It's a fellow named Chas. Freeman who, among other things, is the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and the president of a Saudi government-funded "public relations" organization, the Middle East Policy Council. Surely, the "no blood for oil crowd" is outraged by the appointment of someone with close ties to the Saudis to such a sensitive position?
Then there's this, an email Freeman wrote a few years back, uncovered by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard, that argues that the Chinese acted with "ill-conceived restraint" before massacring unarmed demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. The only thing the Chinese murderers were guilty of was "overly cautious behavior." You have to read the whole thing to believe it [perhaps not coincidentally, Freeman also co-chairs the U.S.-China Policy Foundation, which agitates for closer U.S.-China ties]:
I will leave it to others to address the main thrust of your reflection on Eric's remarks. But I want to take issue with what I assume, perhaps incorrectly, to be yoiur citation of the conventional wisdom about the 6/4 [or Tiananmen] incident. I find the dominant view in China about this very plausible, i.e. that the truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than — as would have been both wise and efficacious — to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China. In this optic, the Politburo's response to the mob scene at "Tian'anmen" stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action.
For myself, I side on this — if not on numerous other issues — with Gen. Douglas MacArthur. I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans' "Bonus Army" or a "student uprising" on behalf of "the goddess of democracy" should expect to be displaced with despatch from the ground they occupy. I cannot conceive of any American government behaving with the ill-conceived restraint that the Zhao Ziyang administration did in China, allowing students to occupy zones that are the equivalent of the Washington National Mall and Times Square, combined. while shutting down much of the Chinese government's normal operations. I thus share the hope of the majority in China that no Chinese government will repeat the mistakes of Zhao Ziyang's dilatory tactics of appeasement in dealing with domestic protesters in China.
I await the brickbats of those who insist on a politically correct — i.e. non Burkean conservative — view.
Surely, Obamaphiles who have been pushing for years to encourage U.S. policy toward China to focus more on human rights are up in arms?
In fact, while I'm sure such people do exist, a quick survey of blogs to the left of The New Republic shows that those who have chosen to comment are expressing
contentment glee over Freeman's appointment. Why, because he is a "realist" about Israel, a polite way of saying he's expressed a fair amount of hostility both to Israel and its American supporters. Here's The Nation, TPM Cafe's M.J. Rosenberg, and Matthew Yglesias. And these are the folks that claim that Israel-related matters distort the neoconservatives' perspective on world events! In fairness, other liberal blogs are maintaining a studious, perhaps embarrassed, silence. It's entirely possible that some bloggers are mortified by Freeman, but are not prepared to "undermine" Obama and side with his "neoconservative enemies."
UPDATE: Here's Stephen Walt, of "The Israel Lobby" coauthorship fame, defending Freeman from his detractors. And here, in its entirety, is how Walt explains why it's okay for Obama to appoint an apologist for the Saudi and Chinese dictatorships, who until the day of his appointment was on the payroll of the former, to a very sensitive intelligence position: [sound of crickets chirping].
Apparently, no matter how otherwise appalling Freeman's appointment may be, the fact that he has acquired many of the same pro-Israel enemies as Walt (deservedly) has acquired serves as a sufficient defense. But of course, according to Walt, it is Freeman's critics who are "obsessed" with "their own narrow-minded vision of U.S. Middle East policy." Given that Walt is apparently unwilling to even address Freeman's dubious ties to and defenses of China and Saudi Arabia, the schoolyard taunt "it takes one to know one" comes to mind. But that's unfair to Freeman's critics, who have, in fact, focused attention not just on Freeman's hostility to Israel, but on his willingness to serve as the president of a propaganda outfit funded by a dictatorial foreign power, and his grotesque interpretation of the events in China in 1989, whereas Walt focuses his attention only on Israel-related matters, and even then fails to offer a substantive defense of specific criticisms beyond "the enemy of my enemies is my friend"
FURTHER UPDATE: Eric Trager on Walt:
How can Walt — who has spent the past three years bloviating on the supposed influence of pro-Israel groups on U.S. foreign policy — defend the administration for appointing an outright Saudi client to chair the all-important NIC? Why does he bristle when "pro-Israel pundits" merely speak out on foreign policy, but has no problem empowering a man whose income came via Riyadh to determine the very intelligence that makes it into top policymakers' hands?
Of course, I don't expect an answer from Walt. Conspiracy theorists aren't known for applying their supposed principles consistently.