At the end of a thoughtful post about National Intelligence Council Chairman Chas Freeman, Ezra Klein observes: But for Freeman’s detractors, a loss might
But for Freeman’s detractors, a loss might still be a win. As Sullivan and others have documented, the controversy over Freeman is fundamentally a question of his views on Israel. Barring a bad report from the inspector general, Chas Freeman will survive and serve. But only because his appointment doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Few, however, will want to follow where he led. Freeman’s career will likely top out at Director of the NIC. That’s not a bad summit by any means. But for ambitious foreign policy thinkers who might one day aspire to serve in a confirmed capacity, the lesson is clear: Israel is off-limits.
If anything, this doesn’t go far enough.
It’s not just that Freeman is bloodied or that the NIC is the final stop in his career. It’s that now every time the NIC issues a report on god-knows-what — but particularly China or the Middle East — Freeman’s critics will opt to say Aha! The nefarious influence of Chas Freeman! or What can you expect with Chas Freeman in charge or some other-such dodge. That’s hardly his fault, but it’s the way these things go. Indeed, the smarter strategy for Freeman’s critics should be to ensure a weakened Freeman remains in charge of the NIC, so they can be spared having to grapple with a difficult analysis of, say, the prospects of a grand bargain with Iran or what would happen to U.S. interests in the Middle East if there isn’t an independent Palestinian state in ten years. (By the way, National Intelligence Estimates on these topics would be written by the NIC officer for the Near East, not Freeman. But still.)
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