Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The defenestration of Freeman

My two bits: I think that Charles Freeman is correct in asserting that people in this country who criticize Israel get jumped on. But Freeman’s ties to China and Saudi Arabia made him a lousy poster boy for the first amendment, which I think is why he found himself so alone so quickly. I do ...

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My two bits: I think that Charles Freeman is correct in asserting that people in this country who criticize Israel get jumped on. But Freeman's ties to China and Saudi Arabia made him a lousy poster boy for the first amendment, which I think is why he found himself so alone so quickly.

I do wonder if this whole incident was a kind of warning shot across the bow of retired Admiral Dennis Blair, the new director of national intelligence. The U.S. military long has been less enamored of Israel than has the U.S. Congress. Navy intelligence types in particular have been wary of Israel since the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967, which left 34 sailors dead. Historian Michael Oren calls that controversial incident "one of the most painful chapters in the history of America's relationship with the State of Israel."  

My two bits: I think that Charles Freeman is correct in asserting that people in this country who criticize Israel get jumped on. But Freeman’s ties to China and Saudi Arabia made him a lousy poster boy for the first amendment, which I think is why he found himself so alone so quickly.

I do wonder if this whole incident was a kind of warning shot across the bow of retired Admiral Dennis Blair, the new director of national intelligence. The U.S. military long has been less enamored of Israel than has the U.S. Congress. Navy intelligence types in particular have been wary of Israel since the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967, which left 34 sailors dead. Historian Michael Oren calls that controversial incident “one of the most painful chapters in the history of America’s relationship with the State of Israel.”  

By the way, I think the New York Times probably was slow on this story not because the subject matter was sensitive but because controversy over the relatively minor post Freeman was getting didn’t strike them as newsy. I think their news judgment probably has been altered, and you can bet they’ll cover it the next time. The classic gambit would be to do a Sunday story that “steps back” to cover the big picture — and, an editor might mutter, “get us back in the ballgame.”

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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