Chas Freeman, who has reportedly been offered and accepted a job as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, offered his take on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 on a listserv in 2006. Here is the full text of his email to that group:
From: CWFHome@cs.com [mailto:CWFHome@cs.com]
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 9:29 PM
I will leave it to others to address the main thrust of your reflection on Eric's remarks. But I want to take issue with what I assume, perhaps incorrectly, to be yoiur citation of the conventional wisdom about the 6/4 [or Tiananmen] incident. I find the dominant view in China about this very plausible, i.e. that the truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than -- as would have been both wise and efficacious -- to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China. In this optic, the Politburo's response to the mob scene at "Tian'anmen" stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action.
For myself, I side on this -- if not on numerous other issues -- with Gen. Douglas MacArthur. 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. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans' "Bonus Army" or a "student uprising" on behalf of "the goddess of democracy" should expect to be displaced with despatch from the ground they occupy. I cannot conceive of any American government behaving with the ill-conceived restraint that the Zhao Ziyang administration did in China, allowing students to occupy zones that are the equivalent of the Washington National Mall and Times Square, combined. while shutting down much of the Chinese government's normal operations. I thus share the hope of the majority in China that no Chinese government will repeat the mistakes of Zhao Ziyang's dilatory tactics of appeasement in dealing with domestic protesters in China.
I await the brickbats of those who insist on a politically correct -- i.e. non Burkean conservative -- view.
Given Secretary Clinton's recent comments "that the debate with China over human rights, Taiwan and Tibet cannot be allowed to interfere with attempts to reach consensus on other broader issues," one gets the sense that the Obama administration will be giving the Chinese a free hand to deal with dissent however they see fit.