Tom Ricks, Incoherent dick

by Joshua Foust on 5/28/2009 · 15 comments

Tom Ricks didn’t like me noting that Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn are probably the only two independent journalists living in Kandahar. He even called it “bullshit.” What follows, however, is just bizarre:

As opposed, I reckon, to the dozens of MSM hacks who line up for frosty Taj beers by 3 pm each day at the bar of the Kandahar Foreign Correspondents Club. Bonus points for the four-barreled name featuring a “van.” Didn’t young van Linschoten’s cousin Winston prep at St. Paul’s, and later get involved in a regretful scene at a Princeton boathouse with two Emma Willard girls and a wolverine that had imbibed too much champagne?

In reality, I am told the best bar in Afghanistan outside Kabul remains the Bamboo in Jalalabad. They also can arrange a tour of Tora Bora for you, but the heavy security costs extra.

Ooookay. So the majority of journalists operating in Kandahar province live at KAF and work at the behest of the military there. Sometimes MSM reporters venture into Kandahar City itself—Dexter Filkins notably spent several days there and noted that he didn’t see any Canadian patrols around the city—but they are not based there full time, nor do they speak Dari and Pashto as Alex does.

If Ricks knows of any other journalists—independent or no—who live in Kandahar City full time (Sarah Chayes does not count, as she no longer works as a journalist), I’d like to hear about them. Otherwise, he could try shutting his fucking mouth and acting like reading Free Range International is a sufficient excuse for wit. (FRI is the blog of Tim Lynch, whose company also runs the Taj, which Ricks links to, by way of saying he “is told” rather than actually seeing for himself.) Or, you know, he could try not being a dick about something so very trivial.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Nathan May 28, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Are you suggesting that someone who blogs for FP doesn’t know what they’re talking about? My world is collapsing around me…

Joshua Foust May 28, 2009 at 3:12 pm

ohmigod not the new foreign policy dot com!

Dan May 28, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Ricks didn’t make any real point. I’ve never seen anything so bizarre from him.

Ghost writer May 28, 2009 at 3:47 pm

That post had to do with Kaplan, I’d bet money.

noah tucker May 28, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I’m as baffled by the weird shot at Alex as the one at you… God forbid someone from northern europe be so stuck-up as to have a northern european sounding name.

Christian May 28, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Yeah, that was weird. I would write more, but I’m sorta busy in Vancouver. Or rather Couver as Ricks would have this fine Dutch-named port city be called. Damn fancy pants Dutch and their high fallutin’ names.

Bones May 28, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I wonder if the national security blog circuit will crack under sheer vitriol if its two most caustic citizens take aim at each other.

Bones May 28, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I wonder if the national security blog circuit will crack under sheer vitriol if its two most caustic citizens take aim at each other.

HB May 29, 2009 at 10:37 am

I think there’s an ancient Afghan proverb for this: What goes around comes around.

While I enjoy Registan, and while Josh frequently offers sharp, informed correctives to dominant narratives, his tone is often bafflingly and gratuitously hostile. That this would result in hostility towards Josh (in this case rather bizarre hostility on Ricks’ part, it must be said) shouldn’t surprise anyone.

T. Greer May 29, 2009 at 10:44 am


Is this really necessary? I love ya, I really do, but you this post helps you none. Let Ricks wallow in his mud hole alone. Responses like this just bring attention to what he said.

jenniferro10 May 29, 2009 at 10:45 am

Now, boys.

jenniferro10 May 29, 2009 at 10:45 am

Now, boys…

Joshua Foust May 29, 2009 at 10:52 am

Well, there is an element of “don’t feed the trolls” here. But I don’t accept journalists of Ricks’ stature defaming my friends like that. If he thought Alex had made a bad argument or something, that’d be one thing. But calling out as “bullshit” Alex’s work because he really is one of two unembedded journalists in Kandahar using babbling nonsense… nah, I don’t get that.

Matthieu Aikins May 29, 2009 at 2:18 pm

How curious. Just caught this on my google alerts. I am actually across the street from Alex at the moment, saw him last night. I’m sure he’s blissfully unaware of all this nonsense.

Tom Johnson May 31, 2009 at 4:34 am

I will also have a good laugh about this next week when I see Alex. Josh don’t over analyze this; don’t go over the top or assume too much. Humor and sarcasm can be useful — ad hominy is Not …its all a bit of a diversion. Hope you are well….cheers from KAF and the wonderful Lake Imperial, Tom

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