The man behind ‘total war’ in the Mideast


Richard Moore

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Date: Fri, 16 May 2003 09:32:50 -0700
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Subject: Fw: The man behind 'total war' in the Mideast


    The man behind 'total war' in the Mideast
    William O. Beeman
    Wednesday, May 14, 2003
    ©2003 San Francisco Chronicle

Most Americans have never heard of Michael Ledeen, but
if the United States ends up in an extended shooting
war throughout the Middle East, it will be largely due
to his inspiration.

A fellow at the conservative American Enterprise
Institute, Ledeen is a former employee of the Pentagon,
the State Department and the National Security Council.
As a consultant working with NSC head Robert McFarlane,
he was involved in the transfer of arms to Iran during
the Iran-Contra affair -- an adventure that he
documented in the book "Perilous Statecraft: An
Insider's Account of the Iran-Contra Affair." His most
influential book is last year's "The War Against the
Terror Masters: Why It Happened. Where We Are Now. How
We'll Win."

Ledeen's ideas are repeated daily by such figures as
Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
His views virtually define the stark departure from
American foreign policy philosophy that existed before
the tragedy of Sept. 11. He basically believes that
violence in the service of the spread of democracy is
America's manifest destiny. Consequently, he has become
the philosophical legitimizer of the American
occupation of Iraq.

Now Ledeen is calling for regime change beyond Iraq. In
an address entitled "Time to Focus on Iran -- The
Mother of Modern Terrorism," for the policy forum of
the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs on
April 30, he declared, "The time for diplomacy is at an
end; it is time for a free Iran, free Syria and free

With a group of other conservatives, Ledeen recently
set up the Center for Democracy in Iran, an action
group focusing on producing regime change in Iran.

Quotes from Ledeen's works reveal a peculiar set of
beliefs about American attitudes toward violence.
"Change -- above all violent change -- is the essence
of human history," he proclaims in his book,
"Machiavelli on Modern Leadership." In an influential
essay in the National Review Online he asserts,
"Creative destruction is our middle name. We do it
automatically. . . . It is time once again to export
the democratic revolution."

Ledeen has become the driving philosophical force
behind the neoconservative movement and the military
actions it has spawned. His 1996 book, "Freedom
Betrayed; How the United States Led a Global Democratic
Revolution, Won the Cold War and Walked Away," reveals
the basic neoconservative obsession: The United States
never "won" the Cold War; the Soviet Union collapsed of
its own weight without a shot being fired. Had the
United States truly won, democratic institutions would
be sprouting everywhere the threat of communism had
been rife.

Iraq, Iran and Syria are the first and foremost nations
where this should happen, according to Ledeen. The
process by which this should be achieved is a violent
one, termed "total war."

"Total war not only destroys the enemy's military
forces, but also brings the enemy society to an
extremely personal point of decision, so that they are
willing to accept a reversal of the cultural trends,"
Ledeen writes. "The sparing of civilian lives cannot be
the total war's first priority. . . . The purpose of
total war is to permanently force your will onto
another people."

Consequently, Ledeen has excoriated both the State
Department and the United Nations for their preference
for diplomatic solutions to conflict; as well as the
CIA for equivocating on evidence that would condemn
"America's enemies" and justify militant action.

"No one I know wants to wage war on Iran and Syria, but
I believe there is now a clear recognition that we must
defend ourselves against them," Ledeen wrote on May 6
in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Though he appears on conservative outlets such as the
Fox television network, Ledeen has not been singled out
for much media attention by the Bush administration,
despite his extensive influence in Washington. His
views may be perceived as too extreme for most
Americans, who prefer to think of the United States as
pursuing violence only when attacked and manifesting
primarily altruistic goals toward other nations.

Clearly, a final decision has not been made on whether
the United States will continue military action in
Iran, Syria and Lebanon. But Ledeen has a notable track
record. He was calling for attacks against Iraq
throughout the 1990s, and the U.S. invasion on March 19
was a total fulfillment of his proposals.

Given both his fervor and his influence over the men
with the guns, Americans should not be surprised if
Ledeen's pronouncements come true.

William O. Beeman, who contributes opinion pieces to
Pacific News Service, teaches anthropology and directs
Middle East Studies at Brown University.

©2003 San Francisco Chronicle

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    work through the political system?", but rather, "Is
    the political system one of the things that needs to be
    fundamentally transformed?"

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