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Murawiec, Laurent (1951-2009)

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Laurent Murawiec was a French-American geostrategist and anti-Islamic pundit. Born in France to Jewish Polish refugees, Murawiec served in the French army, advised the French Ministry of Defense, taught history and economics, and served as an economic correspondent for the Executive Intelligence Review, a magazine founded by the controversial conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche. He moved to Washington in 1999 to work for the Rand Corporation and subsequently joined the Committee on the Present Danger and became a senior fellow at the neoconservative Hudson Institute, where he penned numerous books and articles advocating aggressive U.S. military policies in the Middle East in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.[1] In October 2009, Murawiec died of blood cancer at the age of 58.[2]

Murawiec came to public attention after he delivered a July 2002 PowerPoint presentation to the Defense Policy Board—a Pentagon advisory board that was led at the time by Richard Perle—in which he argued that U.S. grand strategy in the Middle East must see Iraq as the "tactical pivot," Saudi Arabia as the "strategic pivot," and Egypt as the "prize." Calling Saudi Arabia the "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East, Murawiec suggested that the United States should threaten holy sites, take control of Saudi oil fields, and confiscate Saudi financial assets if the country did not stop funding fundamentalist religious schools and terrorist outfits.[3]

The presentation, which first came to light in an August 6, 2002 Washington Post report, spurred a tumult of criticism, prompting then Secretary of State Colin Powell to assure the Saudi foreign minister that the presentation had no bearing on U.S. policy and Richard Perle to tell Time magazine that he did not know what Murawiec was planning to say.[4] George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, where Murawiec briefly served on the faculty, abruptly took down its biography of Murawiec from its website, although it claimed the move had nothing to do with the presentation.[5]

Murawiec, however, stuck by his presentation, telling a Middle East business reporter: "My experience of your part of the world is that most people hate the Saudis' guts, not to make too fine a point about it. Everybody knows they are a bunch of lazy assholes that are arrogant, too big for their shoes, which behave in a consistently disgusting manner. People in your region have told me that for 20 years. But I am not telling you anything new."[6]

After the online news service ITP.net posted the remark, Murawiec denied having made it, telling Agence France-Presse: "I gave no interview neither to that guy … nor to anybody. The whole story is spurious and void." ITP.net subsequently released the recorded conversation. When asked by Slate.com about the episode, Murawiec referred questions to his employer at the time, the Rand Corp. In response, Rand released a brief statement from its president, James Thompson, who said: "The comments on the tape recording on the website ITP.net are offensive and repugnant, and Rand repudiates them in the strongest terms. Rand was unaware of these comments until they were reported by ITP.net.”[7]

Many neoconservatives, however, embraced Murawiec’s views. In November 2002, Murawiec briefed Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forumwith his ideas on terrorism and the U.S.-Saudi relationship.[8] Soon after, Murawiec became a fellow at the Hudson Institute, a U.S. think tank known for its promotion of hawkish, Israel-centric U.S. foreign polices and close association with leading neoconservatives like Norman Podhoretz, Irwin Stelzer, and Meyrav Wurmser.

Murawiec’s last major publication, The Mind of Jihad (Cambridge 2008), was among his most controversial. According to the Times Higher Education, the book argues that the ideology underpinning Islamic terrorism “represents an amalgam of Gnostic cult, tribal outlook, Islamic jihad and Bolshevik terror.”[9] For differing reasons, the book attracted criticism from neoconservatives as well as more mainstream scholars.

The Weekly Standard’s Raymond Ibrahim criticized the book for “largely ignoring or minimizing Muslim precedents and doctrines in favor of Western precedents and philosophies.”[10]

Scholar Thomas Hegghammer criticized not only Murawiec’s “confirmation bias” and failure to present any evidence actually linking Islamist thinkers to fascists or communists, but also for what Hegghammer regarded as the book’s strong racial overtones. “The first two chapters,” Hegghammer observed, “constitute a long emotional outpouring of anger against Arab-Muslim terrorists, whose bloodlust and barbarism in the author's view surpasses anything previously seen in history.” He added that “the book uses a language so vague and a range of examples so wide that it unquestionably refers to Arab-Muslim societies as a whole. Why else cite many examples of violence committed by secular militants such as the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Algeria's National Liberation Front? Why else write that ‘a society that needs blood in such a fundamental a way is a society whose mind is set on human sacrifice’? In these two chapters we are served the populist stereotype of the violent Arab—nothing more, nothing less.”[11]

 

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Sources


[1] The Hudson Institute, “Laurent Murawiec,” Internet Archive website, http://web.archive.org/web/20121004150635/http://www.hudson.org/learn/index.cfm?fuseaction=staff_bio&eid=Murawie.



[2] Patricia Sullivan, “Strategist Caused Stir For Accusing Saudis Of Supporting Terror,” Washington Post, October 14, 2009, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-10-14/news/36883368_1_oil-fields-enemies-and-attacks-saudi-arabia.



[3] Jack Shafer, "The PowerPoint that Rocked the Pentagon," Slate.com, August 7, 2002, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/press_box/2002/08/the_powerpoint_that_rocked_the_pentagon.html; Thomas Ricks, "Briefing Depicted Saudis as Enemies," Washington Post, August 6, 2002.



[4] Mark Thompson, "Inside the Secret War Council," Time magazine, August 19, 2002.



[5] Jack Shafer, "The Continuing Saga of Laurent (of Arabia) Murawiec," Slate.com, August 27, 2002, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/press_box/2002/08/the_continuing_saga_of_laurent_of_arabia_murawiec.html.



[6] Jack Shafer, "The Continuing Saga of Laurent (of Arabia) Murawiec," Slate.com, August 27, 2002, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/press_box/2002/08/the_continuing_saga_of_laurent_of_arabia_murawiec.html.



[7] Jack Shafer, "The Continuing Saga of Laurent (of Arabia) Murawiec," Slate.com, August 27, 2002, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/press_box/2002/08/the_continuing_saga_of_laurent_of_arabia_murawiec.html.



[8] Laurent Murawiec, "Saudi Arabia's Links to Terrorism," Briefing by Laurent Murawiec for the Middle East Forum, November 19, 2002, http://www.meforum.org/528/saudi-arabias-links-to-terrorism.



[9] Thomas Hegghammer, Review: The Mind of Jihad, Times Higher Education, June 11, 2009, http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/406908.article.



[10] Raymond Ibrahim, “Consider the Source,” Weekly Standard, January 26, 2009, http://www.weeklystandard.com/print/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/016/028zreci.asp.



[11] Thomas Hegghammer, Review: The Mind of Jihad, Times Higher Education, June 11, 2009, http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/406908.article


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Murawiec, Laurent (1951-2009) Résumé


Affiliations

  • Hudson Institute: Senior Fellow (2003-2009)

  • Committee on the Present Danger: Former Member

  • Intelligence Summit: Speaker, 2007; Participant, 2005

  • Rand Corporation: Former Senior International Policy Analyst

  • La Vie Francaise: Former Foreign Correspondent

  • George Washington University School of International Affairs: Former Professor

  • Executive Intelligence Review: Former Editor

  • Middle East Forum: Presented Briefing, 2002

  • Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales: Former Teacher




Government

  • French Ministry of Defense: Former Adviser




Business

  • GeoPol Services S.A.: Cofounder and Former Manager




Education

  • Sorbonne University: B.A.; M.A.in Philosophy 

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