Back in 2009, Admiral Dennis Blair, director of National Intelligence, picked the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles “Chas” Freeman, to run the National Intelligence Council, the top analysis group inside the U.S. intelligence world. Freeman was compelled to withdraw from consideration under fire for revelations about his incendiary remarks about Israel, his financial ties to Saudi Arabia, and astonishing remarks about the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square (all of which I wrote about at the time in the Wall Street Journal).
"The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities," Freeman wrote on an Internet listserv in 2006, "was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud." Moreover, "the Politburo's response to the mob scene at 'Tiananmen' stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action." Indeed, continued Mr. Freeman, "I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be."
The Nixon Center has just hosted a debate between Freeman and Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, where the question under consideration was: "Israel: Strategic Asset or Liability?"
In his prepared remarks, Satloff explains that he agreed to participate only with reluctance:
After all, I asked myself, why should I lend legitimacy to a question—“Israel: asset or liability?”—on which the overwhelming majority of Americans agree; on which the vast majority of strategists of both major parties agree; and on which the vast majority of military leaders and national security specialists agree, across the political spectrum? Today’s question bounces around a lot on the blogosphere, but, I am authoritatively told, not in the Situation Room. Still, it’s out there—perhaps on the fringes, but perhaps not only there—and it sometimes rears its head in ugly and even anti-Semitic ways. So, I thought—why not? A case as strong as this one deserves the light of day.
Both Satloff’s and Freeman’s remarks are worth reading in their entirety. On display from the two men are two very different qualities of mind. Readers can judge for themselves what those qualities are.