Some Thoughts on Chas Freeman

I’ve had mix feelings abotu the Chas Freeman affair.

First, I think it is dangerous that an analyst’s confidental (if not classified) views, shared on a private listserv, would be used in this public matter. If we want to shut down any attempts to introduce a modern think tank approach to analysis, this is the way to do it.

Second, the emails that have circulated abotu Freeman’s view on the Tiananmen Square Massacre show a kind of smart-ass attitude, but not factual inaccuracy. Freeman is right that most of the killing during the massacre happened outside the square itself. He misreprsents the activity of that June, which appear closer a breakdown in the Constitution of the People’s Republic. The Speaker of the National People’s Congress (who was in DC at the time) supported the protests, and was put under informal house arrest after returning to Shanghai. Likewise, the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Zhao Ziyang, was deposed and placed under house arrest after the events.


The best analogy to what happened would be if massive protests in DC against Barack Obama were publicly supported by Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Third, Chas Freeman was clearly bought off. I don’t think this is particular noteworthy. The only “objective” analysts I know are those whose careers are in the bureaucracy, or who live a pauper’s life. Freeman was unwilling to do either, and so worked for the China Naitonal Oil Company, publicly praised Abdullah the Great after cashing checks from the Saudis, etc. In our blog circle, we hav witness similar behavior by analysts who want to get rich. This should have been considered by the Obama administration in its effort to weed out lobbyists, but it’s hardly original.

Fourth, Chas Freeman’s analytical skills don’t extend to an analysis of his own situtation. Among his many enemies were Nancy Pelosi, who was instrumental in the Congressional power-grab over China policy in the early 1990s and has been active in Chinese human rights circles since. An analogy might be if an appointe by Hu Jintao was quietly but firmly opposed by Wen Jiaobao. Blaming the Zionists fits into Freeman’s perspective, but does match up with the intraparty politics he was facing.

Fifth, the affair reveals considerable anger at Zionists in the American political establishment. I don’t know what the causes or implications of this last point is.

7 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Chas Freeman”

  1. Excellent clarification of some bits about the Chinese analysis that nagged at me.

    Regarding #5, I think some fear there will be a “gaming” of the intel about Iran to fit the alleged security needs of Israel as dictated through pressure and media manipulation by some Iran war supporters here.

    David Broder is sort of a weather vein at times, though he presents it as problem that lobbyists can derail someone, without nailing “Zionists” for it.

    The only useful bit Stephen Walt contributed to the Israel lobby argument was his observation that the Indian, Armenian and Mexican lobbies are learning from the success of the Israelis and emulating them. This may be good for those three countries, but may lead often to policy decisions or legislation that is not so good for America.

    The Saudis, Russians and Chinese seem to do well enough just lobbying our business groups, who then lobby the politicians. The direct pressure applied in the Israel/India/Armenia/Mexico vein is more obvious and thus may stir up more anger.

  2. Freeman et al.’s concerns seem parallel to those who opposed Kennedy in 1960, because of a supposed dual-loyalty to Rome.

    It’s a form of isolationism, that sees affinity ties with other states as suspect. Churchill’s enemies laid a similar accusation against him, charging him with a dual-loyalty because of his American heritage.

    As the Arab world has far fewer natural ties to the US (except for individuals, the Arab dictatorships have to resort to bribery and financial “support.” Hence individuals like Freeman.

    China is in a position to use both forms of leverage… they paid Freeman, but also potential for affinity connections, too.

    (Coincidentally with the current political environment, Sun Yatsen, pictured here [1], had a Hawaiian birth certificate.)


  3. “Fifth, the affair reveals considerable anger at Zionists in the American political establishment. I don’t know what the causes or implications of this last point is.”

    This is just the traditional eastern establishment and State Department view. We need less of this view among policy makers, not more.

  4. ““Fifth, the affair reveals considerable anger at Zionists in the American political establishment. I don’t know what the causes or implications of this last point is.”

    The establishment has been anti-Israel since before there was an Israel to be against, though only a tedious combing of State Department memoranda, dusty memoirs and private diaries from the 30’s and 40’s would demonstrate the degree to which Harry Truman bucked an insular mindset that was virulently anti-semitic as well as having legitimate -if minor at the time, given minimal US interests in the Mideast – realpolitik arguments in 1948. The loss to has never been forgotten or forgiven.

    Many of these same Eastern WASP and genteel Southerners looked down their nose at Truman as well and though were quite willing to overlook those of ” their own” like Alger Hiss and probably Joseph Davies, Lauchlin Currie, Harry Dexter White and others who had seriously trucked with Communism and betrayed the United States. This includes Republicans like John Foster Dulles as well as Dean Acheson, both of whom were otherwise fiercely anti-communist.

    In a more contemporary vein, Israel is also an aggravating client – high cost, resistant to “instructions” from ambassadors or assistant secretaries, prone to manuever using political hardball to keep it’s freedom of action – the Department of Defense likes the IDF far better than State likes Israel’s foreign ministry.

  5. I would like to read an accurate, non-PC history of New York Jews. I think it would explain a lot of public reactions, one way or another. Their relationship (as a community) to the Eastern Establishment would be interesting to know about, including “the whole man” university requirements of a century ago, and its relationship to affirmative action today.

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