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01 March 2009


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Taken to extremes, realism's blindness to morality can lead it wildly astray

Too funny. It is our blindness to Israel's immorality vis-a-vis Palestinians that has led us disastrously astray. But who's counting?

Mr. Freeman's appointment is vouchsafed by the nature of his critics, and is another positive indication that Obama may be willing to think differently.

I would like to ask Mr. Chait for the address of the American lobby in Israel. You know, Iapac, the organizaton that lobbies for what's good for the US.

Serving Patriot


Well said. And AMEN!

Our search for "solutions" to our national security from the tempest that brews from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Andaman Sea require clear thinkers, open minds, and strong advocates for clear-eyed realism.

Freeman is that man. This appointment will help steer us towards doing what is right and what is consistent with our nation's principles.

Thanks for posting this.


robt willmann

The National Intelligence Council is referred to in the Intelligence Reform and Counterterrorism Act of 2004, Public Law 108-458, effective December 17, 2004.

"Section 103(c) COMPOSITION.—The Office of the Director of National Intelligence
is composed of the following:
(1) The Director of National Intelligence.
(2) The Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence.
(3) Any Deputy Director of National Intelligence appointed
under section 103A.
(4) The National Intelligence Council.
(5) The General Counsel.
(6) The Civil Liberties Protection Officer.
(7) The Director of Science and Technology.
(8) The National Counterintelligence Executive (including
the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive).
(9) Such other offices and officials as may be established
by law or the Director may establish or designate in the Office,
including national intelligence centers.


a National Intelligence Council.
(b) COMPOSITION.—(1) The National Intelligence Council shall
be composed of senior analysts within the intelligence community
and substantive experts from the public and private sector, who
shall be appointed by, report to, and serve at the pleasure of,
the Director of National Intelligence.


(c) DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES.—(1) The National Intelligence
Council shall—
(A) produce national intelligence estimates for the United
States Government, including alternative views held by elements
of the intelligence community and other information
as specified in paragraph (2);
(B) evaluate community-wide collection and production of
intelligence by the intelligence community and the requirements
and resources of such collection and production; and
(C) otherwise assist the Director of National Intelligence
in carrying out the responsibilities of the Director under section

Of importance here is section 103B(b)(1). The members of the NIC are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the National Intelligence Director, in this instance, Dennis C. Blair. This means that the appointment of Charles Freeman is not subject to Senate confirmation.


Unlike the cowardly backstabbing given to retired General Anthony Zinni, when his selection as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq was withdrawn after some pro-Israeli persons lobbied against him, the appointment of Mr. Freeman will most certainly remain intact.

This has not prevented the anti-Freeman publicity campaign from being waged, one example of which begins this subject above. However, as the DNI press release states, Mr. Freeman has "worked with more than 100 Foreign governments in East and South Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and both Western and Eastern Europe." This puts him way above someone like, say, Richard Perle.

The media attacks on Mr. Freeman remind me of what was tried, successfully, against former four-star Admiral Bobby Ray Inman when he was selected as secretary of defense by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Mr. Inman had an outstanding career in the Navy and at the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was made head of the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1977 and served as director for four years. He was nominated by former President Reagan to be Deputy Director of the CIA in 1981, and served briefly in that capacity. Former New York Times columnist William Safire started the smearing of Mr. Inman.


I suspect that Mr. Freeman is not going to be hounded out of his new job, and certainly has accumulated intimate knowledge during his long career about the Washington D.C. snakepit.

When you read a description of his career and recognize his mastery of languages, including Chinese, his experience in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, as part of working with "more than 100 foreign governments", and so forth, you wonder why he was appointed to head the National Intelligence Council.

There is a different, perfect job for him.

Secretary of State.

Cold War Zoomie

Evidently, Chait didn't do his homework about eunuchs:

The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the Sumerian city of Lagash in the twenty first century BC. Over the millennia since, they have performed a wide variety of functions in many different cultures such as...military commanders...

My drive-by research came up with this fellow.

The New Republic is dying a slow death. Anyone who writes for them is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

So far Obama has struck me as someone who doesn't give much credence to the typical Inside The Beltway chatter.

Speaking of the Inside The Beltway types like Chait, the term "Camp Followers" comes to mind.

Duncan Kinder

Following a link in Chait's article to an email Freeman wrote in some unnamed listserv ( which apparently was part of a longer, undisclosed series of emails - so Freeman's is taken out of context ), he states:

I await the brickbats of those who insist on a politically correct -- i.e. non Burkean conservative -- view.

From this, I take it that Freeman regards himself, not as a "realist" ( whatever that means ) but as a Burkean conservative.

Edmund Burke was one of those 18th Century writers whom I have not read - primarily because I understand him to be less entertaining than Samuel Johnson, whom I also largely have yet to read.

Still, adherence to an 18th century rather than a 21st century ideology strikes me as idealism of a sort - and not necessarily realistic at all.


that's the big email proof? a leaked that nobody has and nobody can trace back?

feh, they might as well post LOLkat picture.

frank durkee

Perhaps the key is that in the 18th Century in Britain their elite thinkers thought that "Truth" was to be sought and perhaps even available to the deeply serious and intelligent seeker. At a time of bitter and divisive party politics, that search still attracted some then as it seems also to do now, "Truth " is a moral value, for the Greeks, the highest, and for the Christians also. While the end insight might differ, the search for and the following of were and are at the center of moral values and impinge on any ther such values. Perhaps this is "idealism" t o me it is simply the realistic way to proceed:morally or the moralway to proceed realistically. If truth is not the aim, why morally bother?

Carmine Cellian

Full disclosure: I have long known and admired Amb. Freeman. And I'm a retired intelligence professional who has logged nearly nearly 30 years of federal service.

Yes, Chas is a "realist," as well as a distinguished specialist in Chinese affairs, Middle Eastern affairs, and many things in between - with a knack for being in the right place at the right time, for example, with Kissinger in Nixon's opening to China, in Saudi during Desert Storm.

What isn't being noted about Chas is his pragmatism, his ability to see solutions to a hard problems and to devise a way of getting from here to there - a gift all our best foreign service professionals possess in abundance - and thus particularly suited to directing the seniormost collection of specialist-advisers to DNI Blair (the National Intelligence Officers of the National Intelligence Council) and to herding the cats of US Intelligence Community's analytic components and corralling their collective views into a single coherent ESTIMATE of WHAT IS THE CASE. Not what is "the TRUTH" - because if we could fathom the truth, we we wouldn't have to estimate - but what is the balanced assessment of the state of affairs in question, its branches and sequels, challenges, and opportunities, and its place in the pantheon of US interests. I can think of many who may well be equally suited to the task - Amb. Tom Pickering, for example, or former Deputy CIA Director (and Deputy NIC Chair) John McLaughlin - but none better suited.

Chas is brilliant, knowledgeable, combative, eloquent - in a resonant Orson-Wellsian baritone (okay: now I sound like a groupie: please, that's not so, but rhetorical command and the ability to persuade are essential parts of the game) - and, perhaps most useful of all, edgy. He isn't easy to pigeonhole. He won't be predictable. And I surmise the NIC under his eye won't produce many mushy, least-common-denominator estimates. I look forward to - indeed, cannot wait for - inspired, provocative, incisive, and, yes, balanced analysis from the NIC under Chas Freeman's leadership.

And oh, by the way, BRILLIANT POSTING, Col. Lang. Absolutely brilliant. (And here's a vote for Jack Russell Terriers.)


These neoconservatives are so tedious. That matters Israeli should take dominion over our foreign policy, treasury, and national security, and that the Fourth Estate should be so corrupted as a fourth arm of the government that it refuses to police itself in service to the necessary and essential secular interests of the majority of the American people is a travesty.

Chait writes about blindness to morality. In self-talk so profound in its delusion he claims the written words of American political critics are a moral issue. Then straight out of Mother Goose, claims Israel is a ‘fellow democracy’. Not my democracy it isn’t.

Babak Makkinejad


I have read many of Ambassador Freeman's presentations and speeches.

He always struck me as a knowlegable and sensible man.

That men like him were excluded from decision-making process of USG was foolish, in my opinion.

Mad Dogs

The Kids are mad that the Adults are now in charge and they won't let the Kids eat Cheetos and watch Homer Simpson all day long.

I'm waiting for the Kids to make their next move of holding their breath until they turn blue.


First, on choice of dogs, Jack Russells are delightful pets yet I prefer to have dogs that could in fact kill their masters, know it, but reliably would prefer not to. German Shepherds are the ideal. I strive to be the man my dog think I am.

Second, I confess some "outside the beltway" confusion on the "realist" issue. I had assumed that realism was the norm, the duty of the intelligence community was to provide objective advice i.e. "if you do this they will do that", kind of thing. The shoulds and the ought toes , by definition seem to cross the line into advocacy.

Apparently naively, I assumed that an intelligence professional provides probability advice, to which the political arm overlays the broader moral, political and strategic considerations, such as in Kosovo.

Lastly, and perhaps disjointedly, I wonder what other insights you can provide as to successful negotiation norms in the middle east. I negotiate with middle easterners on a regular/daily basis (in an American business format) and frankly find the experience troubling, not least because the ME'terners seem to always higher Jewish lawyers, but also because they seem to have adopted the Big oil idea that negotiation is is itself a defeat.

Surely no culture can long survive with this idea.


Given his long record, the strong endorsements, and the ambiguous indictments of this gentleman, I'm prepared to offer a rather outrageous, though personal, conjecture:

... Israel benefits tremendously from this appointment.

I'll offer two reasons:

(1) Further progress toward a resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians will never be attained without ultimately confronting the incorrigible elements on both sides, and it will take an unbiased intelligence community to indicate to our government when those actors sink to the bottom of the barrel...

... this presumes, of course, that a "resolution" that is satisfactory to the majority of Israelis and Palestinians is attainable, which is my personal hope as a not-so-old, somewhat-lefty Jewish American who believes that Zionism in its many forms has slowly been transforming from its origins as a historic escape from hatred, discrimination, and persecution into an escapist excuse for the same.

(2) Any intelligence that concretely incriminates Iran that passes the test of Freeman's synthesis and oversight will carry great weight for the President and his NSC, and this was made perfectly clear just today when Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates gave nearly contradictory testimony regarding Iran's "stockpile" of HEU...

... the same goes for Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc.

I also think the same argument can be made regarding Dennis Ross as 'coordinator' for Secretary Clinton...

... in fact, I think the ultimate utility for President Obama will be when his policies are presented with both of these gentleman supporting the decisions whether explicitly or simply by their silent corroboration. I suppose that might seem naive to some on this forum - with the probable presumption of leaks and distortions - but it's the best picture of the future I can envision at this stage...


"Garbage in. Garbage out."
Does this apply to the Iran NIE that poo-poohed their nuclear weapon program?
Talk about agenda-driven, dishonest bullshit.
Just another waste of taxpayer money by the "intelligence" community.


I am not a fan of Chait and have never liked AIPAC. And personally I do not care about what happens to protesters in China and Saudi Arabia. So Freeman gets a pass from me on those points.

However, I think that Dugout Doug's assault on WW-1 veterans was an abomination. IF the email that Mr Chait cites is legitimate, then it appears that Mr Freeman endorses the U.S. Army shooting and bayoneting its own veterans and is happy with General MacArthur ignoring the order by President Hoover stop the Army assault.

I sincerely hope that this is not the case.

David Habakkuk

Duncan Kinder,

It is misleading to refer to Burkean conservatism as 'an 18th century rather than a 21st century ideology'. In treating looking at the problems of the exit from the disastrous communist experiment in terms of Burkean ideas, Ambassador Freedman is in the company of, for instance, the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

To quote from the critique of 'shock therapy' in his 1999 paper 'Whither Reform?'

'Historically the shock therapy approach to changing institutions is associated with Jacobinism in the French Revolution and (ironically) with Bolshevism in the Russian Revolution. There is an "Austrian" tradition of criticism of the Jacobin-Bolshevik approach to institutional change. Karl Popper's criticism [1962] of utopian social engineering and Friedrich Hayek's critique [1979] of the Jacobinic ambitions of scientism gave this tradition its modern Austrian flavor but the roots go back at least to Edmund Burke's [1937 (1790)] attack on Jacobinism in the French Revolution. Peter Murrell [1992] has explicitly used that tradition in his critique of the shock therapy approach. A major theme in my own professional work is that informational problems coupled with human fallibility make the actual world we deal with strikingly different from the models of conventional neoclassical economic theory. Indeed many of the intuitions and informal arguments of the Austrian school find their precise formulation in the new information economics. Thus it is no surprise that I have always had misgivings about the shock therapy component of the Washington consensus at least as applied to institutional change.

'The irony of it all is that the modern critique of utopian social engineering was based particularly on the Bolshevik approach to the transition from capitalism to communism and the shock therapy approach tried to use many of the same principles for the reverse transition. It is almost as if many of the western advisors just thought the Bolsheviks had the wrong textbooks instead of the whole wrong approach. With the right textbooks in their briefcases the "market Bolsheviks" would be able to fly into the post-socialist countries and use a peaceful version of Lenin's methods to make the opposite transition. But we belittle the issue by seeing it only as an intellectual question of overlooking the Austrian or information economics critique of utopian social engineering. One deeper origin of what became known as the "shock therapy" approach to the transition was moral fervor and triumphialism left over from the Cold War. Some economic cold-warriors seem to have seen themselves on a mission to level the "evil" institutions of communism and to socially engineer in their place (using the right textbooks this time) the new clean and pure "textbook institutions" of a private property market economy. From this cold-war perspective those who showed any sympathy to transitional forms that had evolved out of the communist past and still bore traces of that evolution must themselves be guilty of "communist sympathies." Only a blitzkrieg approach during the "window of opportunity" provided by the "fog of transition" would get the changes made before the population had a chance to organize to protect its previous vested interests. This mentality is a reincarnation of the spirit and mindset of Bolshevism and Jacobinism.'

(See http://www.comrad.cz/item99a.htm.)

That the Chinese approach to the exit from communism, by contrast to the Russian, was an essentially conservative one was a point made by Peter Murrell in the 1992 paper to which Stiglitz refers -- which is entitled 'Conservative Political Philosophy and the Strategy of Economic Transition.'

Particularly given its brevity (it is only fourteen pages long) Murrell's paper provides an invaluable corrective to the view that the political tradition with which Ambassador Freeman associates himself is any way out of date, nostalgic, or 'reactionary'.

(See http://econ-server.umd.edu/~murrell/articles/Conservative%20Political%20Philosophy.pdf.)

Clifford Kiracofe

Great post going to the heart of "inside the Beltway intrigue" and the insidious role of the Zionist Lobby. Anyone with Washington experience knows how the Zionist Lobby intervenes in the Federal personnel process to place subservient "pro-Israel" figures into our government and to block and weed out those perceived as not going along slavishly with the Zionist Program (defined at Basel in 1897, or Biltmore 1942, for example.)

Of course the Zionist phalanx like Chait, Neocons, etal. oppose Ambassador Freeman and are trying to unleash a barrage against him. He has a powerful intellect, vast experience, and is independent minded. Thus, he will not bend to the Zionist Lobby's requirements and they resent this and want to block him and anyone else they perceive to be in their way.

I do not know Ambassador Freeman but I have been a participant in DC venues at which he has spoken. He is very impressive not only for his intellect and professional experience but also for his presence and gravitas.

IMO Ambassador Freeman is exactly the man the President needs heading the NIC at this juncture of our history. The President has chosen wisely and has sent a powerful morale boosting message to those of us concerned about the products over which Ambassador Freeman is to preside.


I hope everyone realizes that Charles Freeman is a Marxist.

One of the great things about law school is that it teaches you to write -- and read -- with great precision. Diplomats like Freeman learn this same skill. It is with precision that words can hide even more than they reveal.

Thus when Freeman says this, he betrays his Marxism:

"The threat we now face does not in any way justify the sacrifice of the civil liberties and related values we defended against the far greater threats posed by fascism or Soviet communism."

You will notice that when he describes historical threats to America, Freeman does not modify the word "fascism" but he modifies "communism" with the word "Soviet".

As Marxists themselves are fond of saying: This is no accident.

Few Marxists today will even attempt to defend "Soviet" communism, since it is pretty well indefensible. So they use these semantic techniques to both blind non-Marxists to their true loyalties and to signal their fellow Marxists that they, too, are "in the club".

Freeman could have modified "fascism", by calling it "Italian fascism", "Greek fascism", or "Argentine fascism". He didn't. So why did he choose -- and make no mistake: it was the kind of thoughtful choice that diplomats and lawyers always make -- to narrow his condemnation of communism (Marxism) to "Soviet" communism?

Further proof, if any were needed, of Freeman's Marxist loyalties is found in his equivalence of Tianamen Square in 1989 with the Bonus Army in 1932. In the first case 3,000 people demanding liberty were slaughtered; in the second case, 3 ex-servicemen demanding early payment of veterans' bonuses were killed. Freeman tries to make his readers believe that both incidents were morally equivalent. (Other Marxists equate Tianamin Square with Kent State. One thing all these equivalences have in common is that they equate each 1,000 people killed by Marxists for each one person killed by non-Marxists. The same proportionality leads them to equate the 3,000 Chileans killed in the wake of the 1973 anti-Marxist coup with the 3,000,000 Indochinese killed by Marxists in 1975-78.)

Anyway, I don't want to digress too much. But for those who are not trained in the black arts of legal and diplomatic language, I thought it might be helpful if I translated Freeman's prose.


I guess I will be the only one not in the love fest for Freeman. If nothing else, his comments on Tienamin (sic) Square are enough to make me sick. Realism, eh? Realism meant 'we can do business with Hitler'...and look how far that got us. The comments from 'intel pros' only make me even more suspect of the quality and truth of intelligence in the last few years...was there any truth and quality?


Things have gotten so desperate for the Israeli Lobby, that they even had to trot out Steve Rosen, the still-under-indictment AIPAC operative,to write an attack on Chas Freeman on the website of certifiable lunatic Daniel Pipes. I now refer to the Israeli lobby as the "Oy-Vey Chorus" and I can't wait to see what happens when the Christian fundis weigh in (Will they accuse Chas Freeman of being a Raptures-denier?)

At last we are seeing some really top notch appointments to senior posts in the national security structures. After eight years of infantile neoconservatism and fundamentalism dominating our decision-making on vital foreign policy matters, maybe we can really make a difference with the team now in place. I fully concur with Col. Lang that Chas Freeman is not only the right man for a very challenging job. He should herald a broader reliance on experienced, competent and "realistic" people with vast experience. The crisis we face as a nation and a world deserves and demands nothing less.

Patrick Lang


We have some "lobby" propaganda types active here today. I posted a few for general information.


So far as I know the Army destroyed the bonus marchers camp on the Mall but never injured anyone. Where's the evidence? pl


Anyone in the US administration opining on the Middle East in an even handed manner, in a manner where Israel is right even when its wrong, will do more to lessen the effect of "radicals" on the Arab street than any PA-Israeli "meetings".

mlaw230 , I am intrigued as to why you find the experience of "ME'terners" hiring Jewish lawyers troubling? Surely you are not falling for the old canard that to the Arabs, Israelis, Zionists and Jews are all the same are you?


Sorry, previous post should have read, where Israel is not always right (even when its wrong)


I wouldn't call them propaganda types, I'd call them comedy types.

Cold War Zoomie

I hope everyone realizes that Charles Freeman is a Marxist.

Chuckle. Now that's a good one!

I read the dreaded email. It kind of bothered me a little since I am a firm believer in the right to protest. But this is what I think matters most if it truly is from Freeman:

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...

Professionals separate their personal beliefs from their professional duties as much as possible. We all have these choices in our lives no matter what we do. As the old saying goes, opinions are like...well, I leave the rest of that out!

If the email is true, now we know a distinct, personal belief of his. The real question is whether it has interfered with his professional analysis and judgment. What exactly have been the consequences of Freeman's "belief?"

Freeman's been around a long, long time yet Chait couldn't cite one example where this one belief had negative repercussions for the USA.

Not one.


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