Michael Arthur Ledeen (born August 1, 1941) is an American historian, philosopher, neoconservative foreign policy analyst, and writer. 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 where he was a scholar for twenty years and now holds the similarly named chair at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Ledeen holds a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he studied under the Jewish German-born 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 Leeden taught at Washington University in St. Louis but left after being denied tenure. Some faculty indicated the “quality of his scholarship” and about whether Ledeen had “used the work of somebody else without proper credit” was at issue but 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 corespondent for The New Republic and named a visiting professor at the University of Rome. In Rome Leeden worked with Italian historian Renzo De Felice, who Leeden was greatly influenced by, and philosophically followed in, drawing a distinction between “fascism-regime” and “fascism-movement”. During this time 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 proto-type for Mussolini.
In 1980, in the period leading up to the U.S. presidential elections, 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. Leeden testified before a Senate subcommittee that he believed Billy Carter had met with and been paid off by Yasser Arafat in a PLO.
Ledeen has been a long time and active supporter of political dissidents, particularly those of Iranian nationality, and co-founded The Coalition for Democracy in Iran.