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Stephen Walt’s Intellectual Dishonesty

Over at his Foreign Policy blog, Stephen Walt has a mind-numbingly predictable take on the controversy surrounding the appointment of Charles “Chas” Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council:

As soon as the appointment was announced, a bevy of allegedly “pro-Israel” pundits leapt to attack it, in what The Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss called a “thunderous, coordinated assault.”  Freeman’s critics were the usual suspects: Jonathan Chait of the New Republic, Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, Gabriel Schoenfeld (writing on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal), Jonah Goldberg of National Review, Marty Peretz on his New Republic blog, and former AIPAC official Steve Rosen ….

And so goes the rest of the post.  Indeed, rather than addressing any of the substantive criticisms that various opinion-makers raised in the wake of Freeman’s appointment, Walt lazily defends Freeman by constantly repeating the names and affiliations of his ideological nemeses — as if, by itself, this proves his point.  (By the way, congratulations to the Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, who is mentioned a record three times in Walt’s post – all without a single reference or link to Goldberg’s actual argument.)  Of course, this ad hominem discursive tactic is consistent with the intellectual dishonesty that Walt and co-author John Mearsheimer displayed in their infamous tome, which managed to sketch out a vast Zionist conspiracy (even the New York Times is in on it!) without actually interviewing a single pro-Israel lobbyist.

In turn, Walt foolishly fails to address the major point of contention surrounding Freeman’s appointment: that Freeman made the scandalous transition from U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia to head of a Saudi-bankrolled think tank.  In turn, Walt conveniently overlooks the fact that Freeman used his influence in Washington to peddle the Saudi party line after 9/11, which held that American foreign policy caused the terrorist attacks on our country.

Indeed, the hypocrisy is stunning.  How can Walt — who has spent the past three years bloviating on the supposed influence of pro-Israel groups on U.S. foreign policy — defend the administration for appointing an outright Saudi client to chair the all-important NIC?  Why does he bristle when “pro-Israel pundits” merely speak out on foreign policy, but has no problem empowering a man whose income came via Riyadh to determine the very intelligence that makes it into top policymakers’ hands?

Of course, I don’t expect an answer from Walt.  Conspiracy theorists aren’t known for applying their supposed principles consistently.


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