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Think About It

We’ll all think about this episode for a while. ~James Fallows [1]

As much as I would like to think that Mr. Fallows is right about this, I don’t think this is true. If most people bring up this unhappy episode again, it will be as a cautionary tale to make clear to anyone who wants to serve in government in any important post that merit, qualifications and reputation count for nothing if you do not check off the right ideological boxes. There will be a few who will refer back to this episode as another example of how distorted and warped our policy debate is, but this won’t matter very much. A qualified professional has been inexcusably dragged through the mud to satisfy a bunch of hypocrites, and in return I fully expect that we will get queries as to why we don’t have a better quality of foreign policy realists–you know, the sort who keep their mouths shut about anything controversial and do what they’re told. Then a few years down the road we will wonder why there were not any contrarian and independent minds challenging consensus views that proved to be completely wrong, and then, and perhaps only then, we will look back on this episode and understand how that came about.

In the end, this has been a contestation of power, and the defenders of the status quo won and actually won pretty easily. For all of the pleasant ideas about a changing political landscape and the rise of alternative voices in the debate over U.S. policy in the Near East, all it took to sink a non-confirmable intelligence appointment who had the full confidence of the Director of National Intelligence was a couple of weeks of public whining by a band of petulant, ill-informed hacks. Some may still think about this episode in the days to come, but on the whole “we” will forget, and that is perhaps the most depressing thing about it. The controversy will not elicit a backlash, but will instead change nothing.

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4 Comments To "Think About It"

#1 Comment By WRW On March 11, 2009 @ 7:03 am

While I disdain the much abused word “surreal”, Leon Hadar had a great link to the Weekly Standard blog in which “the editors” asserted that Freeman should be disqualified because the National Intelligence Council needs “independent thinkers”!! Hoot, hoot. This from the crowd who shouted down anyone who questioned (their now fully-discredited) dire warnings about Iraq prior to the invasion. Similar to their (admittedly, less intelligent) colleagues at National Review (including the absurd Frum, he of the “Unpatriotic Conservatives”, who is now on to other targets.)

You are quite right that, if Obama is foolish enough to engage in the sort of military misadventures of Bush and Clinton before him, we will (after everything’s fallen apart) wonder “how could everyone be so wrong”? Perhaps because no one was permitted to be right?

#2 Comment By jetan On March 11, 2009 @ 8:04 am

The entire episode is so galling that it is difficult to find a silver lining. M.J. Rosenberg, however, thinks that he may have located one:
[2]

His argument, in brief, is that the “pro -Israel community” may have shot it’s bolt on opposing a relatively trivial appointment and will now havew to contend with a pissed-off Executive that will now feel free to take a much more severe line with respect to Gaza, etc.

The counter-argument, I daresay, is that this assumes that Obama is much less than accomodationist by nature. But the past thirty years have left us with no real reason to feel confident that there is any meaningful resistance to the pro-Israel bloc in either party.

#3 Comment By BarryD On March 11, 2009 @ 9:04 am

“The counter-argument, I daresay, is that this assumes that Obama is much less than accomodationist by nature. But the past thirty years have left us with no real reason to feel confident that there is any meaningful resistance to the pro-Israel bloc in either party.”

The real counter-argument, IMHO, is that the Israel Lobby casually jack-slapped a guy, which increases its credibility (not by much, but it’s still and increase).

#4 Comment By Gordianus On March 11, 2009 @ 11:22 am

Rosenthal may well be right. Furthermore I don’t sense a great personal sympathy on the part of Obama for Israel or American Jews for that matter. He wants to reach some accommodation in the Middle East in order to get on to his real priorities. The Lobby, like China in the South China Sea, is now an early challenger to his authority. This will probably engender some blow back from him.