Another good post from James Fallows on the Chas Freeman issue. A taste:
The two people whose views I quote below have absolutely unquestionable standing to speak on this subject. One is Sidney Rittenberg, who first went to China with the US Army in 1945 and end up spending 35 years there, 16 of them in solitary confinement for alleged espionage and disloyalty to the Mao regime. The other is Jerome A. Cohen, of NYU Law School and Paul Weiss, who has been tireless in his efforts for legal reform in China and was instrumental in freeing John Downey, who had been held in Chinese prison for two decades after the Korean War.
Both of them strongly support the expansion of individual liberties and civil society in China. Both of them strongly support Chas Freeman and his candidacy for his now-disupted job.
You’ll have to click the link to read the actual letters. Then see Josh Marshall on this. Josh has personal beef with Freeman over an unrelated issue that led Freeman to tag him as a purveyor of “slime journalism.” But also says that “the whole effort strikes me as little more than a thuggish effort to keep the already too-constricted terms of debate over the Middle East and Israel/Palestine locked down and largely one-sided.” You can see Andrew Sullivan’s timeline for more on this.
Meanwhile, Ezra Klein observes that whether or not Freeman gets the job in the end, the message has been sent:
But 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.
Still, I would say that would-be government officials have already internalized the lesson that drawing outside the lines on the Arab-Israeli conflict is not the way to get jobs. But the Obama administration has already put in place quite a few officials—James Jones, Samantha Power, George Mitchell—who didn’t exactly come with the kosher stamp of approval.