Col Lounsbury

I’ve added a new blog to the blogroll that has quickly become one of my favorites.

Col Lounsbury is a financier currently in Jordan, involved in Iraqi reconstruction. He’s a scathing critic of the administration’s efforts.

He’s quite bright, extremely knowledgable about Middle Easter culture and society. He’s also a delight to read, with a very distinctive style, and also a very distinctive, larger than life personality.

Give him a try.

13 thoughts on “Col Lounsbury

  1. Maybe its the sunglasses from his picture, but it makes me think of Duke, from Doonesbury.

    It’s dispiriting how his uniquely informed POV just adds to the impression that the Iraqi misadventure is not going well at all…

  2. Lounsbury is just another European hack trying to earn intellectual brownie points through the old Euro sport of America-bashing.

    I’ve known dozens of these “financiers” here in New York. Their blase intellectual pose is directly caused by the enervating weight of the golden handcuffs they so eagerly wanted around their wrists, straight out of B-school.

    As with most Europeans, there is a complete inattention given to the strategic thinking done in the US prior to the Iraqi war, – even though all of this was completely public.

    The stance is so familiar: “Arab democracy? It simply can’t be done! The US will fail….”

    What Europeans refuse to admit is that it is THEIR hope – that the US will fail. In other words, Lounsbury and his ilk are only projecting their desires in their commentaries.

  3. Compare this:
    “As with most Europeans, there is a complete inattention given to the strategic thinking done in the US prior to the Iraqi war, – even though all of this was completely public”
    With the critics of Bush-supporter
    Jonathan Rauch:
    “Again and again, critics charge the government with having no plan or strategy. ” and “Only trial and error, otherwise known as muddling through, can work in Iraq. There is no other way.”

  4. From New York, Markku Wrote:
    “In other words, Lounsbury [an American, apparently] and his ilk are only projecting their desires in their commentaries.”

    No further comment, your honor.

  5. “all of this was completely public”

    I think Markku has a point. We here in Europe were probably not following US strategic thinking and its evolution too clearly in the late 90’s.

    But one thing Wes Clark has made me only too aware of is that there was a line of evolution, and it was leading towards Iraq.

    Which leads to the horrible conclusion that Osama Bin Laden was probably following this more closely than I was. And since he probably (for his own purposes) wanted Sadam eliminating, he may have had an idea about how to achieve this.

    I don’t know what’s going on in Iraq at all now, I really don’t, but one thing I do know (from my own all too painful experiences) is that it may not be the best thing to do to allow your visceral reactions to get the better of you when provoked. Especially when you’ve made your thinking public in advance.

  6. “I think Markku has a point. We here in Europe were probably not following US strategic thinking and its evolution too clearly in the late 90’s.”

    your Mea Culpa is unwarranted. If anything, in the late 90’s, the clinton administration was following a “successful” Cuba-embargo style policy of marginalisation for Iraq.

    Iraq was so low on the priority list that the intelligence generated by the U.N. was superior to that being generated independently by the USG. The USG lost its main source of Iraq intelligence when the UN pulled out in 1998. A lack of intelligence-gathering is rather countra-indicative of strategic interest in Iraq.

    What you weren’t following was something that wasn’t there.

    When the Bush administration came in, in January 2001, it included many AEI/PNAC members for whom the conclusion of the first gulf war that restored the pre-war borders, was deeply unsatisfying.

    What they lacked was an excuse to resurrect hostilities between the U.S. and Iraq; which 9/11 somehow gave them.

    However, Osama Bin Laden had been trying to blow up the WTC since before 1993, so you can’t claim it was a machiavellian calculation made just because he knew that semi-closeted war-hawks had come back to power in Washington.

  7. Patrick, I understand what you’re saying, and I used to imagine this was the case. But Clark has a different take, and really he was in a position to know.

    The following is from Josh Marshall’s TPM:

    “More than anything it signaled an understanding that what we’ve been seeing for the last two years is part of a much longer history stretching back into the late 1960s.

    The point is that the CPD and PNAC advocacy were both cases in which outside pressure groups — groups of neoconservatives — basically B-teamed the given administration, getting around their flank by working congress and the media to force the administration’s hand or make certain policy options politically unviable.

    With Iraq policy this involved getting the Clinton administration off its policy of “dual containment” and toward one which, on paper at least, embraced the principle of “regime change” as American policy. This in fact was what happened with the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act in late 1998. The embryonic PNAC and other prominent neoconservatives worked the press, lobbied in congress, coordinated with the INC, and the then-weapons inspectors to push for a harder line against Iraq. And in significant ways they succeeded.

    This isn’t a secret or a slur. It’s something the neocons see, with some good reason, as a feather in their cap.

    The Clinton administration never truly embraced the hawkish position. But what the Iraq hawks were focused on was setting down benchmarks, the principle of “regime change” as official policy, official monetary support from Chalabi’s INC, widely signed public letters advocating a more hawkish policy, and so forth.

    This all got underway in mid-1996 and followed through more or less through the end of the administration. Much of the big stuff took place during 1998, in part because there was a quite conscious effort (one of the architects walked me through it a year or so ago) to use Clinton’s weakness during the Monica scandal to advance the ball, so to speak. Once it was clear that Gore was Clinton’s chosen successor the lobbying/mau-mauing shifted to him, with the vice president’s advisor Leon Fuerth tapped to tend to their care and feeding.

    The details of all this are too complicated to go into at the moment. But Clark’s point isn’t “crackpot” or “bizarre.” He’s got it exactly right”

    And what Clark understood, I guess others did too.

  8. Edward,
    I read TPM too, and my take on that post then as now is that the AEI/PNAC ‘Iraq’ strategy was in play on Congress well before January 2001, but mostly offstage (on the D.C. cocktail party circuit)…

    So there was nothing to watch, not through the domestic or foreign press anyway.

    Not until the Bush administration took over could the AEI/PNAC ‘Iraq’ strategy be characterized as part of U.S. strategic thinking, even then it wasn’t actively pushed until after 9/11.

  9. Patrick:

    I’m still curious as to what you think ObL might have had in mind on 09/11. I mean in some quarters trying to read the mind of the enemy might be considered near to ‘treason’, but normally playing chess I find it helps.

    These guys seem to be obsessional, so I have the impression that while I normally have better things to do than follow what’s going on at cocktail parties, they probably don’t.

    All I have are questions, questions which in a mature democracy we ought to be able to ask out loud: what do we mean by ‘war’ here, who exactly are the ‘enemy’, what exactly are their ‘objectives’, what would we we call ‘winning’. I would emphasise, I am not simply talking about Iraq here.

    Much emphasis was placed on the analogy with the war against Hitler. And obviously simply winning on the battlefield wasn’t sufficient even then: we had to get down into Spain and Argentina and root them out as numerous Hollywood ‘thrillers’ have highlighted.

    But this thing seems different. Again I’m going to quote Clark:

    “And, in reality, the problems with Osama bin Laden were not problems of states. They were problems of a supranational organization which alighted in states, used states, manipulated elements of states, but wasn’t going to be contained and destroyed by attacking and replacing governments.

    It’s the principal strategic mistake behind the administration’s policy. If you look at all the states that were named as the principal adversaries, they’re on the periphery of international terrorism today. Syria — OK, supporting Hezbollah and Hamas — yeah, they’re terrorist organizations. They’re focused on Israel. They’re getting support from Iran. It’s wrong. Shouldn’t be there. But they’re there. What about Saudi Arabia? There’s a source of the funding, the source of the ideology, the source of the recruits. What about Pakistan? With thousands of madrassas churning out ideologically-driven foot soldiers for the war on terror. Neither of those are at the front of the military operations.”

    Why do I keep quoting Clark. Am I head of the European ‘vote for Clark’ movement? Well hardly. Normally I don’t vote. But he seems to be the first politician to have come over the radar since 09/11 who seems even to be playing in the right ballpark on all this.

    I just leave you with one thought. ObL is very possibly in Pakistan, money and influence come to him from the upper reaches of Saudi Arabian society, yet we invaded Iraq. I don’t think any of the people I’ve just mentioned are in anyway unhappy to see Sadam Hussein off the map. So just what exactly are we doing?

    Much as I would love to see a happy and well-functioning democratic Iraq, I have the impression that there are still unresolved issues out there which go back to the times of Laurence of Arabia: should, for eg, Iraq be one country or three? In comparison the Balkans seem like childsplay.

    And I want to say something else here. We Europeans like to laugh and feel cleverer than the Americans when someone like Schwartznegger arrives on the political stage, but could it be that actually being open to non-professional politicians is an advantage. Clark, for me, is a case in point. And could it be that at the end of the day even Big Arny will surprise us all?

  10. Edward,
    Re: Strategic thinking; I agree.
    I believe that the 9/11 attack on the WTC was clearly an act of provocation…provocation to act rashly. I had coworkers who were saying that the U.S. would be compelled to re-act militarily to this…as it indeed was. It’s hard to believe that OBL didn’t predict this, and that that wasn’t part of the desired result.

    I also think that part of the provocation was using an almost all saudi team of hijackers. Perhaps we were being provoked into attacking/bringing down our corrupt saudi satrapy. Obviously, that didn’t work.

    But if it had, we would have been fighting a draining two front war against the Islamic world, so it’s very lucky that President Bush was too smart to fall into that trap, now wasn’t it ?

    With regards to Shwarzenegger; he postured as an outsider, but was clearly a republican insider. Were he a true outsider, the other serious republican candidates would not have been compelled to resign the race to make room for him.

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