So, in sum, a guarded vote for Chas Freeman--not that any votes will be necessary for this appointive position. It's time we had some candor and intellectual noncomformity, some abrasiveness in the too-smooth collegiality of the intelligence bunker. It is also time to resume the relative balance that existed before George W. Bush gave veto power to Israel's neoconservative supporters over US government policy and appointees in the region.
Read it all. I should add - again - that I don't share all of Freeman's views. But I am glad that his perspective might be thrown into the mix as the new president re-callibrates the US's Mid-East policy. I don't think genuine disagreements about foreign policy should be forced into the box of identity politics. And I do think a mix of realism and internationalism is useful in a Democratic administration. In fact, I'm suspicious of any foreign policy thinker who is only ever in one tradition or other. I know I've long had elements of neoconservatism and realism in my own approach to foreign policy - and I try to balance them in the face of a changing world and always-shifting situations.
I was initially skeptical of intervention in the Balkans, for example, until the horror of Serbian genocide came home to me and I could see a sensible and not-too-risky way of stopping it. I am against intervention in Darfur and was against the Somalia adventure - because I haven't been persuaded that the risks outweigh the benefits (on Somalia, I was proven sadly right). I've never thought of China as some kind of mortal enemy to the US, and, although I loathed the Soviet Union, was happy to make my peace with Russia as a great and un-ideological power. My neocon apex was in the run-up to the Iraq war, as al Qaeda seemed to provide real proof of the worst fears of some neocons, and as I naively believed what they told me was simply incontrovertible evidence of Saddam's weapons programs and of Iraq's readiness for secular democracy. I'd love the world to be more democratic and to see the Islamist theocracies and Arab autocracies of the Middle East reform. But I'm required to look at the world as it is, and not as I might like it to be.
To put it more bluntly: if you have not changed your position somewhat in the past eight years, there's something wrong with you. The idea that Obama should not have advisers who challenge some of the core assumptions of the Bush years, especially with respect to Israel-Palestine, seems nuts to me. And the impulse to blackball and smear someone as a bigot is reprehensible.
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