Fans of Professors Mearsheimer and Walt on the notorious “Israel Lobby” are having a field day over the withdrawal of Chas (Charles) Freeman’s nomination to head the body that issues the periodic and highly influential National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). But the hardest blows to Freeman’s candidacy came from Jon Chait and Jeffrey Goldberg, neither of whom are “neo-cons.”
Chait’s point is that Freeman is a doctrinaire “realist” — so fanatical in this doctrine that “interests” and not morality should shape foreign policy, that he defended China’s massacre of students in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. The fact that Freeman is an Arabist, and as such a relic of the antisemitic network of old Foreign Service hands, was also relevant to his nomination.
Still, Freeman has impressive credentials as a career diplomat; he deserves to have been on the foreign policy team, but it was not a great idea to have him in such a sensitive job. The New Republic’s editor in chief Martin Peretz, known for his outspoken and extravagantly pro-Israel views, sagely commented that having the pro-Saudi Freeman in the job of heading the National Intelligence Council was as inappropriate as if he, Peretz, had been nominated for such a position.
Freeman’s ultimate support for a two-state solution is fine. But I think that Goldberg and the other opposition was motivated by his closeness to the Saudis. Mearsheimer and Walt do not have a problem with Saudi influence in the US foreign policy and security establishment; the worst thing about this affair is that it’s being interpreted in a way that supports M & W.
Freeman was a guest on Farid Zakaria’s GPS and was asked about his China statement. He replied that the first part of the statement that “The conventional Chinese view is” was deleted by his detractors so that the whole meaning of his quote was changed from reportage to editorial comment of approval.