An unconvincing act

Foreign policy expert Michael Ledeen’s recent talk on Iran—laden with conspiracy and warmongering—bordered on the comedic.

By Hamid Bendaas

There are times in life when you get more than you could have ever expected. One of those times was last week when I sat in on Michael Ledeen’s talk, “How Can We Stop Iran?” sponsored by the RSO Chicago Friends of Israel. I was very excited to hear him speak, since everything in his profile assured me he was the type of person I enjoy learning from: He was a defense consultant to Reagan; he has a disconcerting infatuation with Machiavelli; he even has his own “doctrine” attributed to him, one which goes something like, “Every 10 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.” In advocating the Iraq War, he had this to say on what our aims in the Middle East ought to be: “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.” I was sold. I couldn’t wait to go in and hear a professional warmonger educate me on what our future policy toward Iran ought to be. But what followed surpassed my every expectation.

I look back on his comments very fondly, as one might their first kiss or high school graduation. On the suicide bombings and IEDs that killed American soldiers in Iraq, he informed us that Iranians were in fact responsible, and that “Everyone knows it.” Yes, everyone knows it, but no one is willing to say it—this was a major point of Ledeen’s talk. That is, everyone in Washington knows that Iran is responsible for committing acts of terrorism against the USA, but in the hopes of cutting a deal with Iran, no one is willing to say so publicly.

He went on to give more details of Iranian mischief that “everyone knows” about but which no one mentions. He noted anti-American nations in South America that are occasional diplomatic allies with Iran—“Venezuela, Bolivia… sometimes Brazil”—and drew attention to the fact that mosques have recently been built in those countries. Islam, of course is “not indigenous” to the region, so why the sudden sprouting up of mosques? “They are terrorist training centers.” I could hardly contain my laughter upon the realization that Ledeen wasn’t just a regular boring professional warmonger; he was also an amateur conspiracy theorist—a Renaissance man indeed.

There was also an interesting moment when Ledeen, in regards to allegations Israel has had nuclear scientists killed in the streets of Tehran, stated that these could not be true since Tehran is a “military camp” and is so heavily patrolled that residents are asked to show documentation every few blocks. During the question & answer after his talk, I asked Ledeen about this statement. I had been to Tehran a few years ago and had walked around alone and with others for hours at a time without seeing any police or military personnel, much less being stopped by them. In my month-long stay in Tehran, I saw one man get arrested. I do not know for what. I never once saw a person get stopped and asked for papers. In comparison, how many times a month do you see police stop people on this campus alone? And this is why Mr. Ledeen is only an amateur conspiracy theorist—every good conspiracy theorist knows you need to keep your lies and delusions as irrefutable as possible for the audience you’re speaking to. You never know when there might be an Iranian, or simply a mildly informed person, in your midst.

It goes without saying that I found the Maroon’s coverage of Ledeen’s talk atrocious and misleading. The article makes him sound like a voice for peace, as it reports that he advocates “a modern version of the Marshall Plan” to stop Iran. The Marshall Plan, of course, was used to keep democratic nations democratic; Iran is not democratic. What Ledeen advocates is funding and arming forces within Iran that will overthrow the current regime and set up a democratic administration. For anyone with knowledge of Iran’s history, you might recognize this as the exact policy used in the 1953 Iranian coup to put the Shah in place (though, at that time, “not-communist and willing to sell us oil cheaply” sufficed for “democratic”), and thus as the policy directly responsible for the admittedly deplorable state of Iran today.

Finally, a big “thank you” to the Chicago Friends of Israel for inserting some fun into this issue, at least for the rational among us. I fully support decisions by this and any other RSO to pass over respected and informed scholars of a subject in favor of more comedic routines.

Hamid Bendaas is a first-year in the College.