Lieberman: As you know there’s been a lot of controversy about your selection of Ambassador Charles Freeman to be the chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Seven of our colleagues on the Intelligence committee wrote yesterday expressing their concern. I’m concerned.
The concern is based, to state it briefly, on two points. One, I think, is a question about some previous business associations that the ambassador has had that may raise questions about his independence of analysis. And the second are statements that he’s made that appear either to be inclined to lean against Israel or too much in favor of China. In fact I gather yesterday or in the last few days, some of the leaders of the 1989 protests that lead to the Chinese government’s massacre at Tiananmen Square, wrote President Obama to convey—I’m quoting — “our intense dismay at your selection of Mr. Freeman.”
Blair: Let me just make a couple of points about my selection of Ambassador Freeman. First as far as the effects of business associations and the ethics rules, Ambassador Freeman is going through the vetting that is done with anybody joining the executive branch in terms of financial and past associations. In addition because of a letter of some…Members of Congress, the Inspector General is taking a closer look at those associations than is normally done with a federal employee. So that’s one piece of it.
As far as the statements of Ambassador Freeman that have appeared in the press I would say that those have all been out of context and I urge everyone to look at the full context of what he was saying. Two other things though, A mutual friend said about Ambassador Freeman, who I’ve known for a number of years, “there is no one whose intellect I respect more and with whom I agree less than Ambassador Freeman.”
Those of us who know him find him to be a person of strong views, of an inventive mind—on the analytical point of view—I’m not talking about policy. And that when we go back and forth with him better understanding comes out of those interactions—and that’s primarily the value that I think he will bring. On the effect that he might have on policy I think that some misunderstand the role of the development of analysis which supports policy. Number one, neither I nor anyone who works for me makes policy. Our job is to inform it. We’ve found over time that the best way to inform policy is to have strong views held within the intelligence community and then out of those we come out with the best ideas. And Ambassador Freeman, with his long experience, his inventive mind will add to those strongly. So, that is the view that I had when I asked him to serve and that’s how I feel about it.
Lieberman: I appreciate your answer, my time is up but I will say this, obviously the intelligence community are not policy makers, you’re analysts and providers of intelligence information. The concern about ambassador freeman is that he has such strong policy views and those are not only his right but his responsibility to express—the disposition may not be the best for him because he will have to separate his policy views from the analysis. I just want to say to you, I don’t have a particular course to recommend, but having been around the congress for a while, my own sense is that this controversy is not going to go away until you or ambassador freeman find a way to resolve it. I’ll go back and look at the statements that are on the record, I’ve read some at length. And they’re very decisive, even in the context. So whether I disagree or agree with them—he’s very opinionated and it’s a question of whether that’s—whether I suppose in the end, and my times up so I have to end it , this puts a greater burden on you to filter out opinions from analysis to make sure that you’re giving the president and other leaders of our country sort of unfiltered intelligence information not biased by previous policy points of view.
Blair: I think I can do a better job if I’m getting strong analytical view points to sort out and pass on to you and to the president than if I’m getting pre-cooked pablum judgments that don’t really challenge.
Lieberman: Okay, I guess I would say, “To be continued.” Thank you.
Out Of Context? Lets look at some of his emails “in context.”
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.
Mr. Blair, Did you read the email above? Its been all over the net? What is different now that you can read it “In Context?” He said a similar thing in this email, again very much in context:
From: “[email protected]”
To: China Security Listserv
Sent: Saturday, September 10, 2005 11:55:11 PM
Subject: Re: “Fallon dismissed assertions that the United States was trying to contain…
Of course, the US should maintain the capacity to intervene in the Western Pacific, not just with respect to the Taiwan issue but with respect to Indonesia-Australia and other potential conflicts involving our interests as well. Do you know anyone who advocates not doing so? With our defense spending now over half that in the world, it is, in any event, pretty hard to generate a lot of worry about our capabilities in this regard.
I have, until recently, been among those most outspoken in tolling the warning bell about the possibility of Sino-American conflict over Taiwan. All signs seemed to me to point toward a Chinese decision, faute de mieux, to use force to resolve the issue when the prospects of success seemed good and Taiwan and the US had been lulled into a mood that would facilitate surprise. More recently, I have noted a conclusion by the Chinese leadership that the use of force will not be necessary. I think that is a credible judgment on their part and that armed conflict in the Taiwan Strait is therefore now less likely than in the past and, given sensible policies on our part and some measure of self restraint in Taiwan, will become still less likely in future. Notwithstanding this judgment, however, I think we must keep our powder dry. So we have no disagreement on that score.
But I take issue with the “facts” on which you rest your conclusions. On your facts:
(1) I can’t imagine there was no surprise to the Chinese offensive against Vietnam. (At least, although not working on China per se at the time, I was not in the least surprised by it.) The Chinese had repeatedly warned Vietnam that continued empire-building in IndoChina would draw a forceful response. They gained the tacit support of some sections of the USG for their decision to make good on this warning. Having demonstrated that they could take Hanoi, QED, they withdrew and then quite cynically used the artillery and infantry duel on the border as live-fire training to battle-harden the remainder of their flabby post Cultural Revolution, internal security-oriented forces. This was a classic use of force for diplomatic purposes. It is very hard for me to condemn it while endorsing our uses of force in Grenada, Libya, or Panama not too much later. Great powers do what they must. There is nothing particularly insidious about the Chinese in that regard.
(2) The attack on “unarmed students” at Tian’anmen (actually at Muxudi and Fuxingmen and other locations outside Tian’anmen) came after many weeks, even months, in which the Chinese leadership had lost control of security in their own capital. (The troops were, in fact, fired upon at Muxudi, though it is not clear by whom.) The only surprise to me (and other realists, including, I gather, you) was that the Chinese leadership did not act earlier to restore order. We would have done so, judging by the precedents set by MacArthur and our National Guard over the decades from 1920 – 1950. The main lesson those leaders who survived the affair have drawn from it, in fact, is that one should strike hard and strike fast rather than tolerate escalating self-expression by exuberantly rebellious kids. If June 4 tells us anything about the Chinese leadership it is that they are reluctant, often to the point of rashness, to resort to the use of force against their fellow citizens.
(3) I am frankly stunned that you would argue that China has not “become more tolerant of dissent” in recent years. No one can have spent any time at all talking to ordinary people in China over the past two decades and have this view. Of course, outright opposition to rule by the Chinese Communist Party continues to draw a sharp response from the authorities. No government, including our own, is or should be asked to be prepared to tolerate efforts to overthrow it and the constitutional order it administers. (Ironically, despite our ideological predilections to believe the contrary, I am aware of no evidence that Chinese currently consider their government less “legitimate” or worthy of support than Americans do ours — but I defer to [name redacted by TWS] and other experts on this.) Certainly, China continues to fall far short of our minimal expectations for human and civil rights in many respects but it has made very significant progress on many levels. To deny this is primarily to raise questions about the extent to which one has been able to observe readily observable reality.
(4) You did not repeat the Rumsfeld / Rice canard that China has yet to make a decision whether to integrate itself into the existing order or to stand outside it. So you cannot be accused of embracing that quaint but hystrionic absurdity about a country that has joined just about every international organization and regulatory regime that exists, while emerging as a strong defender of the status quo in each against attacks on them, primarily from the US.
Like you, I worry that we will get China fundamentally wrong. It is certiain that we will do so if we allow our idées fixes and ideological preconceptions to guide our reasoning about China rather than deriving our conclusions from first-hand and empirically validatable data. I do not disagree that we need to keep a wary eye on China, that much could yet go wrong on the Taiwan issue, and that broad Sino-American hostility is a possibility (indeed, a probability if our defense intellectuals — who have been fundamentally wrong on so many issues in Southeast Asia and the Middle East but who have apparently not been chastened by the remarkable consistency of their erroneous judgments and fallacious policy prescriptions– keep us on the course they now have us on).
But I fundamentally disagree that China is inherently inimical to our interests, unmanageable by skillfull diplomacy, or ineluctably aimed at mirror-imaging our own hegemonic and scofflaw behavior internationally. In any event, to conclude that this is so, it seems to me, begs the key policy question: what do we do about it? In the militaristic mood of contemporary Washington, there is little patience for anything other than coercive approaches to international problem solving. But there are lots of alternative methods, with a better track record of success, than that. Where’s the foreign policy approach, as opposed to the military deterrent approach, to dealing with a rising (or re-rising) China?
Again, in context we can be sure that either Mr. Blair is lying or he never read the above. (source of emails Weekly Standard)