Saturday, March 7, 2009

Seeing All Sides In The Middle East

Here's former AP reporter Robert Parry's survey of the debate over President Obama's appointment of Chas W. Freeman to a top intelligence post. He's a realist when it comes to the Middle East, which means that he has criticized Israel and is open to the perspective of Arabs and Palestinians. Critics say that means he's essentially a pro-Arab ideologue for refusing to acknowledge Israel's superior moral standing.

The debate has obvious Cold War resonances. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were viciously attacked by conservative Republicans and nascent neocons (and spied on by the Pentagon) as they reduced tensions with the Soviet Union, setting the stage for the end of the Cold War.

Today the issue is whether U.S. policymakers will acknowledge the legitimate interests of the Palestinian people as they try to fashion a peaceful and just endgame for the struggle of struggles in the Middle East. Friends of Israel, the only democracy in the region and our moral partner since its establishment in 1948, are rightly vigilant about any move that could threaten Israel's security. But it's wrong -- and, in a way, an investment in indefinite bloodshed -- to attack and try to silence Freeman for his views, which will help the U.S. be a smarter friend of Israel and a more effective agent for peace.

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A blogging brother suggests that I shouldn't neglect charges against Ambassador Freeman that he has financial conflicts of interest that preclude his serving. Andrew Sullivan analyzes the trajectory of the Freeman controversy and shows that it began with outrage over his views. I'm with Sullivan. If there's a compelling financial question, then it should be judged strictly on its demerits.

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