"Freeman belongs to the camp that's the mortal enemy of the neoconservatives: the realists. Realist ideology pays no attention to moral differences between states. As far as realists are concerned, there's no way to think about the way governments act except as the pursuit of self-interest. Realism has some useful insights. For instance, realists accurately predicted that Iraqis would respond to a U.S. invasion with less than unadulterated joy.
But realists are the mirror image of neoconservatives in that they are completely blind to the moral dimensions of international politics. Realists scoffed at Bill Clinton's interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, which halted mass slaughter. Realists tend not to abide the American alliance with Israel, which rests on shared values with a fellow imperfect democracy rather than on a cold analysis of America's interests.
Taken to extremes, realism's blindness to morality can lead it wildly astray. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, both staunch realists, wrote "The Israel Lobby," a hyperbolic attack on Zionist political influence. The central error of their thesis was that, since America's alliance with Israel does not advance American interests, it could be explained only by sinister lobbying influence. They seemed unable to grasp even the possibility that Americans, rightly or wrongly, have an affinity for a fellow democracy surrounded by hostile dictatorships. Consider, perhaps, if eunuchs tried to explain the way teenage boys act around girls. " Jon Chait.
"…if eunuchs tried to explain the way teenage boys act around girls." This is an analogy to remember, an analogy by which to judge the author.
Freeman's appointment has been under growing attack by people like Chait who attack anhyone whom they think might hold balanced opinions with regard to the Arab/Israeli dispute. They seek to eliminate from public life all those whom they think are not completely in the control of "the lobby." In fact, Freeman has a long record of support for a just solution to the Middle East situation, a solution that protects the long term interests and existence of Israel while enabling the creation of a national home for the Palestinians. Evidently that position is not one sided enough for Mr. Chait. The pathetic insertion of a private e-mail message concerning China is patently a "red herring" designed to obscure the fact that the only thing Chait is interested in is Israel.
Chait has it right concerning Charles Freeman's forecasting in advance of the US intervention in Iraq. Freeman understood clearly that a prolonged occupation of Iraq by foreign forces would lead to fierce resistance by a population united in only one thing, a hatred of foreign domination.
Now that there is a new administration in Washington, it would be easy to forget that in the time of the previous government it was not easy to find people who had enough integrity to speak truth to power in an atmosphere dominated by concerted efforts at character assassination and exclusion of dissenting voices from the media. In that environment Charles Freeman was a pillar of strength, a voice that never faltered, an analyst whose judgments were consistently correct.
He is to be appointed head of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). This is a body of very senior analysts whose major task is to write the nation's carefully crafted judgments regarding a wide variety of topics. These judgments are embodied in National Intelligence Estimates. (NIE) These estimates are the official truth of the US Government with regard to world realities. They are the basis for the debate on policy that every rational decision making process must follow. If these estimates are corrupted by desired policy outcomes or incompetence, then the policy that is informed by them will necessarily be flawed. "Garbage in, garbage out" is a truism borrowed from the information business. We saw that principle applied in the '02 Iraq NIE. That document was a monument to the inevitable effect of political influence on analytic efforts and a gross incompetence in the process itself.
Charles Freeman is a man awesomely educated, of striking intellect, of vast experience and demonstrated integrity.
The business of the NIC is the description of reality. Feeman is undoubtedly a realist in both senses of the word. Who could possible be better for this job? pl