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.