Is Chas Freeman Being Handed His Hat and Shown the Door?
The nomination of Charles "Chas" Freeman to serve as the next chairman of the National Intelligence Council has created a new bout of controversy for the Obama administration regarding its personnel choices to serve in key positions. This one comes with a bit of a twist. Cabinet nominees must be confirmed by the Senate. When several of President Obama's choices had their pasts catch up with them, they bowed out rather than face the prospect of a challenging confirmation hearing. However, the position that Freeman would fill does not require Senate confirmation. Regardless, he will probably be compelled to withdraw his name from consideration for the post in the days ahead.
It might be worthwhile to just briefly review why Freeman has become a bit of an albatross for Barack Obama.
He formerly served as an ambassador to Saudi Arabia. As is true of many former ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, he later became a de facto ambassador from Saudi Arabia to America. As head of the Middle East Policy Council (a think tank based in Washington, funded in part by the Saudis), he has served as an apologist for Saudi Arabia, has worked to publish textbooks for American children that are actually pro-Arab propaganda, has been a fierce critic of Israel, and has supported the attacks launched by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer against supporters of the U.S.-Israel alliance here in America.
But wait, there is more. He serves on the international advisory board of the China National Offshore Oil Company, which is owned by the Chinese government. He also seems to have become a de facto ambassador for the Chinese regime. He has gone so far as to suggest the regime was being too soft for not moving swiftly enough and more harshly to deal with the pro-democracy protesters in Tienanmen Square back in 1989.
These ties, as much as a litany of other questionable actions and statements, will come back to haunt him in the days ahead. The National Review recently published an editorial regarding Freeman:
The National Intelligence Council is a "a center of strategic thinking within the U.S. Government, reporting to the Director of National Intelligence ... and providing the President and senior policymakers with analyses of foreign policy issues that have been reviewed and coordinated throughout the Intelligence Community." The NIC plays a crucial role in determining what specific intelligence the president consumes from the torrents of information gathered by 16 different agencies. As chairman, Freeman will decide how that intelligence is framed.
With that in mind, it is unsettling that Freeman will play a key role in determining what intelligence the president sees -- and what he doesn't. As NIC chairman, he will have a strong hand in the production of National Intelligence Estimates, reports that are pivotal in determining the direction of U.S. policy. An errant NIE can be a dangerous thing. Recall the disastrous 2007 NIE that concluded, against the evidence, that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Though quickly abandoned, that NIE helped soften our national resolve to prevent Iran's development of nuclear weapons, even as the mullahs ramped up production.
Three of the major foreign-policy challenges the United States faces today involve the survival of Israel, the Saudis' promotion of radical Islam, and the ambitions of China. To navigate them, Obama has chosen a fierce critic of Israel -- our only reliable ally in the region where threats to the United States are most immediate -- whose track record is one of kowtowing to our enemies in the Mideast and our rivals in Beijing.
But opposition has not just been found in the conservative media. The New Republic -- a left-of-center, well-respected magazine -- has published a number of articles outlining the problems that Freeman would pose as chairman of the NIC. Even one of its most pro-Obama journalists, Jonathan Chait, famous (or infamous) for writing an article declaring his hatred for George Bush, took to the pages of the Washington Post to express his dismay that Freeman would be considered for the post (see "Obama's Intelligence Blunder").