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New Chairman of the National Council of Intelligence:

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.

neurodoc:
Though chair of the NCI is a highly sensitive and critically important position, it is not subject to Senate confirmation. So, we never get to hear Mr. Freeman questioned about his record of paid service to the Saudis and Chinese. (It might be noted here that for a long time the Saudis have been given great say in our choice of ambassadors to the Kingdom, and one was ecalled after a very short time on the job because he was far too candid for the Saudis tastes. Those whom the Saudis approve know that they can look forward to lucrative employment when they leave the State Department and go to work as lobbyists, as Freeman did.)

There was reason for concern where Robert Malaby and Samantha Power (Mrs. Sunstein) were concerned, both of whom it seems have been given their own important and sensitive foreign affairs portfolios notwithstanding repeated assurances during the campaign that they wouldn't be. Who expected that Admiral Blair, and certainly not on his own, would turn to Freeman for the NCI position? It would be something to hear Obama spin this if he had to do so today were in front of synagogue groups.

Very, very disturbing for what this portends from Obama in the conduct of our foreign affairs.
3.1.2009 8:03am
PersonFromPorlock:
Gosh, if you haven't worked it out by now, the only thing that changes when the Republicans and Democrats change places is who the government's sold to.
3.1.2009 8:06am
SenatorX (mail):
Melanie Phillips take on it at Spectator

"For Freeman is not simply, as I wrote here, in the pocket of Saudi Arabia, with ties to the bin Laden family after 9/11. Seven months after 9/11, he told the Washington Institute:

I accept that al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden almost certainly perpetrated the September 11 attacks.

He is not simply a vicious enemy of Israel, pushing for a one-state solution ie the destruction of Israel.

He is not simply a supporter of the Walt/Mearsheimer anti-Jew canard that 'the Jewish lobby' manipulates American foreign policy in the interests of Israel. He bragged about the fact that the Saudi-funded body of which he is president, the Middle East Policy Council, not only published the Walt/Mearsheimer paper but interviewed Dr Azzam Tamimi of Hamas on the subject of Hamas in power."
3.1.2009 8:15am
The Drill SGT:

National Intelligence Council?


Though I am dismayed at Freeman's views, my impression of the National Intelligence Council is that it is an inside the government Think Tank, reporting to the DNI, which produces useless policy papers advocating the future direction of intelligence efforts. A Liaison leaker to academia and industry.

I expect his ultimate role in this position will be to ensure that the National Intelligence Estimates produced by the IC conform to Obama's view of reality. In other words, inject more politics into what ought to be objective analysis. Beyond China and Israel, expect him to water down Iran NIE's.

I doubt seriously that Blair had any hand in this pick.

Oh, BTW:
In the fall of 2006 the Council (Freeman's last job) was the first American outlet to publish a (slighty revised version) of University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer and Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University Professor Stephen Walt's working paper "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy."[5]According to an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Freeman endorsed the paper's thesis and boasted of Middle East Policy Council's "intrepid stance" saying "No one else in the United States has dared to publish this article, given the political penalties that the Lobby imposes on those who criticize it."[6]

3.1.2009 8:18am
Gilbert (mail):
The "ill-concieved restraint" he is talking about is the restraint by which the Chinese 'allowed students to occupy zones' tantamount to the capital, not their ultimate reaction.

I still think its a wrong-headed comment.
3.1.2009 8:40am
DavidBernstein (mail):
According to an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Freeman endorsed the paper's thesis and boasted of Middle East Policy Council's "intrepid stance" saying "No one else in the United States has dared to publish this article, given the political penalties that the Lobby imposes on those who criticize it."
Which, of course, was patently false, as an expanded version was published, with IIRC, a $1 million advance. But it would be interesting to get M &W under oath and ask whether the MEPC gave them any funding. The irony of the "Saudi Lobby" funding a book about the "Israel Lobby" would be too delicious.
3.1.2009 8:58am
neurodoc:
Gilbert: The "ill-concieved restraint" he is talking about is the restraint by which the Chinese 'allowed students to occupy zones' tantamount to the capital, not their ultimate reaction.
Yes, a defense lawyer might say that on Freeman's behalf. But did Freeman at the time or any other time denounce the Chinese government's "ultimate reaction," that is the massacre of thousands of its citizens?

In what he thought would be entrez nous, Freeman did write, "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 (sic) from the ground they occupy." (italics added) Did Freeman include a few words to the effect of "of course, I thoroughly condemn the murderous actions that the Chinese government took in the end to uproot the peaceful students from Tiananmen Square" that were omitted so as to make him look bad?
3.1.2009 8:59am
neurodoc:
DavidBernstein: But it would be interesting to get M &W under oath and ask whether the MEPC gave them any funding. The irony of the "Saudi Lobby" funding a book about the "Israel Lobby" would be too delicious.
The Saudis are very experienced with this sort of thing. If the Saudis expressed their appreciation to M &W for their anti-Israel efforts, I expect it was not in the form of one big check, but has come and will come over the course in a series of smaller ones for speaking engagements and other things.
3.1.2009 9:10am
Desiderius:
DB,

"In this optic"

Well, you've got to admit that this level of turgidity would be difficult to resist for those whose silence you note, given how studious they are in their anti-anti-intellectualism.
3.1.2009 9:32am
Oren:
Right on the nose David, this is absolutely unconscionable.
3.1.2009 9:33am
Visitor Again:
The irony of the "Saudi Lobby" funding a book about the "Israel Lobby" would be too delicious.

I wonder whether the "Israel Lobby" ever funded a book or a study on Arab influence and whether that met your standard for irony.
3.1.2009 9:37am
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Just making sure our commenters get their French right: entrez nous means "enter us," whereas entre nous means "between us."
3.1.2009 9:38am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
BIIIIG smile, now, guys. BIIIG.
It's all good, right?
3.1.2009 10:02am
Barry P. (mail):
Why did you type (sic) after despatch, Neurodoc? Is your English as bad as your French?
3.1.2009 10:25am
Fub:
Barry P. wrote at 3.1.2009 10:25am:
Why did you type (sic) after despatch, Neurodoc? Is your English as bad as your French?
I think Neurodoc speaks American, or American English, as is the custom in this country. British spellings, when used by Americans, are sometimes viewed as pretentious or "putting on airs" by Americans who don't ordinarily use them.
3.1.2009 10:44am
Ugh (mail):
You must be using a different definition of "glee" than, well, pretty much everyone. "Survey" too.
3.1.2009 11:27am
Cornellian (mail):
What is the National Council on Intelligence?
3.1.2009 11:44am
DG:
{I wonder whether the "Israel Lobby" ever funded a book or a study on Arab influence and whether that met your standard for irony.}

Actually, no, from what I've seen. AIPAC and associated bodies have done a very bad job of highlighting the relative power of Big Oil and the Saudis. Heck, Noam Chomsky does a better job of pointing out that the Saudi lobby is far more powerful that the Israeli lobby (which he despises).

This is one reason why the "overwhelming power" of the Israel lobby is a myth - if Americans weren't very favorably disposed towards Israel in the first place, I wonder how effective AIPAC would be.

Everything I've seen indicates that the Saudi/Oil lobby is both better funded and more adept at manipulating public opinion. We've been financing the enemy with petro-dollars for a century - how could they do any better?
3.1.2009 12:41pm
Desiderius:
The rebranding of the old ancien regime Right as somehow "Left", or at least progressive, grows thinner as the years roll by. Though the Hamiltonians have evidently moved whole hog to the D side, it remains to be seen if the R's can reconstruct the old Jackson/Jefferson coalition to oppose them.

Freeman's views are also unremarkable among those whose allegiance in the the party of public bureaucrats servants, and their unions, rather than the public itself. What has Athens to do with Foggy Bottom?
3.1.2009 12:41pm
Desiderius:
"allegiance in the the party"

Allegiance is to the party. Perhaps allegiance is too strong anyway, say sympathy.
3.1.2009 12:43pm
PC:
What is the National Council on Intelligence?

Apparently the most important position in government. I would consider myself pretty well informed about our federal government, but I can't say I've heard of the National Council on Intelligence before this particular teacup tempest happened.

The most amusing thing is people focusing their attacks on Freeman's links to Saudi Arabia. Really? After 8 years of George W. Bush we are now supposed to focus on Saudi influence? Connections to the bin Laden family? Do you guys really want to go there?
3.1.2009 12:58pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
WaPo is skeptical, too. They link Freeman to the most realistic of the realpolitik guys. Not a good grade from WaPo.
3.1.2009 1:10pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I never heard of the NCI either. But do know about the Bonus marchers, and this guy Freeman is way off base about them.

Although I do not expect a lot of nostalgia for MacArthurism from the rest of the Obama administration.
3.1.2009 1:38pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
One big difference between the putative "Israel Lobby" and the "Saudi Lobby" is that the former gets its funding and direction from Americans, the ladder from Saudi Arabia and its citizens.
3.1.2009 2:22pm
bluecollarguy:
NIC is responsible for NIE's. Is this important? Check with the World Trade Center.
3.1.2009 2:23pm
kietharch (mail):
Desiderus:

"Freeman's views are also unremarkable among those whose allegiance (to) the the party of public servants, and their unions, rather than the public itself."

An important distinction and well put.
3.1.2009 2:56pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Well, I voted for and support President Obama, and I also am very disturbed by Freeman, based only the email about protesters and democracy. Good grief.
3.1.2009 3:17pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

After 8 years of George W. Bush we are now supposed to focus on Saudi influence? Connections to the bin Laden family? Do you guys really want to go there?



Why not? I think George Bush's track record in favor of Israel stacks up real well with anyones. His policies killed a lot of Bin Laden's buddies too.

Negotiations with Syria, Powers, Freeman, 800 billion to terrorists rebuilding Gaza.

Do you need to be a pal of a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing?
3.1.2009 3:19pm
EricH (mail):
One big difference between the putative "Israel Lobby" and the "Saudi Lobby" is that the former gets its funding and direction from Americans, the ladder from Saudi Arabia and its citizens

Now that's a point that simply cannot be emphasized enough.

It really does appear - perhaps unfairly - that the argument from some on the left is that if Bush (the neocons, whatever) advocated it then it (whatever that may be) is just wrong. And the polar opposite view must be embraced.

It's puzzling listening to the same people who excoriated the Kissinger &Associates realist diplomacy of Republicans now embrace Freeman &Associates realist diplomacy. Same offices, different nameplates.

Admittedly, I'm drawing cartoons but I'll be damned if I know where my caricature is that poorly sketched.
3.1.2009 3:22pm
mike d (mail):

It's entirely possible that some bloggers are mortified by Freeman, but are not prepared to "undermine" Obama and side with his "neoconservative enemies."


"possible?" How about calculated and transparently obvious?
3.1.2009 3:29pm
mockmook:
"is that the former gets its funding and direction from Americans, the _ladder_ from Saudi Arabia and its citizens"

I'm pretty sure that's wrong in any form of English :)
3.1.2009 3:46pm
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
As WND recently discussed, Freeman has another link to the Chinese government. I'd link to it, except pointing things like that out tends to result in being charged with First Degree Threadjacking around here, so you'll have to find it.
3.1.2009 3:48pm
Gilbert (mail):
@neurodoc

I'm not sure what your point is. I was only trying to say that the post very clearly misconstrues what he was saying. He was saying it was irresponsible for the Chinese government to put themselves in a position where they had to displace protesters by force. The point is, nip protests in the bud SO THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO do what China did.

To the extent that this line of reasoning assumes that China had to, or was entitled to do, what it did, I think he is monstrously wrong, but suggesting that the "ill-conceived restraint" he is talking about was that China was too merciful is a plain misreading of his comment.
3.1.2009 4:19pm
Desiderius:
Eagar,

"Although I do not expect a lot of nostalgia for MacArthurism from the rest of the Obama administration."

You might be surprised. To the extent that Bush was correct in styling himself a Truman (not that he pulled it off), the other side of that clash would be McArthur/career bureaucrats contemptuous of political control. The latter don't support Dems in overwhelming numbers for nothing.
3.1.2009 4:29pm
Michael B (mail):
Walt weighs in without whimsy. Indeed, he's quite serious, leading with:

Sen. Joseph McCarthy's infamous witch hunt ...

From this "realist" it's all august umbrage and harrumphs, absent any substance whatsoever, though there is an appeal to (Freeman's) authority. One can't help but be persuaded once Freeman's authority is added to the authority of Walt's harrumphs!
3.1.2009 4:55pm
Michael B (mail):
Oops, sorry, I missed the update.
3.1.2009 4:57pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Gilbert,

I was only trying to say that the post very clearly misconstrues what he was saying. He was saying it was irresponsible for the Chinese government to put themselves in a position where they had to displace protesters by force. The point is, nip protests in the bud SO THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO do what China did.

Not exactly. His point was that the protesters ought to have been "displaced by force," only earlier:

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.

The government's mistake, in other words, wasn't in using force, but in not using it fast enough. I mean, it's not the most clearly written sentence in the world, but it does seem to say that it would have been "both wise and efficacious" to "intervene with force" when it was clear that the demonstrators wouldn't leave any other way.
3.1.2009 5:19pm
EricH (mail):
I'm pretty sure that's wrong in any form of English :)
Well, Freeman's the Chair of Projects Intl. He probably got a ladder too.

Made in China no doubt.
3.1.2009 5:56pm
pmorem (mail):
It appears to me that according to "realists", the concept of "right" and "wrong" are not relevant.

The only thing that matters to "realists" is the power of various States, and their vying against each other. Individuals who are not part of the power of The State are not part of the consideration, and should be disposed of when inconvenient.

In realist terms, one weakness with this is that sometimes the regimes use techniques to stay in power that have a potential adverse impact on us. Saudi Arabia comes to mind, with its quiet feeding of certain groups. Iran is another example, feeding the hatred of us even when "realists" were in power.
3.1.2009 5:57pm
neurodoc:
Sasha Volokh, notwithstanding high school and some college French many years ago, I freely admit, je ne parle pas francais muy bien. Still, I will blame the mistake on the early hour.

Barry P, I think my American is pretty good, it's that Brit orthography that threw me.

Fub, thanks for vouching for me as a native speaker of American (though not a Native American). Truth of the matter is, though, that I didn't realize "despatch" was the Brit way. Had I, I might have used "(sic)" it that way you suggested on my behalf.

Gilbert, you can take Michelle Dulak Thomson's response as mine. How do you (and Freeman) imagine the Chinese government would have disbursed the students at an earlier time, by some non-forceful means, or just by a less forceful, though still murderous one?

I wasn't living in Washington when the Bonus Army assembled here. I did pass through Paris in early June 1968, though, when the students there were lighting bonfires and ripping up cobblestones (now asphalted over) to hurl them at the helmeted, shield-wielding, baton-swinging state police. Not a peaceable expression of dissent to be sure, nor reaction to it, but the French government's response was considerably gentler than the Chinese government's one in the end, and gentler than what I think would have been the Chinese government's response had they acted earlier. If Freeman just didn't make himself entirely clear in his original entre nous email to that listserv, let him now unequivocally deplore the Tiananmen massacre and say that it was his wish that they had responded earlier with more restrained means, e.g., tear gas and water cannons, rather than what they did do, which beyond wanton slaughter of the students included unconscionably long and cruel prison stays. What would it cost him to do so, other than lucrative contacts with the Chinese, who of course don't take well to criticism of that sort.
3.1.2009 6:13pm
neurodoc:
For those who wonder what the NIC is all about and why it matters who chairs it, what is below may be informative. Or they can see the front page news NIE assessments like ones on Iran have been when the NYT and WaPo have gotten hold of them.


http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/
reports/2007/nie_iran-nuclear_20071203.htm

NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE COUNCIL

Since its formation in 1973, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) has served as a bridge between the intelligence and policy communities, a source of deep substantive expertise on critical national security issues, and as a focal point for Intelligence Community collaboration. The NIC's key goal is to provide policymakers with the best, unvarnished, and unbiased information. Its primary functions are to:

* Support the DNI in his role as Principal Intelligence Advisor to the President and other senior policymakers.
* Lead the Intelligence Community's effort to produce National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) and other NIC products that address key national security concerns.
* Provide a focal point for policymakers, warfighters, and Congressional leaders to task the Intelligence Community for answers to important questions.
* Reach out to nongovernment experts in academia and the private sector—and use alternative analyses and new analytic tools—to broaden and deepen the Intelligence Community's perspective.


NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATES AND THE NIE PROCESS

National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) are the Intelligence Community's (IC) most authoritative written judgments on national security issues and designed to help US civilian and military leaders develop policies to protect US national security interests. NIEs usually provide information on the current state of play but are primarily "estimative"—that is, they make judgments about the likely course of future events and identify the implications for US policy.

The NIEs are typically requested by senior civilian and military policymakers, Congressional leaders and at times are initiated by the National Intelligence Council (NIC). Before a NIE is drafted, the relevant NIO is responsible for producing a concept paper or terms of reference (TOR) and circulates it throughout the Intelligence Community for comment. The TOR defines the key estimative questions, determines drafting responsibilities, and sets the drafting and publication schedule. One or more IC analysts are usually assigned to produce the initial text. The NIC then meets to critique the draft before it is circulated to the broader IC. Representatives from the relevant IC agencies meet to hone and coordinate line-by-line the full text of the NIE. Working with their Agencies, reps also assign the level of confidence they have in each key judgment. IC reps discuss the quality of sources with collectors, and the National Clandestine Service vets the sources used to ensure the draft does not include any that have been recalled or otherwise seriously questioned.

All NIEs are reviewed by National Intelligence Board, which is chaired by the DNI and is composed of the heads of relevant IC agencies. Once approved by the NIB, NIEs are briefed to the President and senior policymakers. The whole process of producing NIEs normally takes at least several months.
3.1.2009 6:24pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
neurodoc,

I ought to have added that Freeman might, in the most cynical terms, be quite right. From the Chinese government's perspective, letting the protests get big enough that people in other countries could see them was a mistake; they should've stopped them at the embryo stage, arresting anyone who showed up and using whatever information the arrested could be (ahem) persuaded to provide to arrest anyone tempted to follow up. I doubt that would actually have saved lives, but a few thousand quiet executions aren't nearly as embarrassing as siccing your own tanks on your own populace.

That said — there's airy-fairy realpolitik, and then there's the policy thought of someone with actual influence in the US government. I am not happy that someone who thinks like this has Obama's ear.
3.1.2009 8:17pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
BIIIIG smile, guys. Pretend you're the shark in Jaws.

This is a pres who went to a church for twenty-two years and listened to an anti-Israel, anti-US, anti-practically everything nutcase pastor and got away with claiming he wasn't aware of the sermons. Got away with it. Meanwhile He-who is using up pixels by the trainload trying to prove Palin believed in witchcraft.
And now O is acting in perfect accord with his background and some folks are surprised. Well, some are, no doubt, the most gullible. Others are pretending to be surprised. And a third group is trying to pretend not to be surprised and are saying, it's all good. Just nuanced.
3.1.2009 10:04pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Are you saying Palin doesn't believe in witchcraft?

It almost makes me nostalgic for the days when there was a choice between Nixon and Humphrey, even if there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between 'em.
3.2.2009 1:49pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Harry.
The incident in question was when a visiting cleric--religious preference not presently presenting itself--did an exorcism with Palin in attendance.
That was enough for He-who and others to insist that she believes in witchcraft. BS, of course, and he-who and all the others know it.
But, in the meantime, O's twenty-two years in front of Wright mean nothing.
See the diff?
3.2.2009 2:00pm
Vern Cassin (mail):
Have any of the previous commentators ever been to an event sponsored by the Middle East Policy Council? It's not exactly a Hitler youth rally. They sponsor talks by a variety of respected US and Middle Eastern strategic thinkers. Sometimes speakers suggest things like "the war in Iraq wasn't a good idea," or "Israel sometimes does bad things to Palestinians," but the talks aren't even uniformly anti-Israeli. For the last few years, they've mostly been focused on the failures of the Bush administration in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As for the Saudi money coming in--sure, a small portion of Freeman's total income came from Saudi donations to the MEPC. But, as opponents of campaign finance reform will tell you, money can come as a result of political positions, rather than vice versa. The Saudis like the MEPC because they like any think-tank that doesn't use "Saudi" as an expletive. So they give it some money. But it isn't even a lot of money. In fact, around 2005 the MEPC almost shut down due to lack of funding--they didn't even have an endowment. (Caveat: I don't know if they do now).

As for the China-related e-mail--I don't know anything about that. But I'm sure a lot of us have written e-mails just to spark an argument or to throw out an idea. We might not necessarily stand behind every e-mail (or, say, blog comment) we've ever written.

I don't know Chas. Freeman personally. But in diplomatic circles he's known for being intelligent, creative, and completely lacking in political sensitivity. He will undoubtedly speak truth to power--something we've had a problem with in the intelligence community over the last few years. And if he's too much of a realist for our collective liking, surely that will be more than made up for by the rest of the Obama administration.
3.2.2009 3:24pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Vern Cassin,

Sometimes speakers suggest things like "the war in Iraq wasn't a good idea," or "Israel sometimes does bad things to Palestinians," but the talks aren't even uniformly anti-Israeli. For the last few years, they've mostly been focused on the failures of the Bush administration in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I admit to knowing nothing whatever about MEPC. But "not even uniformly anti-Israeli" is a curiously squirrely way of describing it. Are their speakers ever, by any chance, accidentally pro-Israeli? Or is it just that sometimes they're talking about something else?
3.2.2009 4:27pm
Vern Cassin (mail):
I obviously haven't attended every event this group puts on. What I meant is that, in my (very) limited experience, the speakers sometimes speak favorably of the Israeli government, sometimes speak unfavorably of the Israeli government, and most of the time are either silent or expressly ambivalent.

My impression is that most, but not all, of their speakers believe a) that both Palestinian groups and the Israeli government commit atrocities against each other, and b) that Israel, for whatever reason, has much better PR in the United States. But that is largely a guess on my part.

I regret that my last post used the term "anti-Israel." That term unfortunately collapses all participants in this debate into two camps: pro-Israel (read: zealots) and anti-Israel (read: terrorists). It's a fundamentally unhelpful way of describing any nuanced political position.
3.2.2009 6:34pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Richard, I have been present at dozens of Assembly of God exorcisms, which is the unnamed church we are talking about -- the church that Palin attended for at least 22 years, probably more. AOG absolutely believes in witchcraft.

She ditched it for an undenominational brand when she got political ambitions, and she takes pains not to be associated with it, but sometimes she gets caught out.

I am with you 100% about Obama and his racist pastor, but sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

By gum, I never thought I'd see the day when Nixon's phony Quakerism looked (comparatively) benign.
3.2.2009 7:24pm
David Warner:
"much better PR in the United States"

Better than the Palestinians' PR, or better PR in the US than elsewhere, or both?
3.2.2009 7:25pm
reality check (mail):
Anyone taking Saudi money is aiding and abetting Salafism, genocide, and crimes against humanity. But yet someone here is defending him, no doubt another of the very numerous State Department Leftist Anti-Semites. The same people who loved the laughable NIE that said Iran had stopped it's nuke program. And then Chas goes and adds the ChiComs to his list of associates and crimes against humanity.

He doesn't deserve a government job, he deserves a noose for aiding in 2 genocides.
3.2.2009 7:58pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Harry. But the point is that the sauce was not evenly distributed. Obama got away with it. Palin did not.

Let's presume for the moment that Palin still believes in exorcism--keep in mind that exorcism and witchcraft are not necessarily connected--for certain purposes. So does the Roman Catholic church, which puts her in good company, or at least a lot of company.
And you diminish what might be a legitimate religious change.
But, as I say, exorcisms are not the exclusive property of the AOG and related small denominations.
But the point remains that O got away with it, when, among other things, Wright's views have far more bearing on the job of POTUS than does an AOG exorcism on the job of VPOTUS, or, for that matter, POTUS.
If exorcism is a deal breaker, all Catholics are forever out of the political game.
3.2.2009 8:38pm
Desiderius:
"If exorcism is a deal breaker, all Catholics are forever out of the political game."

Aw, c'mon, sure they'd be the target of JBG-style cartoonish attacks, but they wouldn't stick unless, like, say, Jindal evidently, they enthusiastically participated. Most Catholics believe as much in exorcism as they do in the rhythm method. Even if they went whole hog, most people cut their neighbors some slack on wacky religious stuff, as long as it isn't anti-Semitic, race-baiting, etc...

And, no, Eagar, Palin doesn't believe in witchcraft - she almost surely went along to get along. Like Obama. Which is why he got off relatively easy on the above. I don't see much evidence of deep belief in either one. Which is likely a good thing for a political leader. See Bush, George W.
3.2.2009 10:19pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
I defended Joseph McCarthy's goodname from Walt's attack at his post (and at Phil Weiss'), but here I'll stick up for the Chinese. The American government did indeed drive off the Bonus Army, as was the sensible thing to do. If the Italian government had behaved similarly toward the March on Rome they'd be in better straits. Even Germany risked greater disaster than actually befell when Ludendorff was permitted to walk away for his putsch. China had enough experience with unruly students during the "Cultural Revolution" to know not to permit that sort of mob rule again. And mob rule is precisely what is threatened. They cloak themselves in the banner of victimhood and dare the government to draw blood with the cameras watching. Then once the "color revolution" has swept a new gang of thugs into power, don't bet on them showing any leniency to mobs threatening their own power (if you want a more palatable example, consider how the Iranian Revolutionary Guard regards restless students TODAY compared to the 70s). Freeman references Burke for good reason, the father of Anglo-American conservatism is perhaps best known for his reaction to the French Revolution and the mob rule that characterized it.
3.3.2009 12:34am
neurodoc:
TGGP: China had enough experience with unruly students during the "Cultural Revolution" to know not to permit that sort of mob rule again.
Those "unruly students during the 'Cultural Revolution'" were, of course, tools of the Maoist government itself. Rather a different story during Tiananmen, me thinks.

TGGP: ...if you want a more palatable example, consider how the Iranian Revolutionary Guard regards restless students TODAY compared to the 70s...
That in your view is somehow "a more palatable example"?! What would you consider less palatable?
3.3.2009 1:46am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Can't prove it, of course, but it is my belief that if Reaganomics hadn't destroyed the economy, Wright would have brought down Obama.

We had only 2 choices, after all, and Lincoln wasn't running last year.

As an ex-Catholic, I'd say Desiderius has it about right. We were taught about casting out devils in religion class, but it was also made pretty clear that this didn't happen very often, and not in our diocese. The bishops do treat their exorcists like the crazy aunt in the attic, and I feel pretty sure that if American RCs became known for demonology, it would spell the end for electoral success of their adherents.

AoG, on the other hand, truly and noisily believes in demons. You don't interrupt secular public meetings to drive out demons if you don't 1) believe in real demons; and 2) don't really care for public opinion.

I've no idea how sincere Palin's religion is. Obviously, it counted less to her than the chance to be mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.
3.3.2009 2:46am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Harry.
The RC's view of exorcism made it into a best seller, both book and movie, some decades ago.
I couldn't put the book down, well after midnight, reading by candlelight because a thunderstorm had killed the power.

Wait until a Catholic starts running as a republican and certain nutcases on the left spot the exorcism thingy. It'll be headline news. You know Alinsky. And the media.
And he-who.
3.3.2009 9:46am
TGGP (mail) (www):
On the Iranian students: in the 70s Iran was ruled by a dictator, the Shah, and a bunch of students (and others) took to the streets to protest him when his rule was weak enough for them to get away with it (he was ill and out of the country). The result was not pleasant. In hindsight, it would have been better for a whiff of grapeshot to have cleared the streets.

On the Cultural Revolution: it was instigated by Mao, but it got out of hand. Why he hadn't expected telling students to attack authority figures to result in that is beyond me. Deng was at the receiving end of a lot of the chaos of those years, so it makes sense that he would regard any indicator of a replay as a big problem.
3.3.2009 2:45pm
neurodoc:
TGGP:They cloak themselves in the banner of victimhood and dare the government to draw blood with the cameras watching. Then once the "color revolution" has swept a new gang of thugs into power, don't bet on them showing any leniency to mobs threatening their own power...
It doesn't matter who is "in" and who is "out" and trying to dislodge the "in"? No differences of any great consequence between what was cynically unleashed by Mao for his own purposes and what happened 20 years later with Tiananmen? Stability of the existing regime is for you the paramount thing, so that not only do you wish that Hitler, Mussolini, and Khomeini had been prevented from coming to power through extra-legal means, you also approve of how the Chinese handled Tiananmen except for their delay in intervening?

The sneering tone ("banner of victimhood and dare the government to draw blood with the cameras watching") is fully intended? Your view of the Tiananmen students is an entirely cynical one, seeing them as but a vanguard threatening to "(sweep) a new gang of thugs into power"?

The current regime in Tehran shows no receptivity to an orderly transfer of power whatever the popular will might be. So, if it looked like students might bring this regime down, you (and Freeman?) would approve of the Iranian government crushing them as the Chinese government did the Tiananmen students, though at a earlier time, before things got out of hand, preferring "order" no matter the nature of the government in place? Hopefully, in my view, this is what will happen, sooner rather than later.
3.3.2009 6:47pm
neurodoc:
Hopefully, in my view, this is what will happen, sooner rather than later.
I trust it is clear to all that what I meant is that I hope the Iranian government is brought down ASAP, and I would be delighted to see Iranian students lead the way. At worst, they could only bring "a new gang of thugs into power," a worse gang of thugs than those currently in power there hard to imagine. Something better would be very much welcomed.
3.3.2009 8:11pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
Kerensky was a relatively decent liberal guy. That's why he lost and the Bolsheviks won. It would have been for the best if the Tsar had prevented Kerensky from coming to power, because that would have prevented the Bolsheviks from succeeding him. Khomeini was likewise preceded by Bakhtiar and many liberals thought it a great relief that the mob had put Bakhtiar in the Shah's place. The Jacobins were preceded by the kind of classical liberals that many of their counterparts in England admired. It would have been better had the King prevented the Tennis Court Oath from ever being made and clamped down on any uprisings in the provinces.

Yes, I think instability is a bad thing. I think civil war is a bad thing. I think over time even a regime as nutty as China under Mao tends to mellow out. It is at its craziest when it suspects a threat to its power and is on the lookout for counter-revolutionaries (all revolutionary regimes seem to have that suspicion, which is a reason to prevent them from coming to power in the first place). I think rhetoric about noble sacrifices for the cause are paint on a turd. Hobbes only saw the English Civil War, if he'd seen the Jacobins or Bolsheviks he might have been even more cynical. This is the idea Mencius Moldbug calls formalism.
3.3.2009 11:20pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
I think I was unclear in what I was saying in my first post: in comparing palatibility I was thinking of things like the "Rose Revolution" (a recent example of a leader using brutality against crowds despite coming to power through mass civil disobedience) and pointing to a worse (and more famous) example of the Iranian revolution. I don't think that hypocrisy and betrayal of revolutionary principles are exceptions, I think they are the rule. Why was the American Revolution so different? It wasn't a revolution at all, but a secession carried out by local elites that maintained their power.
3.3.2009 11:27pm
neurodoc:
When the late Anna Nicole Smith faced the tough questioning of the great trial lawyer Rusty Hardin, she was many times at a loss for answers. She managed it graciously, though, smiling, batting her eyes and saying, "Rusty, I'll just have to get back to you on that one."

I don't have what Anna Nicole Smith had going for her, but let me try this, "TGGP, I'll just have to get back to you on that one."

[I am decidedly wary of revolutions and other violent or precipitous social upheavals, but not 100% convinced that no good can come from any of them, e.g., a popular revolt against the ruling theocracy in Iran. You wouldn't want to see that take place? You think there is going to be a peaceful transition to something better in Iran before too long?)
3.4.2009 12:04am
Harry Eagar (mail):
You have to be crazy or Henry Kissinger -- but I repeat myself -- to think that the stability we have in the Middle East is desirable.

As for the Jacobins, after much storm and stress, the Bourbons were put back. The French did not seem to appreciate the return to status quo ante and threw the bums out again. leading to more storm and stress.

But few indeed today want to put the Count of Paris back on the throne, although he says he is tanned, rested and ready.
3.4.2009 1:28am
TGGP (mail) (www):
Iran's mullah's may continue to rule indefinitely, and that may be better than them falling from power. I have no reason to believe that if they are thrown out a good government will come in.

I am not arguing that we should put the Bourbons back in place or the Shah back in Iran. That would be a non-gradual change in regimes, and as such would not bode well. I am saying it would have been better had the Bourbons or Pahlavi never lost power in the first place.

Stability is ceteris paribus desirable. Do we have reason to believe that change will bring compensating benefits? I don't see why any likely change wouldn't result in a worse regime (the Muslim Brotherhood compared to Mubarrak, for example).
3.4.2009 2:25pm
neurodoc:
TGGPIran's mullah's may continue to rule indefinitely, and that may be better than them falling from power. I have no reason to believe that if they are thrown out a good government will come in.
Were the mullahs to get the boot, do you have any reason to believe that a worse government would take their place? What might a worse government look like? The theocracy that rules Iran may not be so absolutely terrible (e.g., Nazi Germany, the Khmer Rouge, North Korea) that worse would be impossible, but it is hard to see much downside possibility there. Would the People's Mujahedin be it? If you were one of the president's foreign policy counselors, would you advise him to tilt toward the current Iranian regime against any and all challenges to their rule because "stability is ceteris paribus desirable? (And what exactly does ceteris paribus mean when we are talking about dynamic foreign policy scenarios, not independent variables in an economic analysis?)

You allow the theoretical possibility that "stability" will not always be the paramount consideration when we decide whether to encourage, discourage, or do nothing vis-a-vis those who would topple existing regimes, but there has never been an instance when "stability" has not been the paramount consideration in your view? Neither Iran prospectively, nor China retrospectively (Tiananmen)?
3.4.2009 7:13pm
Yankev (mail):

all challenges to their rule because "stability is ceteris paribus desirable? (And what exactly does ceteris paribus mean when we are talking about dynamic foreign policy scenarios, not independent variables in an economic analysis?)
Who was it who said "All other things being equal, all other things are seldom equal?"

ceteris paribus
As a famous jurist once remarked about res ipsa loquitur, "Had that not been in Latin, no one would ever have mistaken it for a principle of law." Vivant et republica. Si vis pacem, para bellum. Ah, well. De gustibus non est disputandum.
3.5.2009 9:31am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Yankev.
Non illegitimus carborundum. I had a year of Latin in the tenth grade, which is going on half a century ago. So I won't vouch for conjugations and declensions in the above.
3.5.2009 11:22am
Yankev (mail):
Richard Aubrey,
What the heck, Post molestam senectutem, nos habebit humus. Or maybe baba ganouj.
3.5.2009 12:51pm

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