Re: The Curious Case of Chas Freeman
You are, of course, correct. My quote above is unfortunate. I've tried to maintain consistently that the China issue should be dealt with on the merits. I gave you a sloppy response there. I'm making the very (it seems to me) mundane point that it is impossible to change the mind of a person who is arguing or operating in bad faith and that attempting to do so is a waste of time. Of course observers who hear the arguments made in bad faith and who genuinely consider them to be persuasive and important must be addressed which is why I've tried to remember to maintain consistently that the China issue had to be addressed.
You are correct that Freeman's defenders failed. And here, at the risk of muddying the waters, I have a question for you: why? I truly know nothing of Freeman and had no stake in his selection - but as a result of this conversation I did look around briefly today and found the email that he wrote on Tiananmen. Is the consensus that that email is why he was sunk? Because... not to sound crazy or anything... basically I think he is broadly correct? Is it not transparently obvious that one way to have avoided the level of bloodshed in that situation would have been to act aggressively much earlier? I mean certainly the Chinese government could have let the protesters control the capital until they got tired of protesting or until the regime fell - but is that really what anyone expects a government will do in such a situation?
Just to be clear: I consider myself a China hawk and, again, I have no stake in the Freeman situation, but if it was mostly this position on China that sunk him I think that would have been defensible. But maybe I'm just too much of a foreign policy realist for today's political climate.
And since you're interesting, another question: can you envision a scenario in which you would feel manipulated should you find out that a person making arguments on behalf of some cause that you found very persuasive didn't actually care a whit for the cause and was just using you as a chess piece? Obviously if you're interested in the issue and the argument is persuasive then the arguments that were made in bad faith end up being embraced by you - I just wonder if at any point you start to feel used, or if you are just grateful for the person bringing these issues to your attention.
Suppose that you're the Chinese dissident and it has been brought to your attention that Freeman shouldn't be your man. Ok, you win that fight - now the next guy that comes along also isn't your man - but he is the other guy's man - the one who was just telling you that you had a stake in torpedoing Freeman. Only that other guy doesn't say a thing about the China problem with the new candidate because his real concern was elsewhere. Do you feel used?
I hasten to point out that this question has no basis in reality - I grant you the point that many people are concerned about both China and Israel and that the scenario is entirely manufactured and imaginary. I'm not interested in claiming that this happens or even could ever happen. I'm wondering whether or not motivation matters to you at all.