Tag Archives: Michael Ledeen

The persistence of bad ideas

My last post drew attention to the strange worldview of some of the Western world’s most senior military officers. Further evidence of that strangeness came with the publication yesterday of another book by a retired officer, Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn. Flynn has co-authored The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the War against Radical Islam and its Allies with Michael Ledeen of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Until his retirement in August 2014, Flynn was Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the largest of the many U.S. intelligence organizations. He is currently considered one of the favourites to be Donald Trump’s Vice Presidential running mate. He is also occasionally described as ‘pro-Russian’ due to the fact that he has appeared on the English-language Russian television channel RT. Sputnik News assesses that, compared to Hillary Clinton,

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn also has a much more optimistic view of Russia’s potential relationship with the United States, much like his counterpart Donald Trump, calling on the two sides to join forces in the Middle East to bring about peace and stability while advocating for the US to take steps to deescalate tensions along Russia’s western border.

The introduction to Flynn’s new book suggests something different, however. Flynn writes that his purpose is:

To show you the war being waged against us. This administration has forbidden us to describe our enemies properly and clearly: they are Radical Islamists. They are not alone, and are allied with countries and groups who, though not religious fanatics, share their hatred of the West, particularly the United States and Israel. Those allies include North Korea, Russia, China, Cuba, and Venezuela.

Later in the book, Flynn states:

When it is said that Russia would make an ideal partner for fighting Radical Islam, it behooves us to remember that the Russians haven’t been very effective at fighting jihadis on their own territory, and are in cahoots with the Iranians. In Syria, the two allies have loudly proclaimed they are waging war against ISIS, but in reality the great bulk of their efforts are aimed at the opponents of the Assad regime.

The terrorists, says Flynn, ‘must be denied safe havens, and countries which shelter them have to be issued a brutal choice: either eliminate the Radical Islamists or you risk direct attack yourselves. … We can’t afford to be gulled by foreign countries that publicly declare their friendship, but then work in cahoots with our enemies.’

‘Most Americans mistakenly believe that peace is the normal condition of mankind, while war is some weird aberration. Actually, it’s the other way around’, Flynn says.  He recommends that the United States wage unrelenting war against its enemies and their allies, and warns that this war may last a very long time. ‘I dare say that most Americans don’t realize that the religious and political transformations of Europe that we call the Reformation entailed hundreds of years of very bloody struggle’, he writes, adding that, ‘The world badly needs an Islamic Reformation, and we should not be surprised if violence is involved.’

If this sounds like a return to some of the crazier policies of the Bush years, that should come as no surprise. Flynn’s co-author Michael Ledeen is a well-known neo-conservative who was an outspoken supporter of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Looking at the chaos that the Americans have created in the Middle East, Russians often charge that this is deliberate policy. I have always maintained that it is more a product of stupidity. But Ledeen is the sort of person who makes me think that the Russians might have a point.  According to Wikipedia:

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. … That’s our mission in the war against terror.’

What all this demonstrates is the extraordinary persistence of bad ideas. The United States has been waging war in the Middle East for 15 years, and the results have been overwhelmingly negative. One might imagine that the response would be to reconsider. Instead, Flynn and Ledeen propose that Americans double down on their past failures. One might also imagine that, given their track record of proposing disastrous policies, people like Ledeen would have long ago been cast out of the corridors of power. Instead, we see Ledeen co-authoring a book with a possible future Vice President. It is a remarkable testament to the lack of accountability which has accompanied the War on Terror.

Flynn’s and Ledeen’s opinions may be a little extreme even by Washington standards – but only a little. They are obviously close enough to the mainstream to be considered acceptable, and for Flynn to be a serious contender for the post of Vice President. In these circumstances, one should not expect the election of either Clinton or Trump to produce a serious re-evaluation of the fundamentals of American foreign policy.