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The Fallout from Freeman
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There has been a lot of speculation about the downfall of Charles Freeman and what it means. I think it should be accepted that it really was all about Israel and nothing to do with China or Saudi Arabia (except that Saudi Arabia is also subsumed into the Israel issue). The Lobby and its many friends clearly were willing to go all out to get rid of Freeman. At first glance this seems curious as the position of head of the NIC is not really political and Freeman would not have been shaping policy, only providing assessments that would themselves have been team efforts, virtually guaranteeing that they would not take hard positions. So why did they initiate a full court press to destroy the man’s reputation? AIPAC’s director even kicked him when he was down, accusing him of being an anti-Semite based on his withdrawal letter.

I would be interested in hearing what other TAC bloggers think, but I now believe the most likely reason for the trashing of Freeman was that the Lobby is a bit nervous about Obama and wanted to make sure he understands who is in charge on ME policy. Hillary uncharacteristically criticized Israel on her recent visit and George Mitchell has to be an appointment that does not sit well as he might actually take his job seriously and challenge Tel Aviv. Dennis Ross, the Lobby’s great white hope, does not yet appear to be calling the shots on policy on Iran, which might be by design. The message being sent to Obama would be that no one can have a senior level position with the US government if he has criticized Israel publicly. It would appear that Obama has gotten the message loud and clear as the White House made no effort whatsoever to save Freeman.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Chas Freeman 
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  1. Winston says:

    Just one man’s view, but I think “wanted to make sure he understands who is in charge on ME policy” is a little over the top. As you mentioned, Hillary and Mitchell have already expressed themselves on some of Israel’s actions, and Susan Rice and Samantha Power are still around. I think the difference in this case is that Freeman was regarded, rightly or wrongly, as blatantly ant-Israel, or at least totally unsympathetic to it, and therefore in a different category. I also think his sudden withdrawal came as a surprise all around; in other words, he, too, might have survived the attacks, if he felt the job was worth it. In fact he may have done more long-term good by pulling out. Regardless of the motivation, it’s clear that this time the Lobby overreached, and that there will be a backlash. There already is. And it will actually make it easier, not harder, for President Obama to be “in charge of ME policy.”

  2. Markus says:

    The most galling thing about this, of course, is that when Freeman and his supporters are unable to contain their anger at the transparant hypocrisy about all the talk on China, and flail away in anger at the mob who did him in, that mob then points and says “see, see, just like I told you: he’s a dark, paranoid, conspiracy-theorizing Jew hater.”

    They ran circles around freeman and his ragtag group of fans.

    I don’t know anything about who Dan Fleshler is, but the following post, also linked to by Sullivan, seems very accurate to me. Key quote:

    Freeman’s appointment was not a serious test of the lobby’s power. Not even close. He had enough extra baggage to make him an easy mark. It is an example of a pattern that is familiar to those who follow the lobby closely: it only picks fights that it knows it can win, at least when it comes to assaulting individual reputations. One important goal of these very occasional battles is to demonstrate the ability to affect political outcomes in order to make the political elite more docile. As one Congressional staffer told me: “They only kill the deer when it is wounded and in the middle of the road.”

  3. In the short run it means AIPAC and the Lobby rules, no questions asked.

    However, in the long run, I’m a little more optimistic than Larison about its implication on politics and policy. Yes the Lobby won but they looked venal and tyrannical in doing so. The fact than many bloggers and pundits came to Freeman’s aid was a good thing and I think, even among generally pro-Israeli supporters (Joe Klein for example), the Lobby’s disgusting tactics are starting to become a turn-off and violates the American sense of fair play. People are starting to wonder why such special interest have such ironnclad control of U.S. foreign policy and in the long run that’s a good thing.

  4. Very sound and probably spot on. Another motive for the hatchet job is implied in your post. The last thing The Lobby seems wants is an honest assessment of intelligence. They prefer American policy in the ME to be guided by Israeli intelligence. A realist with influence over what the President is allowed to see is a threat. But not any longer.

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    I think this, by Winston, on March 12th, 2009 at 10:09 am is closest to the mark. I really hope so, since the time for the hammer to fall is loooong overdue.

    “….In fact he may have done more long-term good by pulling out. Regardless of the motivation, it’s clear that this time the Lobby overreached, and that there will be a backlash. There already is. And it will actually make it easier, not harder, for President Obama to be “in charge of ME policy.”

    COME ON America! Open your eyes!

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