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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Political Weapons

Yesterday, I mentioned that Michael Ledeen has been a conduit linking US officials like Oliver North and Harold Rhode to Iran-contra figure Manucher Ghorbanifar.

So I thought I'd take a quick look at Ledeen's politics today. He is a well-known neoconservative, based at the American Enterprise Institute who writes regularly for The National Review Online.

Moreover, Ledeen is quite hawkish on Iran and Syria, arguing that the US will never be successful in Iraq until it takes a "regional" perspective. That means "regime change" in the neighboring states.

However, Ledeen does not advocate using military force to topple these states. Ledeen instead advocates using "political weapons" rather than arms. A lot of doves potentially embrace this position, so I thought it might be worthwhile to see what Ledeen has in mind for Syria and Iran:
But unlike Iraq, there is no need for a military campaign. Our most potent weapons are the peoples of Syria and Iran, and they are primed, loaded, and ready to fire. We should now pull the political lanyards and unleash democratic revolution on the terror masters in Damascus and Tehran.
What does Ledeen mean by using political weapons?

I'm not 100% certain. This is what he wrote in The Australian, about Lebanon:
We should unleash the full panoply of political weapons on behalf of Lebanese freedom: a vigorous human rights campaign, attention to the many stories of brutality and abuse coming from the lively Lebanese diaspora, political observers at every Lebanese election, demands for shutting down the infamous terrorist training camps in the Bekaa Valley, and investigations into the state of religious freedom.
And this is what he said about the "battle for the minds" of Iranians:
In Iran, we have a seemingly irresistible political card to play: give the people the same sort of political support we gave the Yugoslavs under Milosevic, the Poles, Hungarians and Czechs under the Soviet empire, and the Filipinos under Marcos.
More specifically, in Iran, Ledeen would support "student and teacher organizations, trade unions" and other worker groups "especially in the oil and textile sectors" that could "organize an insurrection in Tehran and other major cities. They need money (a fraction of what was squandered in the CIA’s failed program to induce an insurrection in Basra), satellite phones, laptop computers..." Ledeen has made perfectly clear his disdain for traditional diplomatic dialogue with the state. But he's confident his measures will work:
"if the United States chooses to give real support to the regime's opponents, there could well be a replay of the mass demonstrations that led to the fall of Milosevic in Yugoslavia and the Marcoses in the Philippines."
It's certainly not clear that the information revolution and Reagan's rhetoric about evil empires toppled Poland, Hungary and the Soviet empire. Decades of containment policy, combined with the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev, had a lot to do with those cases. A lot. Yes, the regimes were illegitimate, but they were also horribly managed and poorer than most people knew. Glasnost revealed the Soviet state and economy for what it was.

In a different op-ed, Ledeen advocated that Israel use "political weapons" against the Palestinians. He advocated using broadcasts, but stated somewhat vaguely that "freedom is the most lethal weapon in the endless struggle against tyranny. An entire generation of Americans forgot it, and was shocked to see its awesome power when Ronald Reagan aimed it at Moscow. A generation of Israelis forgot it, and need to remind themselves of it as they grapple with their life-threatening crisis." Days after 9/11, Ledeen also referenced the Reagan era:
In other words, it is time once again to export the democratic revolution. To those who say it cannot be done, we need only point to the 1980s, when we led a global democratic revolution that toppled tyrants from Moscow to Johannesburg.
I wonder whether Ledeen supported sanctions or "constructive engagement" vis-a-vis South Africa in the 1980s?

Before readers start thinking, hey, this Ledeen guy sounds like a reasonable fellow, consider something more controversial that he's written, which attracted a lot of attention.

Last year during the debate with France and Germany over Iraq policy at the UN, Ledeen argued that the US might have to take the fight against terror to Europe:
Both countries have been totally deaf to suggestions that the West take stern measures against the tyrannical terrorist sponsors in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. Instead, they do everything in their power to undermine American-sponsored trade embargoes or more limited sanctions, and it is an open secret that they have been supplying Saddam with military technology through the corrupt ports of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's little playground in Dubai, often through Iranian middlemen.

I think Chirac will oppose us before, during, and after the war, because he has cast his lot with radical Islam and with the Arab extremists. He isn't doing it just for the money — although I have no doubt that France is being richly rewarded for defending Saddam against the civilized countries of the world — but for higher stakes. He's fighting to end the feared American domination before it takes stable shape.

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.
Of course, Ledeen concludes this piece by writing, "And there, as in the Middle East, our greatest weapons are political: the demonstrated desire for freedom of the peoples of the countries that oppose us."

What does that mean? Aren't Europeans already free?

What did it mean when millions of citizens took to the streets and protested the prospective war against Iraq? What did it mean when pollsters found overwhelming European opposition to war?

Is Ledeen as wrong about countries in the Middle East as he is about Europe?

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