Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr., author of America's Misadventures in the Middle East and Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige, served for three decades as a career diplomat, completing his government service with a term as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. During his career in government, he negotiated on behalf of the United States with over 100 foreign governments.
Freeman began his career in the Foreign Service in the 1970s studying Chinese languages and preparing in other ways to become a China-affairs specialist. In 1972, he was President Nixon’s principal interpreter during Nixon's breakthrough meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing. In 1979, he was appointed Director of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs at the U.S. State Department, and in 1981 he was appointed as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
He then spent a number of years dealing with African affairs. (He was a principal negotiator of the complex agreement that resulted in the withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola, drawing on his fluent Spanish as he nailed down details of that agreement with Fidel Castro.) In 1990, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, arriving in Riyadh shortly before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, triggering the successive, American-led military efforts known as Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. During those operations, he led an effort that more than doubled the United States’ non-military exports to the Kingdom while managing the largest diplomatic mission in the world under conditions of crisis. Then, while he was Assistant Secretary of Defense, he was responsible for managing defense relations with all regions of the world except the former Soviet Union.
Even after retiring from public service, Freeman continued to offer his critical, independent insight and analysis on issues of international relations, geopolitics, and U.S. foreign policy. In 2006, he was a member of the Iraq Study Group and in 2009, he was tapped to direct the National Intelligence Council by the Obama administration. (He withdrew his name from consideration for that position, in order to end the Israel Lobby’s campaign vilifying him for his positions on Middle Eastern issues.) Freeman speaks French, Spanish, and Chinese at a professional level, and can converse in Arabic and several other languages. He has published two well-received books on the art of diplomacy and negotiation, his two more recent books with Just World Books—and a small book on “Cooking Western in China”. He has received numerous awards honoring his contributions to international diplomacy and innovation in policy and management.
Read news coverage of Chas Freeman here.