Monday, March 02, 2009

Getting Realistic About Freeman

Ezra Klein's defense of Chas Freeman being appointed to a top intelligence position essentially is that Freeman is an outlier: a foreign policy realist amongst the liberals and idealists that populate the Obama administration. He may or may not be an ideologue, Klein argues, but since Obama is mustering a diverse array of perspectives to advise him, it's not a huge problem to have a few ideologues, so long as they are different sorts of ideologues and balance each other out.

Okay, reasonable enough. But I've been a bit confused about Freeman for awhile now. Freeman's been under fire for being too harshly critical of Israel, while at the same time serving as a moral apologist for China and Saudi Arabia. But -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that isn't what one would expect out of a true realist ideologue at all. A true realist would neither support or defend Israeli, Saudi, or Chinese actions on moral grounds. He'd say they're fundamentally irrelevant: All that matters is what is in the American national interest. If it's in America's interest to be buddy-buddy with the Chinese, then it's none of our business if they gun down protesters in Beijing city centers. But that doesn't seem to be the role Freeman is taking. He seems at least partial to the idea that moral considerations are a relevant concern -- he just has different views on who is moral and who isn't.

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