Defending Chas Freeman


The Chas Freeman saga continues with the publication of the following letter in The Wall Street Journal:

A number of statements have appeared objecting to the appointment of Ambassador Charles “Chas” Freeman as head of the National Intelligence Council based on his political views (“Obama’s Intelligence Choice,” by Gabriel Schoenfeld, op-ed, Feb. 25). We, the undersigned former U.S. ambassadors, have known Chas Freeman for many years during his service to the nation in war and peace and in some of our most difficult posts. We recognize that Chas has controversial political views, not all of which we share. Many individuals with strong and well-known views have, and are being asked, to serve in positions of high responsibility.

The free exchange of political views is one of the strengths of our nation. We know Chas to be a man of integrity and high intelligence who would never let his personal views shade or distort intelligence assessments. We categorically reject the implication that the holding of personal opinions with which some disagree should be a reason to deny to the nation the service of this extremely qualified individual. We commend President Obama and Admiral Dennis C. Blair for appointing Ambassador Freeman to such an important position.

The authors are Thomas Pickering (ambassador to Jordan, then Nigeria, then El Salvador, then Israel, then the United Nations, then India, then Russia before serving as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs) and Ronald E. Neumann (Ambassador to Algeria and Bahrain who George W. Bush made Ambassador to Afghanistan) and is also signed by Samuel W. Lewis (various ambassadorships and head of Policy Planning at State), Ronald Spiers, Nicholas A. Veliotes, Brandon Grove, William C. Harrop, Robert E. Hunter, Thomas D. Boyatt, Roscoe S. Suddarth, Harry G. Barnes, Jr, Avis Bohlen, Howard B. Schaffer, Edward M. Rowell, Robert V. Keeley, James R. Jones, and Patricia Lynch-Ewell.

I would say that the letter, along with the fact that Admiral Blair tapped Freeman in the first place, reflects the fact that a broadly realist orientation is pretty widespread among military, intelligence, and diplomatic professionals.