The blogosphere's debate rages on. Ezra Klein:
...for Freeman's detractors, a loss might still be a win. As Sullivan and others have documented, the controversy over Freeman is fundamentally a question of his views on Israel. Barring a bad report from the inspector general, Chas Freeman will survive and serve. But only because his appointment doesn't require Senate confirmation. Few, however, will want to follow where he led. Freeman's career will likely top out at Director of the NIC. That's not a bad summit by any means. But for ambitious foreign policy thinkers who might one day aspire to serve in a confirmed capacity, the lesson is clear: Israel is off-limits. And so, paradoxically, the freethinking Freeman's appointment might do quite a bit to silence foreign policy dissenters who want to succeed in Washington.
Speaking as neither neocon nor right-winger nor someone who spends much time even thinking about the state of Israel (sorry!), I can testify that my distaste for Freeman is neither "coordinated" nor emanating out of some secret Elliot Abrams man-love. I just don't fancy the kind of mind that, when asked in 2003 to name factors in the deterioriation of U.S.-Saudi relations, pinpoints as reason numero uno "changes in U.S. visa policy and entry procedures." ...This is a man with warped judgment, and I'd rather not pay his salary, let alone have him screening important national intelligence. If that's the modern hate-fiction definition of "neocon," then perhaps it's time for a new definition.
Fallows talks to some China experts about Freeman. Here's Jerome Cohen:
Chas is a keen observer, a wicked wit and a fearless critic. It is ludicrous to portray him as a "panda hugger" who endorses the slaughter of June 4 or someone who can be seduced by Saudi enticements. As far as I know, he has always been fiercely independent, and an enemy of "group think", and I will be glad to have him analyzing Israeli politics and policies as well as other problems.
Jack Kelly wonders whether “the Freeman nomination may be a more accurate reflection of the president’s innermost feelings than the assurances he gave to Mr. [Marty] Peretz and Mr. [Jeffrey] Goldberg during the campaign.” Let’s hope it’s just a sign of utterly incompetent vetting. Although the longer the administration hangs on the harder it is to claim this is some terrible “mistake.”
So what was Obama thinking in nominating an outspoken and controversial figure like Freeman to such an important job? It could just have been an oversight - but I rather doubt that. More likely, now that he is in office Obama is now prepared to risk antagonising interest groups that he could not take on as a candidate. Freeman, like all mainstream Americans, is committed to Israeli security - but, on occasions, he has taken on openly cynical view of Israeli government policy.
I doubt, however, that this is the main significance of his nomination. It seems to me that the most important thing is that Freeman is an out-and-out “realist” - who is prepared to deal with all sorts of foreign regimes to secure American interests.
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