Accomplice to Evil

Michael Ledeen discusses a prophecy he made about Iran and how, alone among Western observers, he got it right.

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Michael A. Ledeen, a noted political analyst and a Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is the author of The Iranian Time Bomb, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership and Tocqueville on American Character, and he is a contributor to The Wall Street Journal. His latest book is Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West.

FP: Michael Ledeen, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

I would like to talk to you today about your latest book, Accomplice to Evil.

Tell us about the main argument of your book.

Ledeen: The main argument is simple: when we deny the existence of evil, we become its accomplices. I recount many instances where we, America, have done just that: abandoning our soldiers captured by North Korea and the Soviet Union; appeasing Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin and Castro; failing to prevent the Rwanda genocide; and failing to respond to Iran's 30-year war against us.

FP: Sorry, I don’t want to steer us off the discussion on Iran, but can you expand a bit on how our soldiers were captured by the North Koreans and the Soviet Union and how we abandoned them?

Ledeen: It's a terrible story, and there is quite an extensive literature on it.  I have a friend in the Pentagon who has spent the last twenty years trying to get some cooperation from the Soviets/Russians, but to no avail.  Neither the Koreans nor the Russians want these poor souls to leave, and thus to be able to tell their stories.

FP: I did an interview on the POWs that we left behind with Lynn O’Shea last year -- it really is heart-breaking and infuriating. Is there anything ordinary citizens can do to help the American POWs that are still locked away in these tyrannies? What would you recommend to those who want to learn more and do something about this, at least to even have the truth told, etc.?

Ledeen: I doubt there is anything to do, alas.  But there is a detailed book about it:  The Forsaken by Tim Tzouliadis and the great Hank Holzer wrote a fine essay about it some years back.

FP: Ok thank you. Let's get back to Accomplice to Evil. You discuss a prophecy you made about Iran that was fulfilled. Share it with us. Why do you think you alone among Western observers got this right?

Ledeen: I said that the Iranian people would take to the streets against the regime if the electoral results were falsified. Nobody believed it. But it was obvious, or so I thought. Most Iranians hate the regime; all you have to do to prove that is watch how the regime behaves.

FP: What is the status at the moment of the Iranian protests on the streets? What were your thoughts on how the Obama administration handled the Iranian protests and the regime’s crackdown at the time? And as we know, the Iranian Gestapo continues to pull Iranians off the streets and to torture them, and yet the administration and our media are not saying much about it.

Ledeen: Right now (evening of Sept 2nd) the regime's thugs are in their fifth consecutive day of besieging the home of one of the Green Movement's leaders, Mehdi Karroubi.  They seem to have set his house on fire.  Karroubi was in the midst of an interview with our Radio Farda when his phone was disconnected.  So we know that the regime is afraid of the Greens.  Dissidents have lost their fear of torture and death, and my impression--not widely shared--is that the movement has been growing.  Time will tell.

FP: We are at war with Iran, as the Mullahs declared war on us long ago, and yet the Obama administration is in denial about that. What do you think about that and what are the consequences?

Ledeen: It's not just Obama; every president since Jimmy Carter has come to believe that we could make a deal with the mullahs. The consequences?  Lots of dead Americans (about which nobody seems to care), and our friends and allies.

FP: You are right, every leader since Jimmy Carter has tried to accommodate the Iranian regime and yet this policy has filled over and over again. How do you explain this continuing practice of a policy that not only fails, but kills Americans and jeopardizes U.S. security?

Ledeen: Political leaders are really afraid to take on the regime.  Everybody knows that the regime is killing Americans, but this fact--which to me is central to the whole question of Iran policy--has no traction, either in the media or in government.  All they talk about is nukes.  But the regime doesn't need nukes to kill our kids.

FP: What are some of the key mistakes we have made in the past when dealing with our enemies? Why do you think there is often so much denial on our side about the existence of evil adversaries?

Ledeen: We deny it because when we admit it, we have to do something about it, and political leaders dread such decisions. Better do nothing and let someone else take the heat.

FP: We need a strategy to win. What does that strategy need to be?

Ledeen: Regime change in Iran. I think it can be done politically, by supporting the opposition. But if we don't, and the regime survives, eventually somthing terrible thing will be visited on us and we will have to wage a big war. We are parents of children who have been on Middle Eastern battlefields, and we dread that. Especially when support for democratic revolution in Iran is so likely to succeed, and doesn't risk the lives and bodies of our kids.

FP: How have our governments, and the Obama administration presently, not supported the Iranian opposition and what can they do to support it effectively? What must the administration do to successfully support a democratic revolution in Iran?

Ledeen: Just follow the template of our support for Soviet dissidents and the Solidarity movement in Poland: they need some money, they need our public support (from the president on down), and they need some communications technology, from satellite phones to ways to beat internet censorship, to ways to broadcast tv and radio.  They do not need a military attack.

FP: Your thoughts on Iran and its nuclear program? It appears that Obama has abandoned Israel and that the Israelis may soon have to act alone. How do you read the situation?

Ledeen: I think that regime change will moot the nuke issue, because I do not think that a freely elected Iranian government will want to attack anybody, including Israel.  The opposition constantly chants "No Gaza, no Lebanon, my life for Iran!"  But if we do nothing and if Iran does develop nuclear warheads on top of missiles, then I think Israel will be compelled to act.  So paradoxically, those who advocate appeasement of Iran are making war more likely.

FP: If Israel is compelled to act against Iran, what could it do that would be effective? What would the consequences be?

Ledeen: Israel, like any other Western country, should help the opposition overthrow the mullahs.  That would change the world, for the better.  Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the other terror groups--yes, al Qaeda--would suddenly be dramatically weakened, for example.  Iraq would be more secure.  Afghanistan would be easier.  If Israel is forced to attack, they have many ways to do it.  I would be a bit surprised if they launched a big air attack, and I hope to never know the answer...but I think it's wrong to predict, as some do, that the Iranians would rally round the regime.  Why would they do that?  They hate it, and want it gone.

FP: Michael Ledeen, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview. It is always an honor to speak with you and we consider you a dear friend here at Frontpage.

To order Accomplice to Evil, click here!