Ann Marlowe

Ann Marlowe is a writer and businesswoman based in New York City. Since 2012 she has specialized in anti-kleptocracy writing and research. In 2011, she made four trips to Libya to cover the revolution and war and returned twice in 2012. 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 contributors 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.

Daphne’s Fight Against Gangster Government

January 24th, 2021

originally published in The Bulwark, DECEMBER 28, 2020

If you have not already done so, read Ben Taub’s clear, understated New Yorker piece about the big life and horrible death of Malta’s most famous journalist, Daphne (whose formal name was “Daphne Caruana Galizia,” but who now needs only a first name). Read it not only because hers was in many ways an exemplary life, but because we in the United States now know firsthand how important the struggle against kleptocracy is. She died for it, on October 16, 2017.

Her brilliant, scathing blog, Running Commentary (which you can still find, here) was a passionate act of what we now call citizen journalism.

That may not sound like much to American ears—the original group of bloggers in the early 2000s referred to themselves as “citizen journalists.” But in Malta, the stakes are much higher. To give you an idea of what the sunny Mediterranean island of Malta—population 400,000—is like, Daphne was the fifth person killed in a broad daylight car bombing in just a four-year span.

Aside from Daphne, all of the other car bombings are more or less un- solved—and likely to stay that way—because they involved people in the fuel smuggling criminal underworld. And the only reason we’re figuring out who killed Daphne is because of the intervention of the FBI and the European Union—and the constant work of her three sons to unravel the plot.

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I’m honored to say that I met Daphne Caruana Galizia twice. It was in Malta, first in the summer 2015 and then again in April 2016. On both occasions she dressed conservatively and without fuss, neither hip nor a hipster, but actually a revolutionary. She seemed to spend no time giving a performance of herself. In the right circles Daphne was already legendary, but I’ve rarely met a person with less vanity. One of the reasons she was able to accomplish so much is that she got out of her own way.

I was introduced by a friend who knew that I was researching Libyan fuel smuggling. I wanted to talk to Daphne about two men: a Libyan named Fahmi Slim and a Maltese fisherman and ex-football (soccer) player named Darren Debono. I had been told (by very brave Libyan and Maltese sources) that the smugglers’ connections reached high up in the government of Malta, one of the world’s most corrupt. (This is the piece that I published.)

To give you another sense of Malta, while Fahmi Slim has been jailed in Libya since August 2017, until very recently Darren Debono was running around the streets of Malta after having been arrested by Italy. Judges and high police officials were said to eat at his seafood restaurant; when I tried to get a table in the empty room quite early one evening, I was told they were all reserved.

It was like a bad movie about the Mafia. Malta is like that.

As it turned out, while Daphne knew some things about smuggling, that racket was ancillary to her main interest: exposing and bringing down the criminal government of Joseph Muscat. And while I could laugh at the cartoonish misdeeds of the governing class, joke about its unbecoming E.U. membership, and then go home to the States, Malta was Daphne’s home.

Which is why the more time I spent in Malta, the more incredible her courage appeared.

Think of it this way: When Daphne was killed, no one was surprised by her murder.

Daphne’s story has always resonated with me as a portrait of courage and bravery. But these days it’s also a reminder that, no matter how “civilized” or modern a society may appear to be, democracy often hangs by a thread.

Curfews Don’t Protect People

July 6th, 2020

(Originally published in The Bulwark 6/3/20

Yesterday afternoon, President George W. Bush and Laura Bush released an extraordinary statement on the death of George Floyd. It says what needs to be said by every American across the political spectrum: “It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country.”

This is in the grand tradition of Republican support for civil rights and the classic tenets of liberalism. It reminds me why I voted for W. twice and used to be a registered Republican.

But that was back in the day when Republicans stood for limited government, strict adherence to the Constitution, and using economic freedom to improve everyone’s lives, not for shredding the Constitution and pitting Americans against each other while using public positions for private profit.

So last night I sat in my house in New York’s West Village, listening to helicopters overhead, forbidden to walk outside because we have an 8 p.m. curfew until Sunday. Because of the curfew local food shops, supermarkets, and restaurants offering takeout had to close as early as 5:00 p.m.—at a moment when they were just beginning to revive.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my 10 years covering counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, not only because of the familiar helicopter noise. There are analogies to restoring order in a violence-afflicted urban environment. It’s often just called community policing, an old idea involving getting cops out of their cars and having them walk their beats and get to know people. It works.

But instead of reaching out, the NYPD is retreating.

Monday morning, when I walked past my local police precinct in the West Village, the Sixth, I was dismayed to see that the street full of police cars was closed by a barrier at both ends. Not only does this make it more difficult and psychologically uninviting for citizens to enter to report a crime, it gives criminals and law-abiding citizens alike the idea that the police are afraid of them. And this is in one of Manhattan’s richest zip codes.

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The NYPD and departments nationwide need to be out there talking to citizens, rebuilding trust and discussing grievances. So do our mayors. Yet at a press conference today, Mayor Bill de Blasio was egregiously rude and disrespectful to reporters who asked about some much-photographed instances of looting nearly under the police’s eyes. De Blasio is locked in a struggle with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been very critical of the NYPD’s failure to rein in looting and advocated bringing in the National Guard.

As de Blasio correctly pointed out, bringing in outsiders who don’t know how NYC works could well lead to more violence.

But Cuomo is right that the NYPD are badly led and badly trained. If I were an outsider looking in (as I was in Afghanistan), I would call the NYPD an Irish-American militia, not a servant of the public. Though the force is only 53 percent white, NYPD leadership is still 72 percent non-Hispanic white, and arrogant in the way militia leaders are.

This may be the place to note that police in the United States are not in huge danger from criminals, especially in New York City where there are severe penalties for unlicensed handguns. No New York City cops were murdered in the line of duty in 2019, for instance. And across the United States, only 38 law-enforcement officers were shot and killed in the line of duty between January and mid-December 2019 (not counting deaths by friendly fire).

Overall, just over a thousand American civilians were killed by the police in 2019. And, totaling data from 2013 to 2019, NYC has had the lowest rate of police killings of civilians among U.S. cities with over a million people.

As these figures suggest, American police should not be afraid to engage with the community. I remember the remark of a bright young American captain I met in Afghanistan, Derrick Hernandez, who said to me, “If you tell me to defend this district center I’m not going to sit inside it.” It’s very easy for a fortress to become a self-licking ice cream cone—Army lingo for an outpost that exists only to defend itself, not to make the surrounding territory safer. Sure sounds like an NYC precinct house.

Curfews are very dumb. You can’t draw a line in the sand unless you’re prepared to defend it. If people break curfew, the government looks weak. Such rules breed contempt, not respect, for the law. Americans don’t like being told what to do, where to go, and what time to go there.

And order isn’t maintained by curfews that are unenforceable—or unfairly enforced—in a city of 8 million. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea opposed a curfew on Monday on the Today show. The NYPD department chief, Terence Monahan—who took a knee with protesters in Washington Square Park early Monday night—also said on Monday that he thought a curfew was unnecessary. Mayor de Blasio admitted in his press conference this morning that the curfew is unenforceable, more of an excuse for immediate arrest of criminals. Monahan made much the same point this morning on Today: “Protesters that were still protesting past 8 peacefully we allowed to continue, but when a group of people who were looking to cause mayhem broke off, we were able to take care of them very quickly.”

Mayor de Blasio doesn’t get it that there is a link between commerce being shut and the streets becoming dangerous, regardless of the George Floyd protests. Deserted streets are never safe streets. Taking law-abiding people off the streets leaves more space for criminality; it means those who remain can do what they want with less fear of censure from their fellow citizens. And looting leads store owners to board up storefronts, which in turn suggests that anything is possible, further eroding security.

What makes a city safe? Commerce and the resultant foot traffic by law-abiding citizens.

Last night, the NYPD managed to protect Soho’s stores from a repetition of earlier looting—by the simple expedient of blocking traffic. This could have been done without a curfew. It would be far better—and would not escalate tensions, and would invite far less risk of uneven discriminatory enforcement—if the streets were kept open, stores were allowed to stay open as they wished, and police stood at the ready to deal with problems as they arose.

New Approaches in New York City

July 6th, 2020

(originally published in The Bulwark 5/17/20

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As the rate of new COVID-19 deaths in New York City falls, this is a moment for the city to engage in self-scrutiny and plan for the future, using the imagination our citizens are famous for in creative fields. We need to rescue ourselves economically while rethinking the nature of our city—fixing the plane while learning to fly it.

Why do we need a fundamental rethinking? Because, at least until an effective vaccine is widely available, people are unlikely to want to return to their former social and economic behaviors. For instance, in a recent poll (weighted to match the nation’s demographics), some 67 percent of respondents said they would be uncomfortable shopping in a retail clothing store, while 78 percent would be uncomfortable eating out. Whether or not these risk assessments are rational, they must be taken into account by business owners and government officials.

And the adaptations we make now can help us better to handle future pandemics with less drastic economic interruptions than this time. Because it is all but certain that there will be more pandemics, and that they will be even worse than this one.

We need a modular city that can, when necessary, be reconfigured for different levels of social distancing. At the same time that we attend to these nuts-and-bolts issues, we must preserve New York’s status as a great city, arguably the world’s capital. This requires nurturing what makes New York special: diversity, the arts, energy, ambition, and opportunity.

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Great cities produce a mix of industry, culture, and entertainment, drawing residents and visitors. In the nearly six decades since the publication of Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities, we have realized that cities need robust mixed-use neighborhoods, and that commerce makes streets safe and inviting. Today we have miles of closed storefronts and streets deserted after dark except for the homeless. Successful cities also have an esprit de corps, a sense of inclusion. We now need to figure out how to provide all this even as the city likely depopulates, more people work from home, and almost everyone is worse off financially.

But there is a silver lining. Due to the switch to working from home and the decommercialization of the streets, we are at a perfect moment to rethink many of the tired clichés that have guided our city planning.

It’s time for frankness: The New York of recent years wasn’t that fascinating. Manhattan and upscale parts of Brooklyn have become increasingly sterile, homogenized, and slick, full of chain stores found elsewhere. Even many of the more interesting streets have become monocultures of restaurants and nail salons with the occasional liquor store, $1 (how?) pizza, and doggie spa. (I should note here that—as Dutch computer scientist Lora Aroyo has reminded me—such homogenization is evident in most big European cities, too, even those with far more regulations than in the United States, and even those with pedestrian areas.)

We now know that at least two urban “truths” are false: Most of us need to come into an office five days a week. And most forms of exercise and entertainment must occur indoors.

We should overturn another, related myth that says that Manhattan can’t offer pedestrian streets in the way London, Paris, Milan, Rome, Seville, and hundreds of European cities do.

We can continue to enjoy one of the few unequivocal silver linings of the pandemic: freedom from traffic noise and cleaner air. We can walk, run, and bike, for the moment, without cars or trucks on many of our streets—in fact, the pandemic has resulted in the longest stretch without a single pedestrian fatality since 1983. As the city reopens and attempts to find a new normal, would greater pedestrianization cripple commerce? Amazon already functions perfectly well using hand carts for the last 100 yards. Taxis and ride-share services could let most fares off at the nearest corner. Think about the reductions in fumes directly outside residences and businesses.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed eventually opening a hundred miles of New York City streets to pedestrians but his concept seems to be purely for walking and biking, not commerce. I propose pedestrianization as a way of jumpstarting post-pandemic commerce, too.

Here, offered for public debate, are a few suggestions for how we might pedestrianize while reimagining vibrant street-level commerce with social distancing.

(1) Pedestrianize every second or third crosstown Manhattan street. This can be attempted experimentally at first, starting just on the weekends, before it is expanded to full-time. Do the same for major shopping/dining arteries like Bleecker, Broadway, West Fourth, 14th, 23rd, 34th, 57th. Some of these very different streets should have bike lanes, but not all. I don’t know Brooklyn or Queens or the Bronx well enough to offer specific guidance, but there are places in each where it would be appropriate to do the same. (This good idea, along with many bad ones, was proposed in Paul and Percival Goodman’s 1947 master plan for Manhattan.)

(2) Use the streets as our citizens see fit. We are going to need more outdoor space for safe exercise and leisure, not only as parks, but as ice-skating rinks, as dog runs, as safe-distance playgrounds, as outdoor theaters, as outdoor gyms, quarter-mile running tracks (how about some with soft surfaces?), sculpture gardens, mini farmers’ markets—and gardens to grow the produce to sell there. (A bit more self-sufficiency in food production sounds good right about now, doesn’t it?)

We will discover new uses as we go along. And all this activity is bound to foster not only new bonds between neighbors, but new business ideas.

(3) To bring jittery riders back to mass transit, try low-capacity, open-air buses along high-traffic routes. (I owe this idea to Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute, who was in turn inspired by a 1970 paper.) Make them free, at least to start. While we’re at it, institute taxi stands to prevent idling, and add bus lanes on all crosstown routes. (These ideas I owe to bicycle historian Pryor Dodge.)

(4) Our brand is culture. Theater as we know it began outdoors. Encourage theater troupes to move from venue to venue in the warmer months. How about standup comedy? Dance? String quartets? There are already very successful outdoor programs for tango and swing around Manhattan. Lots of under-used public space in the city could be repurposed easily and cheaply as theaters with simple nonpermanent seating—including some of the sitting areas along Broadway.

If the number of empty storefronts threatens to turn into blight, encourage (but don’t subsidize) their use by artists and gallerists.

There is much more we might consider, including changes to how schools work. Is there any reason that New York, or indeed most of North America, must stick to the school calendar in which the summer months are scheduled for vacation? And would students and teachers benefit from finding ways to move suitable classes outside?

Finally, a word about fairness. Too many of our citizens have been excluded from many of the city’s pleasures by the inequality that accompanied the massive economic shift of the last decades. Not everyone can spend $16 on a movie and $37 for a half roast chicken after. They are even excluded from the patrimony of all, with most museums charging $25 admission. (They should all be pay-what-you-can for residents, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.) We need more signals from our government that we are all in this together, that we are fellow citizens and not just consumers living alongside each other.

In this spirit I propose a media campaign—preferably national not only local—to target obesity and diabetes, the preventable pre-existing conditions that make Americans vulnerable to COVID-19 in a way Europeans aren’t. “The fact that 42 percent of this country is clinically obese amplifies the impact and reach of the virus,” says Brooklyn ER physician Mert Erogul.

Many people choosing—on some level—to be grossly overweight has helped to cause the deaths of other people and contributed to the job losses of millions. Of course, some bad lifestyle choices are foisted upon poor people by fast-food chains and agribusiness—and Mike Bloomberg’s oft-ridiculed attack on big sodas looks pretty prescient now. This is a big, complicated discussion, one that will require some creative policy thinking, but we should start having it now, while this pandemic is still with us and before a worse one arrives.