Jeffrey Gedmin is president and CEO of the Legatum Institute, a London-based pro-democracy think tank. A longtime supporter of neoconservative advocacy efforts, Gedmin's track record includes directing Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE), the U.S.-funded radio station that gained fame during the Cold War for its anti-communist, pro-democracy broadcasts that were beamed into the Soviet Union; working as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a bastion of neoconservative policy advocacy in Washington, D.C.; serving as director of the centrist Aspen Institute; and being a founding signatory to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a pressure group that played an important role promoting the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Gedmin has been at the Legatum Institute since March 2011. According to its website, "the Legatum Institute (LI) is an independent non-partisan public policy organisation whose research, publications, and programmes advance ideas and policies in support of free and prosperous societies around the world. LI's signature annual publication is the Legatum Prosperity Index, the world's only global assessment of national prosperity based on both wealth and subjective wellbeing. LI is a co-publisher of Democracy Lab (with Foreign Policy Magazine), a website dedicated to covering political and economic transitions around the world."
Gedmin was a co-chair of a 2011 report on Egypt's democratic transition jointly published by the Legatum Institute and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The report characterized Egypt's uprising as part of a "transition toward democracy and a free market economy" and said that the United Statesand Europe"should do much more to incentivise and support economic reforms, which, in turn, will support the political transition to democracy." Among other things, the report called for a U.S.-Egypt free-trade agreement.
Other Legatum principals have included Anne Applebaum, an award-winning columnist for the Washington Post and former AEI fellow who serves as the institute's director of political studies; and Robert Hahn, Legatum's director of economic studies who formerly directed the AEI-BrookingsJointCenterfor Regulatory Studies.
Before joining Legatum, Gedmin directed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (2007-2011). In announcing Gedmin's hiring in early February 2007, Kenneth Tomlinson, an RFE board member, argued that Gedmin had a "blend of experience as a distinguished scholar, writer, administrator, and a career devoted to international work." (Tomlinson gained notoriety in 2004, when as head of the U.S. Corporation for Public Broadcasting he tried to eliminate what he saw as the liberal bias in public television. He was eventually forced to resign, "after an inspector general's report found that he violated federal rules and ethics standards" while trying to purge PBS.)
Many observers and RFE staff members, however, expressed concern that Gedmin's neoconservative background could impact the station's programming. Observers at the time noted that even before Gedmin's appointment, the RFE had begun cutting its broadcasts to European countries while increasing the amount of its programming for Islamic countries, a process that began during the tenure of previous director Thomas Dine, former head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Reported the Prague Post in February 2007: "Along with the development of programming for Muslim listeners, some RFE/RL staff members have voiced concern that a new, conservative president could alter the station's tone ... [Gedmin] currently directs the Aspen Institute in Berlin, a nonprofit organization with a mission 'to foster enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue.' Before joining the institute in 2001, Gedmin was executive director of the right-leaning New Atlantic Initiative of the American Enterprise Institute. He is also a founder of Project for the New American Century, a major proponent of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Gedmin's editorial pieces in various newspapers leave little room for doubt as to his political leanings. In a Nov. 20, 2006, article in the neoconservative magazine the Weekly Standard, Gedmin asks, 'Will George W. Bush ever get his due?' and writes that the president 'has forever changed the conversation about democracy and the Middle East to the benefit of humankind.'"
Asked by the Prague Post in April 2007 about the purpose of RFE broadcasts into Iran, Gedmin, who no longer directs the Aspen Institute but still publishes on its website, responded: "Imagine Iran was a democracy ... The fact that France has the bomb doesn't keep anybody up late at night ... They're not going to use it. They're a democracy ... [So] why doesn't the West have a more cogent strategy to support the democracy movement in Iran... as a way of containing some of these issues? We're a small piece of that." Asked whether his connections to Bush administration figures could complicate his relations with RFE, Gedmin said: "I don't see any conflicts ... I don't care if someone supports Bush or Clinton or the deputy dogcatcher. I want serious people who believe in ideas and open, constructive debate."
In a 2009 article for Foreign Affairs, Gedmin called surrogate broadcasting "one of the most effective and cost-efficient programs the United States can support in order to promote democracy and advance U.S. national security interests," although he insisted that the network's Iranian affiliate is "not in the business of regime change." He made similar arguments in a fall 2008 interview with the Middle East Quarterly, a neoconservative publication produced by Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum.
Gedmin's support for neoconservative-led advocacy efforts began long before the 9/11 terror attacks. In February 1998, for example, Gedmin joined an impressive list of hawkish foreign policy elites (including Richard Perle, Richard Allen, Stephen Bryen, Frank Gaffney, Douglas Feith, Robert Kagan, Paul Wolfowitz, and David Wurmser) in signing his name to an "open letter" to President Bill Clinton produced by the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf that advocated overthrowing Saddam Hussein. The letter, part of a broad neocon campaign that championed a new post-Cold War U.S. foreign policy aimed at overturning "rogue" regimes and aggressively pushing democracy, argued that "containment" of Iraq was not viable because of its purported weapons of mass destruction programs. "Only a determined program to change the regime in Baghdadwill bring the Iraqi crisis to a satisfactory conclusion," the letter said.
In 1997, Gedmin joined a similar coterie of hardliners and elites in forming the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). PNAC's founding statement of principles, published in June 1997, called for a "Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity" that would ensure "American global leadership." It added: "We need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles."