On July 10, Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas, delivered a tirade against his version of neoconservatism. He called it “Neo-Conned!” and he posted it on his website and had it distributed as best he could. A considerable part of it is devoted to his version of my writings, and is so inaccurate, so distorted, and so nasty, as to make me wish once again that this country had a decent libel law so that I could at least get some money from him and give him a healthy dose of the public humiliation he deserves. Unfortunately, members of Congress are protected from such suits.
We’ve exchanged a few e-mails, and the best he could come up with was a generic “if I’ve gotten it wrong, I’m sorry,” which is clearly not good enough from a man who accuses me of advocating the very opposite of what I have clearly written. He makes me into an advocate of big government, when I wrote Freedom Betrayed, a book that calls for open revolution against expanding governmental power. He brands me an advocate of military invasion of Iran, when I’ve written scores of articles and a good chunk of a well-known book, The War Against the Terror Masters, that explicitly defines military action against Iran a mistake. I want political action.
He takes many of my descriptions of Machiavelli’s thought (from my Machiavelli on Modern Leadership) and turns them — often in distorted form — into my own advocacy. It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t read very well that there’s a difference between authors and the subjects they write about. And he hasn’t bothered to read my Tocqueville on American Character, in which I discuss the urgency of combating centralized state power and the centrality of human freedom in modern conflict.
The worst of Ron Paul’s diatribe is his total sliming of all those he calls neocons. He says that, among other crazy and dangerous beliefs they (and therefore I):
accept the notion that the ends justify the means;
express no opposition to the welfare state;
believe pertinent facts about how a society should be run should be held by the elite and withheld from those who do not have the courage to deal with it;
hold Leo Strauss in high esteem;
say that 9/11 resulted from the like of foreign entanglements, not from too many;
endorse attacks on civil liberties, such as those in the Patriot Act;
unconditionally support Israel and have a close alliance with the Likud Party.
The last is the usual garbage from extremists who don’t like Jews. The rest are wrong. The “ends and means” nonsense isn’t even Machiavelli, although Paul thinks it is. He says “there is a recognized philosophic connection between modern-day neoconservatives and Irving Kristol, Leo Strauss, and Machiavelli.” More nonsense. In fact, when Irving Kristol commented on my Machiavelli book, he went out of his way to criticize me for writing on such a subject, because he felt so negatively about Machiavelli.
The heart of Paul’s attack on me is this paragraph:
In Ledeen’s most recent publication, The War Against the Terror Masters, he reiterates his beliefs outlined in this 1999 Machaivelli book. He specifically praises: “Creative destruction…both within our own society and abroad…(foreigners) seeing America undo traditional societies may fear us, for they do not wish to be undone.” Amazingly, Ledeen concludes: “They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission.”
If those words don’t scare you, nothing will?
He conveniently leaves out the context, which is a discussion of the basic conflict between us and the terror masters: a conflict between freedom and tyranny. I argue, as I argued during the Cold War with regard to Communism, and as I argued in my books on fascism earlier, that the conflict between America and tyrants is inevitable. It stems from the very nature of America, from our unique freedom and creativity, which has often been described as “creative destruction.” Every serious writer about America has noticed the amazing speed with which we scrap old ideas, technologies, art forms and even the use of the English language. And it’s obvious that more rigid societies, particularly those governed by tyrants, are frightened by the effects and the appeal of freedom on their own subjects. Our existence threatens them, undermines their legitimacy, and subverts their power. Therefore “they must attack us in order to survive,” and, sooner or later, we must confront them and, I hope and trust, defeat them in order to advance our mission of spreading freedom.
It should embarrass Congressman Paul to publicly expose himself as an ignoramus and a fool, and if he had the integrity he so loudly proclaims in his own behalf, he would have quietly apologized. But no; he just offers a weasely e-mail.
A final point: Paul’s accusations are not simply political disagreements, and his language is not merely critical. He is trying to demonize an entire group of people. He says we are not only wrong, but morally evil and an active danger to American society and the peace of the world. His attack, like those coming from the likes of Pat Buchanan and extremists on the other end of the political spectrum (look at David Frum’s recent encounter with some of my leftist attackers), are incitements to personal violence.
And this self-proclaimed libertarian hides behind the skirts of the very nanny state he so loudly deplores. If we had a libel law worthy of the name, he’d either quickly correct his statements and apologize to those he’s libeled, or find himself looking for the money to pay the damages he has certainly incurred.
— Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. Ledeen is resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.