Like his friend Michael Ledeen, Edward Luttwak lives in the weird nether-land where scholarship meets espionage and intellectual journalism meets military adventurism. When he’s not writing learned books on the grand strategy of the Roman Empire or crisp essays for the London Review of Books, Luttwak works as a consultant for the various military and police agencies, going so far so to assist in the interrogation of prisoners (always legally, he assures us). My friend and occasionally collaborator Laura Rozen wrote a splendid profile of Luttwak for the Forward, one that captures the contradictions of the man nicely.
Here’s an excerpt:
When we met, in February, the Drug Enforcement Agency was his latest client; Luttwak says he went to Colombia to help arrest and deliver a couple of Mexican drug runners wanted by the DEA.
Luttwak is of course better known as a public intellectual, the author of some 16 books, as well as a forthcoming study on warfare in Byzantium, set to be published next year by Harvard University Press. “We will never be the Roman empire,” Luttwak said, summarizing his thesis. “Bush, the genius, if he’s lucky, will create a situation as in Byzantium, where the different enemies fight each other.” In fact, his two identities have always been intertwined: On a first name basis with the heads of Italian and other foreign government security agencies, Luttwak performs such quasi paramilitary operations — under the vague title of “consultant” — while maintaining a public image as a military historian, thinker and writer, if a frequently (and deliberately) controversial one.
Why is this 65-year-old intellectual — on the editorial boards of Harper’s, Britain’s Prospect and France’s Geopolitique, an emeritus fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies — still in the business of arresting fugitives and interrogating drug dealers, I asked Luttwak. It was evident he didn’t even believe in some of the missions he was doing (the drug war is futile, he howled, a fraud, and the heads of the DEA know it’s a fraud). Is it a thrill? Luttwak admitted, that yes, it’s thrilling. He enjoys the physical thrill of it all.