracy—not that Donald Trump thinks there’s anything wrong with Putin, Firtash, and others like them.

For 10 years, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company’s largest shareholder was Vincent Tchenguiz, who, together with his brother Robert, is estimated to be worth £850 million (about $1.1 billion). Even today, a year after Tchenguiz divested his shares, SCL Group Chairman Julian Wheatland, who is also one of the company’s four directors, is a Tchenguiz employee.

Tchenguiz used the same Guernsey holding company, Wheddon Ltd., to invest both in Cambridge Analytica’s parent company in the U.K. and in another privately held U.K. business whose largest shareholder was the Ukrainian gas middleman Dmitry Firtash. (To buy into a privately held business you normally need the approval of the biggest shareholders, who were Firtash and Raymond Asquith, who also works for Firtash.) Firtash, indicted in 2014 by the United States in a complex bribery case, is under a sort of house arrest in Austria, free on $175 million bail, while the U.S. continues to attempt, unsuccessfully, to extradite him. He has already been stripped of some of his Ukrainian assets by prosecutors there.

Many articles have reported that the U.S. billionaire Robert Mercer is the owner of Cambridge, but some basic Googling would have shown that this isn’t true. The Daily Beast got it right; Cambridge Analytica’s press releases refer to it as “the U.S. subsidiary of SCL Group.” But the relationship between Cambridge Analytica and SCL is far from easy to decipher.

The privately-held SCL Group Ltd. (UK co. #05514098) has a half-dozen subsidiaries, with an overlapping group of directors. One subsidiary is SCL Elections. Cambridge Analytica’s website in December 2015 listed its New York address as Suite 2703 in the News Corp. building, 1211 Avenue of the Americas, the same New York address formerly listed on SCL Elections’ website as its New York office. (Both websites have since been updated, with new addresses.) SCL Elections is entirely owned by executive Alexander Nix.

Meanwhile, another related company, SCL USA, incorporated in January 2015 and entirely owned by SCL Elections, changed its name to Cambridge Analytica UK Ltd. on April 14 of this year. Confusingly, its U.K. address, 1 Westferry Circle, is not the same as either the address of SCL Elections or the London address of Cambridge Analytica at 1-6 Yarmouth Place in Mayfair. And it’s unclear if there’s a Cambridge Analytica incorporated anywhere in the United States; one would have to search registers in all 50 states.

Ad Age reported that CA “will not discuss its investors,” but the mothership, SCL Group, has pretty straightforward ownership: From shortly after its incorporation in 2005 until June 2015, according to the company’s obligatory Companies House filings, the largest of the 15 shareholders of SCL Group was Tchenguiz.

Tchenguiz made his money in London’s highly competitive real estate market and is said to be smart as a whip. He and his brother Robert are also known as big Tory donors. But what they’re best known for isn’t something any entrepreneur seeks out.

In March 2011 the brothers were arrested in dramatic predawn raids as part of an investigation into the 2008 collapse of the Icelandic bank Kaupthing. Just before its collapse, Kaupthing’s loans to the Tchenguiz brothers totaled 40 percent of its capital. It has been charged that Kaupthing—which had a far-from-transparent ownership structure—was effectively the Tchenguiz brothers’ bank and that they looted the bank, leading to its collapse. Various Kaupthing executives ended up in jail. Yet Vincent Tchenguiz managed to beat the charges, and even to win restitution from the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office after charges were dropped. Many think the SFO badly mishandled the case.

That’s not all. Kaupthing’s largest shareholder, Meidur, now called Exista, which owned 25 percent of its shares, had ties to Alfa Bank, the largest Russian commercial bank; Alfa chairman was “deep state” figure Mikhail Fridman, chairman and co-founder of Alfa Group, the parent of Alfa Bank. Meanwhile, Trump adviser Richard Burt is on the “senior advisory board” of Alfa Bank. (None of which is illegal or secret.)

Vincent Tchenguiz’s investment in SCL Group Ltd. began soon after the company’s incorporation July 20, 2005. In the fall of 2005, Tchenguiz’s Consensus Business Group acquired 22,533 shares of SCL—the largest single shareholding, representing 24 percent of its then-95,134 shares. On Nov. 11, 2006, a new director was appointed to represent Tchenguiz’s interests—Julian David Wheatland, who was listed as “chairman” in the 2010 and 2011 accounts and on the SCL Group website.

Wheatland was formerly “head of the International Division at U.K. structured-finance house Consensus Business Group.” Consensus is Tchenguiz’s holding company. Wheatland is currently CEO of Consensus Community, a part of Consensus Business Group, which in turn manages investments for Investec Trust (Guernsey) Ltd., a trustee for the Tchenguiz Family Trust.

The 2006 accounts (available online) of SCL Group show a whopping loss of £2.3 million ($3.02 million), but no “going concern” statement was included. In May 2013, SCL Group’s auditor resigned; the 2011 accounts were the last audited accounts filed. Shareholders’ equity plummeted from: £681,000 in 2006 to a modest £273,000 in 2012 to £4,424 in 2013 and £87,420 in 2014—a very poor showing compared to similar companies.

Tchenguiz remained involved in SCL Group for 10 years, despite its lack of financial returns. Vincent Tchenguiz is mainly known as a real estate investor; his reasons for acquiring shares in SCL in the first place are as opaque as his reason for divesting them. From the outside, it seems an odd, unprofitable sideline. But SCL is a private company, so we can only follow the filings: Tchenguiz’s 22,533 shares were initially held by Consensus Business Group and later owned by Wheddon Ltd., another vehicle owned by his family holding company, Investec Trust.

Then, as of June 10, 2015, SCL canceled Wheddon’s 22,533 shares and paid Wheddon £147,746 (about $194,500)—a tiny amount in relation to Tchenguiz’s estimated wealth. It also changed its name from Strategic Communications Laboratories Ltd. to its current name, SCL Group Ltd. Julian Wheatland signed the “special resolution,” which, in U.K. business is a move “to protect minority shareholders against important decisions being taken without proper consideration and, to the extent possible, consensus.”

Did Tchenguiz change the name and remove his shareholding as an attempt to rebrand, in preparation for going to work for Ted Cruz? If that’s so, the Cruz campaign did only an imitation of due diligence, looking only at the company’s current ownership, not even bothering with the previous year, and not noticing that Tchenguiz still has a director on the company. Though Tchenguiz no longer owns shares in SCL, he would likely retain influence on the company operations: His director, Julian Wheatland is still SCL’s chairman and one of SCL’s four directors to this day. Wheatland is also a director of two other companies in the SCL family: SCL Analytics Ltd. and SCL Strategics Ltd.

Tchenguiz has branched out beyond his core ground-rents business before—and this is what connects him to Manafort partner Dmitry Firtash. Around the same time that he bought into SCL, in 2005-2006, Vincent Tchenguiz began giving interviews publicizing a new interest: “green” investing. One of these seemingly anodyne investments was in a privately held U.K. company called Zander Group Ltd. that has a very complex capital structure.

What does Zander do? Zander says on one of its subsidiaries’ websites that it is in the business of soil regeneration. It doesn’t seem to get a lot of work, but on March 2007, according to a posting on its website from January 2012 (since removed), it signed a contract to work on anti-desertification in Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya. An ex-director of Zander Group, Geoffrey Stuart Pearson, was jailed in Britain for his role in the collapse of Langbar Corp., the U.K.’s biggest AIM market fraud. (At the time, the U.K.’s SFO shut Langbar down in fall 2005, Zander shares were its only investment. The SFO apparently never found this interesting.)

As the obligatory Companies House filings show, Tchenguiz invested in Zander Group in 2005-2006 through his Vantania Holdings Ltd.; on Sept. 11, 2015, Vantania transferred its shares to Wheddon Ltd. (This was just after Wheddon had divested its shares in SCL Group Ltd.)

Here’s the Firtash link: From 2006 until 2011, the largest single shareholding in Zander Group, 28 percent of the total shares, was owned by a Cyprus company called Spadi Trading. And Spadi was owned by Group DF, as in Dmitry Firtash, in the British Virgin Islands. This holding company is one of 153 companies worldwide the U.S. is trying to seize pursuant to its indictment of Firtash. (Spadi’s ultimate owner is Robert Shetler-Jones, also a Group DF board member.).

There’s no proof that Tchenguiz knows Firtash, but it’s hard to imagine he’d be able to buy into a closely-held private business like Zander without the approval of the largest shareholder, even though Tchenguiz only bought 74,075 out of 11.5 million Zander Group shares in 2006. Moreover, Zander Group’s chairman, and its biggest shareholder, is Raymond Asquith, an English peer who doubles as an executive of Group DF.

Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had numerous dealings with Dmitry Firtash’s Group DF. Firtash is probably the most savory person with whom Manafort has worked; others include Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch formerly barred from the United States for Russian mob ties, ex-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich, Mobutu Sese Seko, Ferdinand Marcos, and African warlord Jonas Savimbi. The fact that Vincent Tchenguiz’s man Wheatland is still the chairman and a director of SCL Group and that Tchenguiz is also a co-investor with the Firtash crew might give some candidates pause—but there’s no reason to think Trump is one of them. (As far as the public record indicates, Trump has never worked directly with Tchenguiz and Paul Manafort is not a director of any English companies, though he might be a shareholder; this information is not easily searchable.)

The moral may be, we ought to be paying closer attention to who owns the companies collecting data on American voters.

Saddam Hussein’s New Novel Might End Up Funneling Money to ISIS

July 28th, 2016

Originally published July 21 2016 on Acculturated.com (http://acculturated.com/saddam-husseins-new-novel/)

Saddam Hussein’s New Novel Might End Up Funneling Money to ISIS

By Ann Marlowe

Fancy reading a novel by Saddam Hussein? How about an allegory set 1500 years ago that describes “through biblical metaphor, a Zionist-Christian conspiracy against Arabs and Muslims?” Would you read it if you knew that the royalties from the book go to Saddam’s daughter Raghad, who has declared her support for ISIS?

Hesperus Press, a part-Jordanian-owned UK publishing house, thinks you will; they’re bringing out the 186-page novella, whose title has been rendered in the past as Begone Devils and Damned One, Get out of Here, in December, just in time for the tenth anniversary of Saddam’s hanging.

American readers with an interest in the Middle East might be curious about this window into Saddam’s disturbed mind and his view of the Iraqi people, whom he treated so badly. After all, he might still be ruling Iraq if he’d allowed inspectors to see that he didn’t have the WMDs he was feared to possess. But given Saddam’s reportedly modest literary skills, this tepid interest is probably outweighed by American weariness of all things Iraqi, not to mention the royalties issue—do Americans really want to see Hussein’s ISIS-supporting daughter profit from the book? (“To clarify, we are paying the agent,” a spokesman for Hesperus told me in an email, when asked about the royalties issue. He declined to give his name.)

This isn’t Saddam’s first literary foray. The best-known of Saddam’s four novels, titled Zabiba and the King in English translation, appeared in 2000 and is said to be a turgid allegory of Saddam’s relations with the Iraqi people and the U.S. “Some critics have suggested that Zabiba and the King was ghostwritten,” wrote The Guardian’s reviewer Daniel Kalder in 2011. “I doubt that: it is so poorly structured and dull that it has thewhiff of dictatorial authenticity.” Apparently Saddam was working on a fifth novel while in American captivity prior to his trial and 2006 execution.

The three earlier books, all published in the early 2000s, were published by “he who wrote them,” but the identity of the author was an open secret. Kanan Makiya, the well-known Iraqi intellectual and writer and author of a novel that spirals out from Saddam’s hanging, 2016’s The Rope, agrees that the novels are likely written by Saddam himself.

At first I thought he had not written them, but had them ghostwritten,” he told me via email. “Eventually I met speechwriters and media people who were close to him. They convinced me he had in fact taken himself seriously as a writer in the early 1990s. At any rate they read like extremely amateurish efforts to spin out a story of very recent events. The one I read had characters who were thinly veiled caricatures of real people in the Iraqi opposition (I recognized Ahmed Chalabi!). Saddam valued the arts in general. He fancied himself a sculptor, having designed and built a victory arch in Baghdad celebrating his so-called victory over Iran in the Iraq-Iran war; if a sculptor, why not a novelist?

The books were huge best-sellers in Iraq, where, of course, they would not have received any bad reviews. They may or may not have been added to the school curriculum. An Iraqi translator from Basra told me in an email,

I graduated before the so-called Saddam’s novels were supposed to be introduced to students. Actually, the whole thing was halted and the novels never included into the curriculum because of the Kuwait invasion. Also, there is no proof that Saddam wrote the novels and the writer who used to write Saddam’s speeches has not yet spilled the beans.

Unlike Makiya, this Iraqi states, “No one in Iraq thinks that Saddam did write the novels.”

Begone was smuggled out of Iraq by Saddam’s daughter Raghad, who is now based in Jordan, where she is a guest of the royal family. She tried to publish the novel herself in Jordan in 2005 but it was banned from sale. Bootlegged versions have done well; Saddam is still popular among segments of the Jordanian population, which is Sunni Muslim and includes many Iraqi Ba’ath party officials who fled there from Iraq after 2003.

But Raghad is ethically questionable even apart from her actions during her father’s regime; she has declared her support for ISIS, and in May 2015 Iraq tried unsuccessfully to extradite her from Jordan “for alleged support of terror and involvement in money laundering.” This isn’t a surprise considering that it has been widely reported that ISIS draws support from the former Baathist elite.

Hesperus Press also has Jordanian ties: the sole director, Shadi Jabra Sharbain, a twenty-six-year-old, is Jordanian, as were two former directors who no longer seem to be involved with the company. Two of the four current shareholders, Lana Harkouz and Jebra Sharbain, seemingly the father of Shadi, also claim Jordanian nationality on Hesperus’s obligatory Companies House filings.

Oddly enough, Hesperus, founded in 2001, was previously in the news for not paying royalties to an author. The company made headlines in 2015 for failing to pay Jonas Jonasson, who wrote a best-selling novel; the staff at that time all resigned. According to one publishing industry blog, Jonasson was not the only author cheated by Hesperus.

What value is there in “dictator lit” such as Saddam’s novella? With the right publisher, it could provide some insight into how things unraveled in Iraq. As Kanan Makiya noted in an email, “With an intelligent up front article it would be a reasonable publishing project, providing some insight into an aging dictator’s warped mind.”

The Iraqi translator I spoke to was less sanguine. “Raghad is fiercely fighting to keep Saddam’s name and legacy alive among his followers as a symbol of Sunni hero who fought Iran and the USA altogether (exactly what ISIS is doing now),” he said. “The profits of the novels should be seized by the USA because they are going to be used to finance terrorism.”

Do We Really Want to be Members of a Tribe?

July 7th, 2016

(http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/207079/members-of-a-tribe)

Sebastian Junger’s fascinatingly wrong-headed ‘Tribe: on Homecoming and Belonging’

By Ann Marlowe
July 7, 2016 • 12:00 AM

“The question for Western society isn’t so much why tribal life might be so appealing—it seems obvious on the face of it—but why Western society is so unappealing.”

This statement early in Sebastian Junger’s new paean to tribal togetherness is, on the face of it, rubbish. Western society’s lack of appeal must be news to the millions of people who try, often at risk of their lives, to enter the United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and the European Union each year as migrants or immigrants, apparently having decided that all that tribal connectivity in Somalia, Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria (to name the countries that were the top sources of migrants to the E.U. in 2015) was something they could live without. Such rashness alerts us that Tribe is one of those eccentric screeds where everything looks like a nail because the author has a hammer. (But then, 2016 is a year in which this seems to be a feature of political thinking.)

Junger argues that the loss of the tribal environment in which human beings evolved helps to explain the 2008 financial crisis, mass shootings, and insurance fraud. He even argues against the American and Northern European practice of making children sleep by themselves in their own rooms—after all, our primitive ancestors didn’t do that, so it must cause problems. And yet Junger never defines what he means by “tribe.” The closest he comes is near the end of the book: “Acting in a tribal way simply means being willing to make a substantive sacrifice for your community.” But Americans already have one of the world’s highest levels of community engagement in terms of volunteerism, charitable giving, and attendance at religious worship.

Junger wants something more intense than normal life. Natural disasters, he argues, “Turn back the clock on ten thousand years of social evolution. Self-interest gets subsumed into group interest because there is no survival outside group survival, and that creates a social bond that many people sorely miss.” He’s in love with the immediately post-Sept. 11 upsurge of group cohesion, and some of this was a good thing. He points out that there were no mass shootings for a year after Sept. 11 and that “rates of violent crime, suicide and psychiatric disturbance dropped immediately. … New York’s suicide rate dropped by around 20 percent in the six months following the attacks, the murder rate dropped by 40 percent.” But there was also a circling of the wagons, a suspicion of the foreign and the Muslim, a lot of flag waving by people careful to stay far from danger.

Is American society circa 2001-2 really something we want to revisit? Did we fight smart wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as a result? Was abridging our freedoms at home really the best way to enlarge the cause of freedom in the world? Is the rhetoric of “homeland” and “belonging” to a larger entity and “solidarity” helpful going forward?

Junger’s book is sorely lacking in analysis, counter-examples, subtlety, and organization. His prose has the rounded homogeneity of best-selling nonfiction. Yet the itch Junger is scratching is widespread in advanced societies, and the regressiveness of his argument is very of the moment, and he knows something about what he speaks: A seasoned war correspondent, he is the author of War, about an extended embed at a remote combat outpost in Afghanistan, and the companion film Restrepo. And as a national level distance runner at Wesleyan, he also spent a summer training with Navajo runners.

Yet Junger’s tribalism is vague. He mainly refers to Native American tribes, though he does mention a few African tribes. As anthropologists have been at pains to establish, tribes come in all sorts of flavors, and some are very nasty. It matters, because the crux of Junger’s argument is that human beings used to live happily in a certain way for hundreds of thousands of years in small tribes, and we no longer do, and our genetics change much more slowly than our living conditions, so we are profoundly maladjusted to the way we live now. This in turn leads to greedy bankers who disrespect the tribe by taking more than their share and PTSD for returning warriors, because war used to involve the whole tribe, not just a small segment of society. It’s hard not to see Junger’s model for how human beings used to live as yet another primitivism fantasy, an imaginary paradise loosely gleaned from American Indian life. It’s nostalgie de la boue—a term coined in 1855, just as the lower layers of European society were finally starting to escape the mud.

Moreover, the term tribal today is often used to describe social organization in some spectacularly unsuccessful places, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, and (with less validity) Libya. In some places in these countries belonging to a tribe is more or less important. But these societies, unlike American Indian life as Junger characterizes it, suffer from severe gender inequality, endemic corruption, conflict, and often from extremes of wealth and poverty.

But let’s give Junger the benefit of the doubt, say that human beings evolved under something like the conditions of the nicer American Indian tribes, and see what he has to say.

***

“Indians almost never ran away to join white society,” Junger notes. But so many Americans who do not claim Indian identity have Indian great-great-great grandmothers or -fathers that plenty of Indians must have entered white society. From my anecdotal knowledge, most of the captives lived on the frontiers and were not part of the ruling elites. They had pushed out to the places where the forest met the fields for cheaper land or more privacy; they were not abducted from Boston or Richmond. My hunch is that the captives who chose to stay were predominantly lower income, lower status, less educated: They were making a rational choice in the context of their position in white society. As Junger points out, “Indian society was essentially classless and egalitarian,” and a lower-status white person might do better relatively there.

As to the appeal of Native American life to non-Native Americans, it may well have been relaxed and companionable and egalitarian, but it did not offer much scope to the intellectual or cultural interests of cultivated Europeans (or for that matter Chinese or Japanese) at the time. How appealing would it be to spend the rest of your life in a society of 100 to 1,000 ethnically homogeneous people, without access to writing, science, philosophy, more than one type of cooking, chess, more than one type of music, more than one type of dance, more than one type of fashion, painting, or a variety of sports? Even in the 18th century, it meant no horse-drawn carriages, no roads, no Homer, no Shakespeare, no flower gardens, no piano, no silk, no architecture, no metal tools, no fine china, no furniture, no number theory.
‘Acting in a tribal way simply means being willing to make a substantive sacrifice for your community.’

Junger is also curiously silent about the moral and spiritual life of the Indian tribes. He might have noted that at the time of the first settlers, Protestantism was also becoming the dominant religion of northern and Western Europe. Protestantism demanded individual moral judgment and constant self-scrutiny (rather like Judaism). The notion of a career as providing meaning in life was just beginning to grow and with it the idea that one was responsible for one’s success or failure in worldly terms, and that it all had something to do with goodness. All of this is hard stuff; that’s why many people in the West, and even more in the Rest, still don’t like it.

It’s easier to live in a shame culture, not a guilt culture, and that’s what Native America was. The Indians may have lived blamelessly, even virtuously, but without forming independent moral judgments, figuring out one’s identity as an autonomous individual, even opposing the group if one thought they were wrong. When people are caught up in a larger-than-life drama, good or bad, whether a natural disaster or an event like Sept. 11, they find themselves back in a shame culture, where self-interrogation is less important than meeting group expectations. And for some people, this has good effects.

Junger’s two favorite idylls, military life and Native American life, meet along an existential dimension: In both of them, you don’t need to engage in a daily struggle to achieve your purpose in life. Most of us in advanced, urbanized cultures have to confront disturbing existential questions every day. What have I accomplished today? What’s my plan? Am I living rightly? Is everything I’m doing today furthering that plan?

This sort of interrogation is a part of Jewish culture even among non-religious Jews and surely explains the celebrated neuroticism and melancholy of Jews. Which brings me to another issue: I can’t see the word “tribe” without thinking of the phrase, “member of the Tribe.” Maybe it’s the same for Junger, who is half-Jewish on his father’s side. I’ve never liked this phrase, which implies that Jews are born, not made, and which mistakes what is great about Judaism. Our ancestors were not very like the American Indians Junger extols: They invented monotheism and wrote the Bible and started abstract thinking and one of the great schools of legal reasoning thousands of years ago. All of this proved to be essential to modern life. All of it was accessible to people who were not born Jews.

***

In tribal life, as in the American military, many of the existential questions are answered for you once you make the big choice to sign up. That’s why there are people who flounder in civilian life but succeed brilliantly in the military. That’s also why some 18th-century captives presumably made great Indians, but would have been lost in Providence or Philadelphia.

So, yes; living in the non-tribal world is harder and often sadder. Junger says: “The more assimilated a person is into American society, the more likely they are to develop depression during the course of their lifetime, regardless of what ethnicity they are.” Of course! If you’re a Chinese immigrant waiter working 18 hours a day and sharing a two-bedroom with 15 other men, you don’t have the luxury of depression. But a Chinese-American investment banker has time to agonize over whether he is really actualizing himself, really married to the right person, really living in the right city. “According to a global survey by the World Health Organization, people in wealthy countries suffer depression at as much as eight times the rate they do in poor countries.” Well, yes. If I’m sure of my food for the day, I start thinking about existential issues, and often this leads to anxiety or feelings of inadequacy.

In Tribe, Junger does not mention any of this; war and tribal life are all about camaraderie, never about how they solve the existential questions. Perhaps because of the simplistic view he takes of war, Junger also errs in his argument in Tribe that PTSD is a disease of re-entry into a fragmented society. This is unfair in a couple of ways to the military and rather unfortunate given recent medical research on the physical basis of at least some PTSD. Junger, whose website features a photograph of the author in body armor on an embed, is a great admirer of the American military, but just as he ignores the aspects of military life that are easier than civilian life, he also ignores the burdens of military discipline and of command.

Part of the reason for this, I think, is that Junger’s fallen into a common trap among military reporters: thinking you’re having the full experience when you’re just an observer. Sentences like, “At one point I and the men I was with made our way to a front-line position” and “We lost one of our packhorses in the barrage” are a clue that Junger misunderstands his role. Reporters have few of the moral burdens of the combatants. No journalist fires at the car that doesn’t slow down for the checkpoint and then finds out that it contains the dead bodies of a not very bright father and his perfectly innocent Iraqi family of eight. No journalist sends a SEAL team on a mission knowing some of them will not come back—or sends four young low-ranking enlisted on a routine re-supply convoy that ends in their crippling by IED explosion. All this must be processed on re-entry.

Then there is the impact of IEDs. It’s not uncommon for American soldiers with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan to have experienced several IED blasts. This is very different from a World War II soldier’s experience. Junger notes that “roughly half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have applied for permanent PTSD disability. Since only 10 percent of our armed forces experience actual combat, the majority of vets claiming to suffer from PTSD seem to have been affected by something other than direct exposure to danger.” He’s right to notice that there is a mismatch—and some fraud and freeloading—here. But that 10 percent figure is as sketchy as it is hard to verify, and it’s irrelevant in the new wars, where combat is not what’s most likely to kill you. Supply specialists, drivers, cultural experts, or engineers who had the bad luck to be in the wrong convoy can die or receive disabling injuries in an instant.

Junger’s view of PTSD as a mainly or wholly psychological ailment is also turning out to be incorrect. Medical studies are emerging now which prove what seems common sense: The human brain is injured by being multiply concussed. Just in the last months, it’s emerged that there are distinctive changes in the brain from concussions that can affect reasoning, mood, and behavior. Here is the key medical article and here is the New York Times Magazine piece about it.

More than 340,000 veterans have been diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (admittedly most not from IEDs), which can take months or years to manifest. Part of the reason for the high numbers of vets applying for disability is that people are surviving what would have been lethal wounds in earlier wars. Junger views it as a paradox that disability claims rise as mortality falls, but it makes perfect sense: We have a lot more injured vets coming back who would have died in WWII from the same injuries. So, if PTSD is often a response to surviving IED explosions that jar the brain, it doesn’t make much difference what kind of integration into society the returning vet has.

But again like that man who happens to have a hammer, Junger is intent on seeing all of life through the lens of the military and tribalism. Something Junger says about the current debased political discourse is applicable here: “Reviling people you share a combat outpost with is an incredibly stupid thing to do, and public figures who imagine their nation isn’t, potentially, one huge combat outpost are deluding themselves.” Sympathetic though I am with Junger’s message, America should not be looked at as a combat outpost—either by foreigners, or worse, by Americans.

We have never been Sparta; the founders were clear that we were not to be a garrison state with a standing army but a nation devoted to “the pursuit of happiness” in whatever way individuals wished. And it’s precisely because figuring out one’s desires is tough that life in the contemporary world is tough. Jews learned that, perhaps, before most other people. But regression to the values of tribalism is no answer.