The Closet Moderate: "I'm Sorry, Chas, You're Fired."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"I'm Sorry, Chas, You're Fired."

Actually, he was never hired.

I'm not going to get into the substance of this issue, but I will say that the optics on this look really really bad. Andrew Sullivan has a good timeline of what actually went down. Max Blumenthal also has a pretty good overview of the brouhaha.

Now before I go any further I want to insert the standard disclaimer: criticism of the state of Israel is not the same as criticism of the Jewish people. If I were to criticize Angela Merkel's handling of the economic crisis, that would not be the same as criticizing the Germans generally. So, with that disclaimer and the best-defense-on-the-internet backing me up ("some of my best friends are Jews!") I just want to say: this is how they make those commercials!

Say a couple of prominent academics have written a book about how the "Israel Lobby" distorts American strategic thinking and foreign policy. It raises hackles all over the internet, with everyone from Alan Dershowitz to John Chait joining in the carnage. Supporters see the "Israel Lobby" everywhere, while detractors range from fevered baying about anti-semitism to more measured accusations of shitty social science. Over time the fracas dies down. Then, a few years later, along comes a guy who everybody seems to agree is a pretty brilliant intelligence analyst. He's being appointed to a more-or-less politically meaningless position within the Obama administration, but one that will have a soft effect on America's strategic thinking and foreign policy.

BUT WAIT! This man is the very same CHARLES FREEMAN who gave a speech to the Gulf Cooperation Council about America's failed policy in Iraq, the last few paragraphs of which are critical of Israeli foreign policy. He also wrote a "controversial" (read: unsentimental) memo about China to a private listserv which is now all over the internet. In it, he advances the horrifying view that China might not have had to run people over with tanks if it had just gotten its shit together a little earlier. (See: Bonus Army)

A few weeks later, you've got a veritable parade of rabidly pro-Israel ideologues doing their level best to beat up on Freeman. Then, once Freeman decides to cut and run, Chuck Schumer stands up to take the credit.

If I were Professor Walt, I wouldn't bother writing this entry, I'd just snap a shot of my wang, write "CHECKMATE!" on it in red sharpie, and intra-office mail it to Alan Dershowitz.

We can argue about whether "the Israel Lobby" as defined by Walt and Mearsheimer exists or not, but at the end of the day it sure looks like a well-qualified professional was prevented from serving his country on the basis of his views about the state of Israel. As Joe Klein points out, that's actually a very bad thing for the United States and Israel alike.

That said, there was an upside: Chas' son (also named Chas) threatened his dad's detractors with physical violence over the internet thereby proving that some things truly are universal.


Harold Lasswell said...

Imagine if that private listserve had decided to become a blog! ;)

To point, however, my guess is that Chas wasn't taken down by any particular Israel Lobby or Anti-Commie China Lobby... instead it was an accumulation of ethically and morally agnostic statements. His views are just a little too realpolitik and accepting of events and regimes that many on the left (and right for that matter) are shocked and appalled by. He seems like a person who's very, very slow to become righteously indignant about anything. That's probably not a good quality for a godparent, but seems fine for the analyst job he was up for.

Statler said...

That's what Chait said and there's some truth to that. I have a hunch that not what Schumer and Peretz were up in arms about, though. And by "a hunch" I mean "several on-the-record statements."

Statler said...

And it seems a little foolish to overlook Steven 'Espionage Act, What's That?" Rosen's involvement as the pointman for all of this shit. I doubt he was particularly concerned about Freeman's realist instincts outside of their implications for the US/Israel relationship.