The Problem of Evil
What have Rwanda and Cambodia to do with Iran?


Since 9/11, Michael Ledeen has been warning that this war against America was never about Afghanistan or Iraq, but has always been a regional war, with malefactors are up to no good around the world. In his book, Accomplice to Evil, he again focuses on Iran, but also on the historic nature and sources of the evil that drives America’s enemies. Ledeen, now Freedom Scholar at the Foundation of the Defense of Democracies, discusses the new book with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Is there still an Axis of Evil?

MICHAEL LEDEEN: Yes, and it’s growing.  It lost Iraq, but now counts Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Russia.

LOPEZ: Are we an “Accomplice to Evil”?

LEDEEN: That’s the whole point of my book. We have once again failed to see evil — Iran is the prime example — when it was right in front of us, and we have deliberately blinded ourselves to the war that the Islamic Republic has been waging against us for 30 years.

LOPEZ: How do you know it’s a “war against the West”?

LEDEEN: Because they announce it and wage it.

LOPEZ: Why don’t others seem to know it?

LEDEEN: There are several reasons. First, we like to believe in the (false) Enlightenment theory of human nature: We are all the same, and we are all basically good. Machiavelli is more accurate: “Man is more inclined to do evil than to do good. Second, to recognize Iran for what it is would demand that we react, and our political leaders don’t want to do that. Fighting back against Iran is difficult and costly. No American president from Carter to Obama has been willing to take it on. Third, the Iranians are very clever and have managed to convince all those presidents that a “grand bargain was in the offing.

LOPEZ: Is it possible to oppose Israel and/or Israeli actions without being “evil”?

LEDEEN: Why the quotation marks? It is evil to oppose the existence of Israel, but there are certainly legitimate criticisms. 

LOPEZ: What is Islamofascism? Why “fascism”?

LEDEEN: If you look at the scholarly literature on fascism, you will find — in books written in the 1950s and 1960s — that there is a variety of fascism called “clerical fascism. The textbook example was the “Legion of the Archangel Michael in Romania. Jim Gregor at Berkeley and the late Laurent Murawiec have each written a lot about contemporary versions of fascism, including Muslim movements. I wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal back in 1979, before Khomeini seized power, calling him a theocratic fascist. I think that was right. 

LOPEZ: How are Khamenei and Ahmadinejad “Hitler’s heirs”?

LEDEEN: Both because they want to destroy the Jews, and, especially, the Jewish state, and because they want to create a global empire that will dominate and enslave the inferior peoples. In the Iranian case, “inferior is a religious category, not racial, but that isn’t a very important distinction to their victims.