Michael Arthur Ledeen (born August 1, 1941) is an American
historian, neoconservative foreign policy analyst, and author
with a PhD in philosophy. He is a former consultant to the United
States National Security Council, the United States Department of
State, and the United States Department of Defense. He held the
Freedom Scholar chair at the
American Enterprise Institute
American Enterprise Institute where he
was a scholar for twenty years and now holds the similarly named chair
at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
1 Academic career
3 The Bulgarian connection
4 Work in the United States
5 Yellowcake forgery allegations
Iraq War advocacy
7 Views on Iran
8 Controversial theories
9 Personal life
12 External links
Ledeen holds a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy from the University of
Wisconsin–Madison where he studied under the
historian George Mosse. His doctoral dissertation eventually became
Universal Fascism: The Theory and Practice of the Fascist
International, 1928–1936, first published in 1972. The book was the
first work to explore Italian leader Benito Mussolini's efforts to
create a Fascist international in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
After leaving the University of Wisconsin-Madison Ledeen taught at
Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis but left after being denied tenure.
Some faculty indicated that questions about the "quality of his
scholarship" and about whether or not Ledeen had "used the work of
somebody else without proper credit" were issues, although some also
noted that "the 'quasi-irregularity' at issue didn't warrant the
negative vote on tenure."
Ledeen subsequently moved to Rome, where he was hired as the Rome
The New Republic
The New Republic and was named a visiting professor
at the University of
Rome for two years until 1977. In Rome, Ledeen
worked with Italian historian Renzo De Felice, who greatly influenced
Ledeen, drawing a distinction between "fascism-regime" and
"fascism-movement." Ledeen's political views developed to stress
"the urgency of combating centralized state power and the centrality
of human freedom" Ledeen continued his studies in Italian Fascism
with a study of the takeover of Fiume by Italian irredentist forces
under Gabriele d'Annunzio, who Ledeen argued was the prototype for
Ledeen has been a long time and active supporter of political
dissidents, particularly Iranians, and co-founded The Coalition for
Democracy in Iran.
In the 1980 lead up to the US presidential election, Ledeen, along
with Arnaud de Borchgrave, wrote a series of articles published in The
New Republic and elsewhere about Jimmy Carter's brother, Billy
Carter's contacts with the
Muammar al-Gaddafi regime in Libya. Ledeen
testified before a Senate subcommittee that he believed that Billy
Carter had met with and been paid off by
Yasser Arafat of the
Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Five years later, in 1985, a Wall Street Journal investigation
suggested that the series of
Billygate articles written by Ledeen were
part of a larger disinformation campaign intended to influence the
outcome of that year's presidential election. According to the
reporting, Francesco Pazienza, an officer of the Italian intelligence
agency SISMI, alleged that Ledeen was paid $120,000 for his work on
Billygate and other projects. At SISMI, Pazienza stated, Ledeen
warranted a coded identification: Z-3. Pazienza was later tried and
convicted in absentia for using "extortion and fraud to obtain
embarrassing facts about Billy Carter".
The Bulgarian connection
Ledeen worked for the Italian military intelligence agency
1980 providing "risk assessment", and consulting on extradition
matters between Italy and the US. It was during his time in Italy
which Ledeen came out in his belief in the "Bulgarian connection"
conspiracy theory concerning Grey Wolves member Mehmet Ali Ağca's
1981 attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II. The theory has since
been attacked by various authors and journalists, including Washington
Post reporter Michael Dobbs, who initially believed the story as well.
The theory was adopted in 2005 by the Italian Mitrokhin Commission.
According to Craig Unger, "With
Ronald Reagan newly installed in the
White House, the so-called Bulgarian Connection made perfect Cold War
Michael Ledeen was one of its most vocal proponents,
promoting it on TV and in newspapers all over the world."
Work in the United States
In the early 1980s, Ledeen appeared before the newly established
Senate Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism, alongside former CIA
director William Colby, author
Claire Sterling and former Newsweek
editor Arnaud de Borchgrave. Both Ledeen and de Borchgrave worked for
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown
University at the time. All four testified that they believed the
Soviet Union had provided for material support, training and
inspiration for various terrorist groupings.
Ledeen was involved in the
Iran–Contra affair as a consultant of
National Security Advisor Robert C. McFarlane. Ledeen vouched for
Iranian intermediary Manucher Ghorbanifar. In addition, he met with
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, officials of the Israeli Foreign
Ministry and the
Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency to arrange meetings with
high-ranking Iranian officials, whereby U.S supported Iranians would
be given weapons by Israel, and would proceed to negotiate with
Hizbollah for the release of hostages in Lebanon. Ledeen's own
version of the events is published in his book, Perilous
Yellowcake forgery allegations
Main article: Niger uranium forgeries
According to a September 2004 article by Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura
Paul Glastris in Washington Monthly: "The first meeting
Rome in December, 2001. It included Franklin, Rhode, and
another American, the neoconservative writer and operative Michael
Ledeen, who organized the meeting. (According to UPI, Ledeen was then
working for Undersecretary of Defense
Douglas Feith as a consultant.)
Also in attendance was
Ghorbanifar and a number of other
Colleagues Andrew McCarthy and Mark R. Levin have defended Ledeen,
writing: "Up until now, the fiction recklessly spewed by disgruntled
intelligence-community retirees and their media enablers—some of
whom have conceded that the claim is based on zero evidence—has been
that Michael had something to do with the forged Italian documents
that, according to the Left's narrative, were the basis for President
Bush's "lie" in the 2003 State of the Union Address that Saddam
Hussein had obtained yellowcake uranium (for nuclear-weapons
construction) in Africa."
Iraq War advocacy
Regarding the "pre-emptive" invasion of Iraq, in 2002 Ledeen
criticized the views of former National Security Adviser Brent
Scowcroft, writing: "He fears that if we attack
Iraq "I think we could
have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region
into a cauldron and destroy the War on Terror." "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. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down
the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the
Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to
indoctrinate young terrorists." "That's our mission in the war against
Ledeen specifically called for the deposition of Saddam Hussein's
regime by force in 2002:
So it's good news when Scowcroft comes out against the desperately
needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein and the rest of the
Question #2: Okay, well if we are all so certain about the dire need
to invade Iraq, then when do we do so?
Ledeen's statements prior to the start of the
Iraq war such as
"desperately needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein" and
"dire need to invade Iraq" caused
Glenn Greenwald to label his later
statement that he "opposed the military invasion of
Iraq before it
took place" to be an "outright lie". However, Ledeen maintains
these statements are consistent since: "I opposed the military
Iraq before it took place and I advocated—as I still
do—support for political revolution in
Iran as the logical and
necessary first step in the war against the terror masters."
Views on Iran
Ledeen is a long-time foe of Iran. He believed that invading the
country should have been the first priority in the "war on terror" in
2003 rather than Iraq. He believes that “everything traces back to
Tehran” and that
Iran manipulates both sides of the Shi’ite-Sunni
conflict, leading reviewer
Peter Beinart to note that his “effort to
lay virtually every attack by Muslims against Americans at Tehran’s
feet takes him into rather bizarre territory.” The New York
Times describes Ledeen's views as "everything traces back to
Tehran". Ledeen's phrase, "faster, please" has become a signature
meme in Ledeen's writings (it is currently the title of his blog on
Pajamas Media website) and is often referenced by neoconservative
writers advocating a more forceful and broader "war on terror." In
1979, Ledeen was one of the first Western writers to argue that
Ruhollah Khomeini was a "clerical fascist", and that while
it was legitimate to criticize the Shah's regime, if Khomeini seized
Iran the Iranian people would suffer an even greater loss of
freedom and women would be deprived of political and social rights. He
presently believes that "No one in the West has yet supported Iranian
democratic organizations" and that "aggressive support for those
Iranians who wish to be free" would most likely work in ending the
According to Justin Raimondo, Ledeen "holds up
Bill Clinton and
Madeleine Albright as patsies for Khomeini—who supposedly believed
Ayatollah overthrew Shah Reza Pahlavi because the Iranian
government was 'excessively repressive and intolerant.' While it would
not do to come right out and deny the savagery of the Shah's legendary
SAVAK secret police, Ledeen informs us that, under the monarch's
beneficent rule, '
Iran had become too modern, too
tolerant—especially of women and of other religious faiths—and too
self-indulgent. The shah had Westernized Iran'—except, perhaps, in
his prisons, where the ancient methods of torture were routinely
employed on dissidents of all sorts."
Ledeen is currently against both an invasion of
Iran or air-strikes
within the country. He has argued that the latter may
eventually become necessary if negotiations with the Iranian
government fail, but it would only be the least bad option of many
options and it would lead to many negative unforeseen
The New York Times
The New York Times has called Ledeen's skepticism
towards military action against
Iran surprising given his opposition
to the regime. In October 2007, Ledeen argued that:
"Those who believe that I am part of some "hawkish gang" just haven't
noticed that I am opposed to invasion or bombing the nuclear
facilities. My fear is that, by failing to promote a non-violent
democratization of Iran, we make large-scale violence much more
"In any event, time will tell, and I share the fear of most commenters
[sic] that we will indeed arrive at a horrible choice between Iran
with the bomb, or bomb Iran, as Sarkozy and Kouchner have put it. And
if that happens, it will demonstrate a terrible failure on the part of
the West, including the United States, to craft a serious
lo these many years."
In July 2016 Ledeen co-authored with Lt. General Michael T. Flynn, at
the time Donald Trump’s national-security adviser, The Field of
Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against
Radical Islam and Its
Allies. Flynn and Ledeen constructed a narrative in which the world is
at war with a "great evil" and
Iran is the central player on the enemy
Ledeen also believed that
Iran is the main backer of the insurgency in
Iraq and even supported the al-Qaida network formerly led by
al-Zarqawi despite its declaration of jihad against Shi'ite
Muslims. He claimed that German and Italian court documents showed
Zarqawi created a European terrorist network while based in
Ledeen was a board member of the "Coalition for Democracy in Iran"
(CDI), founded by Morris Amitay, a former Executive Director of
American Israel Public Affairs Committee
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Ledeen had also been
part of the board of the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon. According
to the Washington Post, quoted by Asia Times, he was the only
full-time international affairs analyst regularly consulted by Karl
Rove, George W. Bush's closest advisor.
Following the February 2003 speech by French Minister for Foreign
Dominique de Villepin
Dominique de Villepin at the United Nations General Assembly
against the intervention in Iraq, Ledeen outlined, in a column
entitled "A Theory," a possibility that
France and Germany, both NATO
allies of the United States, "struck a deal with radical Islam and
with radical Arabs" to use "extremism and terrorism as the weapon of
choice" to weaken the United States. He stated, "It sounds fanciful,
to be sure," but that, "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. 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." See also: Eurabia
Jonah Goldberg, Ledeen's colleague at National Review, coined the term
"Ledeen Doctrine" in a 2002 column. This tongue-in-cheek "doctrine" is
usually summarized as "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," which Goldberg
remembered Ledeen saying in an early 1990s speech.
Ledeen has also advocated that U.S. leaders take a stronger rhetorical
stance in wars on Islamic regimes and militant groups. For instance he
has recommended in public talks that U.S. leaders question or
challenge defeated Islamic militaries or forces regarding the apparent
failure of Allah to assure their victory.
Ledeen was born in Los Angeles, California. He is married to his
second wife, Barbara. Barbara Ledeen sparked controversy in 2017 when
she tried to launch her own investigation into Hillary Clinton’s
emails, while a staffer on the committee looking into Trump’s Russia
His first wife was Jenny Ledeen of St. Louis, Mo. Ledeen has three
children: Simone, Gabriel, and Daniel. Simone has worked both in Iraq
and Afghanistan for the Department of Defense; Gabriel is currently a
lieutenant in the United States Marines Corps serving his second tour
in Iraq; Daniel too is currently a lieutenant in the USMC.
Ledeen is an accomplished contract bridge player. He has won one
American Contract Bridge League national-level tournament, the 2009
Senior Swiss Teams, on a team-of-four with Karen Allison, Lea Dupont
and Benito Garozzo. He has also partnered Jimmy Cayne, who was the
oldest CEO on Wall Street when he oversaw the collapse of Bear Stearns
firm in 2007 and 2008. Consulted by a New York Times journalist early
in the episode, Ledeen suggested that his book on the leadership
lessons of Machiavelli had influenced Cayne, and observed that "Jimmy
saw himself in Machiavelli ... you have to get rid of failure and
you have to punish lack of virtue ruthlessly and all the time."
Universal Fascism; the Theory and Practice of the Fascist
International, 1928–1936, New York, H. Fertig, 1972
Renzo De Felice
Renzo De Felice Fascism: An Informal Introduction To
Its Theory And Practice, New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Books,
1976 ISBN 0-87855-190-5.
Renzo De Felice
Renzo De Felice and the Controversy over Italian Fascism" pages
269–283 from Journal of Contemporary History, Volume 11, 1976.
The First Duce: D'Annunzio at Fiume, Baltimore; London: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1977 ISBN 0-8018-1860-5.
Italy In Crisis, Beverly Hills [Calif.]: Sage publications, 1977
George Mosse "Intervista sul Nazismo", Rome-Bari,
co-written with William Lewis Debacle, The American Failure in Iran,
Vintage Books; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (1982)
Grave New World, New York: Oxford University Press, 1985
West European Communism and American Foreign Policy, New Brunswick,
N.J., U.S.A.: Transaction Books, 1987 ISBN 0-88738-140-5.
Perilous Statecraft: An Insider's Account of the Iran-Contra Affair,
New York: Scribner, 1988 ISBN 0-684-18994-1.
Superpower Dilemmas: the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. at Century's End, New
Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction Publishers, 1992
Freedom Betrayed: How America Led a Global Democratic Revolution, Won
the Cold War, and Walked Away, Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 1996
Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli's Iron Rules Are As
Timely and Important Today as Five Centuries Ago, New York: Truman
Talley Books/St. Martin's Press, 1999 ISBN 0-312-20471-X.
The War against The Terror Masters: Why It Happened, Where We Are Now,
How We'll Win, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002
The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots' Quest for Destruction.
Truman Talley Books, 2007. ISBN 0-312-37655-3.
Obama's Betrayal of Israel, New York: Encounter Broadsides, 2010
The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical
Islam and Its Allies co-written with Lt. General Michael T. Flynn, New
York: St. Martin's Press, 2016 ISBN 978-1-25010-622-3.
^ Baum, David (2011). "Race, Antisemitism and the Renaissance in
Racist Italy". In Zinguer, Llana. Hebraic Aspects of the Renaissance:
Sources and Encounters. BRILL. p. 236.
^ A. Danchev 'Ed.), The Irak war and Democratic politics, Routledge,
^ a b "Ledeen Seems To Relish
Iran Insider's Role," Charles R.
Babcock. The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: February 2, 1987. p.
^ "Flirting with Fascism", John Laughland, The American Conservative,
30 June 2003.
^ A Theory, Michael Ledeen,
National Review Online, March 10, 2003.
^ Michael Ledeen;
Arnaud de Borchgrave
Arnaud de Borchgrave (1980-11-01). "Qaddafi, Arafat,
and Billy Carter". The New Republic. pp. 19–21.
^ Unger, Craig (July 2006). "The War They Wanted, the Lies They
Needed". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 5 August 2013. A 1985 investigation by
Jonathan Kwitny in The Wall Street Journal reported that the New
Republic article was part of a larger disinformation scam run by
SISMI to tilt the election, and that “Billy Carter
wasn’t the only one allegedly getting money from a foreign
government.” According to Pazienza, Kwitny reported, Michael Ledeen
had received at least $120,000 from
SISMI in 1980 or 1981 for his work
Billygate and other projects. Ledeen even had a coded identity,
Z-3, and had money sent to him in a Bermuda bank account, Pazienza
said. Ledeen told the Journal that a consulting firm he owned, I.S.I.,
SISMI and may have received the money. He said he did not
recall whether he had a coded identity. Pazienza was subsequently
convicted in absentia on multiple charges, including having used
extortion and fraud to obtain embarrassing facts about Billy Carter.
Ledeen was never charged with any crime, but he was cited in
Pazienza’s indictment, which read, “With the illicit support of
SISMI and in collaboration with the well-known American
‘Italianist’ Michael Ledeen, Pazienza succeeded in extorting, also
using fraudulent means, information … on the Libyan business of
Billy Carter, the brother of the then President of the United
^ a b The War They Wanted, The Lies They Needed, Craig Unger, Vanity
Fair, July 2006.
^ U.S. Senate. Hearing before the Subcommittee on Security and
Terrorism. Terrorism: Origins, Direction and Support. 97th Congress,
1st session. April 24, 1981.
^ Mohr, C (1981-04-25). "Hearing on terror opens with warning on
Soviet". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
^ Walsh, LE (1993-08-04). "Final Report of the Independent Counsel for
Iran/Contra Matters; volume I: "Investigations and Prosecution"".
^ Ledeen, Michael Arthur (1988). Perilous statecraft: an insider's
account of the Iran-Contra affair. New York: Scribner.
^ Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura Rozen &
Paul Glastris (September
2004). "'Iran-Contra II?,". Washington Monthly. Archived from the
original on 2004-08-30.
^ Andrew McCarthy and Mark R. Levin (28 July 2006). "Rolling Smear".
National Review Online. Archived from the original on 19 August
^ a b "Snowcroft Strikes Out". Archived from the original on September
15, 2009. Retrieved 2005-06-13. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url
status unknown (link) , Michael Ledeen,
National Review Online, August
^ To Invade
Iraq or Not; That is the Question. Jamie Glazov,
FrontPageMagazine.com, August 12, 2002.
^ Glenn Greenwald: What do National Review, Rich Lowry, and the AEI
have to say about Michael Ledeen's lie, Unclaimed Territory, November
^ The Latest
Disinformation from Vanity Fair Michael Ledeen, National
Review Online, November 4, 2006
^ a b c Books on the Mideast. By Peter Beinart. The New York Times.
Published September 9, 2007.
^ a b c
Iran with the Bomb, or Bomb Iran: The Need for Regime Change.
Michael A. Ledeen.
Encyclopædia Britannica Blog. Published October
^ Raimondo, Justin (2002-11-18) The War Against the World, The
^ a b United States Policy toward Iran. Michael A. Ledeen. American
Enterprise Institute. Posted March 8, 2006
^ Philip Giraldi:
Iran Hawks Take the White House The American
Conservative, 9 February 2017
^ a b
Iran Connects the Dots, Michael Ledeen,
National Review Online,
June 9, 2006
^ "Veteran neo-con advisor moves on Iran". Asia Times. June 26, 2003.
^ A Theory, Michael Ledeen,
National Review Online, March 10, 2003
^ Goldberg, Jonah (April 23, 2002). "Baghdad Delenda Est, Part Two".
^ Stephanie Kirchgaessner (13 October 2017). "Flynn ally sought help
from 'dark web' in covert Clinton email investigation".
TheGuardian.com. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
^  Archived July 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
^ Manley, Brent, Editor; Horton, Mark, Co-Editor; Greenberg-Yarbro,
Tracey, Co-Editor; Rigal, Barry, Co-Editor (2011). The Official
Encyclopedia of Bridge - Biographies and Results (compact disk) (7th
ed.). Horn Lake, MS: American Contract Bridge League. p. 313.
ISBN 978-0-939460-99-1. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list
^ "Salvaging a Prudent Name". Landon Thomas, Jr. The New York Times.
June 29, 2007. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
Profile at International Analyst Network
Interview with Ledeen, Front Page Magazine, conducted by Jamie Glazov,
30 December 2003.
Appearances on C-SPAN
A film clip "The Open Mind – An Insiders Account of the Iran-Contra
Affair (1988)" is available at the Internet Archive
Michael Arthur Ledeen at
Library of Congress
Library of Congress Authorities, with 23
John R. Bolton
Douglas J. Feith
Eliot A. Cohen
Reuel Marc Gerecht
R. James Woolsey Jr.
Henry M. Jackson
John Courtney Murray
Project for the New American Century
National Endowment for Democracy
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs
Henry Jackson Society
Emergency Committee for Israel
American Enterprise Institute
Foreign Policy Initiative
The Weekly Standard
The Public Interest
Timeline of modern American conservatism
Neoconservatism and paleoconservatism
Clash of Civilizations
Idealism in international relations
Anti-Stalinist left (
The New York Intellectuals and Trotskyism)
Republican In Name Only
Republican In Name Only (pejorative)
Stop Trump movement
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