A former CIA and state department analyst led the most recent teach-in.
Twenty years ago, the United States found itself with a unique strategic opportunity. Throughout the span of 24 months, America watched the Berlin Wall come down, a series of nonviolent revolutions in Eastern Europe, the Warsaw Pact disband, and the unexpected dissolution of the Soviet Union. The time was ripe for an overhaul in United States foreign policy.
This opportunity, former CIA and State department analyst Mel Goodman said last week, was foolishly squandered.
Goodman, a 1960s era CIA whistleblower and fierce advocate of demilitarization, led the latest teach-in Friday, Feb. 24, with an intricate look into United States defense policies and the ripple effects of this missed opportunity in the dawn of the 1990s.
“How did we go from this strategic opportunity two decades ago to the situation now?” Goodman asked. “We’ve been in the longest condition of permanent war in our history.”
Frequently citing quotes from President Dwight Eisenhower, Goodman spoke on the dangers of military naivety and the imperialistic mantra that drives so much of America’s foreign policy.
“If you add [defense spending of] the United States and its allies, countries with which we will never have a serious problem, that’s responsible for 75 to 80 percent of all the money spent around the world on the military,” said Goodman. “I find that a very stunning figure.”
This “outrageous” defense spending, as Goodman called it, has assisted in putting America in its current economic crisis, and only serves to proliferate the permanent state of conflict the country finds itself in.
This conflict, which extends far beyond the Middle East, is a byproduct of a military, industrial, congressional, Goodman said, and intelligence ‘complex’ that dominates national security policy.
“Eisenhower warned] if we continue this high defense spending, there will be schools that won’t be built, bridges that won’t be built, infrastructure that won’t be repaired, and on and on,” he said. “Of course, that’s where we find ourselves.”
These, Goodman added, are not the only casualties of war. The human and civil rights of American citizens are all too often compromised by conflict-minded national security policies.
Citing multiple examples ranging from President Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus to the Post-World War Two McCarthy Red Scare, Goodman explained how the cost of America’s defense was not just felt monetarily.
“In every war this country has fought, there have been real compromises in civil rights and human rights,” Goodman said.
These compromises have only continued with the proliferation of the War on Terror. One of his greatest disappointments with President Obama, Goodman explained, was the lack of action to restore these civil rights to Americans.
“If we’re going to call this the ‘land of the free,’ we ought to take in to account what has been happening in the wake of the Patriot Act,” Goodman said.
Through years of experience, Goodman has watched the United States further lean on its military to solve foreign problems. This reliance, Goodman said, has led us to overlook the benefits of diplomacy and can cause more problems than it solves.
It also serves to substantiate the “big bully” reputation of America.
“We’re kidding ourselves in terms of how we present military exploits,” Goodman said. “We have this illusion of ourselves, being No. 1…we have to come to grips with the way others see us.”
Ali Watkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.