Exclusive: Must credit Jon Swift
According to a confidential source, Michael Ledeen, Pajamas Media's supreme pundit, is dead. Apparently he was not well for some time. I have not been able to get any independent confirmation of what my source is telling me, but I have decided to go ahead with this story anyway because, after all, that is what Ledeen would have wanted me to do.
Sadly, Ledeen did not live to see his greatest scoop vindicated: his report that the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was dead. Or if he hadn't actually died, was dying. If not right at the moment, then eventually. Iran denied the report, dismissing it as "Internet rumors," and even Michelle Malkin, who is a bit of a stickler for verifying rumors before she prints them, said, "This is either going to be a two-ton feather in Pajamas's cap or a major embarrassment." Even after pictures surfaced of Khamenei (which may have been of an imposter! Or Photoshopped!) making an appearance in public, Ledeen stuck to his guns. His last post on January 10 reported the death of Carlo Ponti, who is, in fact, dead.
Despite his untimely death, Michael Ledeen will continue to live on through the influence his ideas will have on American foreign policy for years to come. Ledeen often advised and Karl Rove on foreign policy and Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz were among his admirers. If it is true that we have declared double-secret war on Iran, you can thank Ledeen, who was a tireless advocate for regime change Iran. Ledeen is a longtime expert on Iran whose expertise on the country goes back to his stint as an advisor to Robert MacFarlane in the Reagan Administration when he helped negotiate the deal that would later be known as Iran-Contra, just one the many successful foreign policy initiatives Ledeen was involved in. In fact, Ledeen was more than a pundit, which elicited grudging admiration even from critics like Matthew Yglesias, who wrote after his name surfaced in relation to the forged documents about yellowcake from Niger (which he denied any involvement with), "I used to find Ledeen's habit of popping up in these contexts to be a bit shady. Nowadays, I think it's sort of admirable. My life as a trained professional political pundit is pretty dull. Lots of time looking at computer screens and the occassional conversation. My other friends in this game are all the same way. But Ledeen does wet work! It's just so cool and makes me look pretty lame by comparison."
But our upcoming (or ongoing) war with Iran is not the only legacy Ledeen leaves behind. Ledeen warned in 2003 that France and Germany may have made an alliance with Islamic terrorists to bring down the United States. "They dreaded the establishment of an American empire, and they sought for a way to bring it down," he wrote. "So the French and the Germans struck a deal with radical Islam and with radical Arabs: You go after the United States, and we'll do everything we can to protect you, and we will do everything we can to weaken the Americans." Eventually, it looks like we may have to go after our "allies," Ledeen said: "If this is correct, we will have to pursue the war against terror far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, into the heart of Western Europe." When we invade France and Germany, we'll have Ledeen to thank. I think we can all sleep better at night knowing that he was giving this kind of advice to the Bush Administration.
There is no question Ledeen's foreign policy advice will be greatly missed. Ledeen supplied the principal rationale for going to war with Iraq, which his friend Jonah Goldberg called the "Ledeen Doctrine." According to Goldberg, Ledeen once said, "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business." Although he modestly claimed later to have nothing to do with the decision to invade Iraq, and, in fact, told Vanity Fair, "I opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place," it was typical of the man not to seek out credit for his ideas. Some critics would go so far as to accuse Ledeen of lying about his support for the war, but they just didn't understand the subtle, sophisticated way he had of expressing himself. For example, when he told an interviewer that we should invade Iraq "yesterday," what he was actually saying was that we shouldn't invade Iraq because everyone knows it would be impossible to do something yesterday unless you had a time machine. And just because he criticized those who opposed the war, it doesn't mean he supported the war. He was highly critical, for example, of Brent Scowcroft who said that, "I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a caldron and destroy the War on Terror." To Ledeen, that was a good thing. "One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today," Ledeen wrote.
Ledeen claimed that he actually wanted to go after Iran before we went after Iraq. But even if he did believe that Iraq was the wrong crappy country to throw against the wall at the wrong time, as he now claims, he predicted that the American people would welcome the War in Iraq with flowers, no matter how many people were killed. "I think the level of casualties is secondary," he said. "I mean, it may sound like an odd thing to say, but all the great scholars who have studied American character have come to the conclusion that we are a warlike people and that we love war.... What we hate is not casualties but losing." If it is true that the American people love war, then Ledeen may have been the most American person of all.
Ledeen's unique perspective grew out of his interest in Italian fascism, which he studied while earning a PhD. at the University of Wisconsin and then in Rome, where he went after being rejected for tenure at the Washington University in St. Louis. (Faculty members said he was rejected for plagiarism and the "quality of his scholarship" but it was no doubt in reality because of his iconoclastic conservative views.) Ledeen believed that despite the bad name Mussolini gave to fascism, there were plenty of good fascist ideas that were worth salvaging. His theory of "Creative Destruction," which holds that sweeping away the old order through violence is the only way for society to progress, was one of the black-shirted babies Ledeen saved from Mussolini's bathwater. "Change -- above all violent change -- is the essence of human history," he wrote in his book, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership. Ledeen's many protégés in the Bush Administration who subscribed to his ideas about "creative destruction" would no doubt be surprised to learn that American foreign policy of the last few years owes a tip of the hat to ol' Benito Mussolini.
To know Ledeen was to love him. He leaves behind a beautiful family who will continue his important work: his wife Barbara, a former aide to Sen. Rick Santorum; his daughter Simone who nabbed a job working for the Civilian Provisional Authority in Iraq and did such a bang-up job getting the Iraq economy on its feet by driving around bags of cash in the trunk of her car; and his sons Gabriel, a Marine, who spent a lot of time drinking designer coffee in Iraq, and Daniel, a student at Rice University, who once asked Michael Moore how he felt about Hezbollah distributing his film Fahrenheit 9/11, but was unfairly cut off before he could ask his follow-up question, "When did you stop beating your wife?" Let us remember them all in our prayers.
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Jon Swift, Iraq, Michael Ledeen, Iran, Khamenei, Michelle Malkin, Pajamas Media, War on Terror, Terrorism, Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Journalism, Politics, Pundits, Foreign Policy
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Exclusive: Must credit Jon Swift