Melvin A. Goodman: The Urgent Need to Demilitarize the National Security State

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[Melvin A. Goodman is national security and intelligence columnist for Truthout. He is senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. His 42-year government career included service at the CIA, State Department, Defense Department and the US Army. His latest book is "Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA.]

The national security policy inherited by President Barack Obama has been increasingly militarized over the past two decades despite the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the demise of the Warsaw Pact, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war.

The president has addressed the problem incrementally, reducing growth in spending in his first defense budget, establishing a timeline for withdrawal of American military forces in Iraq, returning to arms control negotiations with Russia and supporting international diplomacy in dealing with such problems as Iran's nuclear program.

At the same time, however, President Obama has appointed too many retired general officers to sensitive national security positions; provided too much support for new weapons, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems; and continued support for Georgian and Ukrainian membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The outcome of the current high-level debate over adding troops to support a misbegotten counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan will provide an indication of the president's willingness to demilitarize the national security arena and to restructure civil-military relations that have tilted heavily in the direction of the Pentagon.

President Obama's predecessors since 1981 contributed to the militarization of US national security policy. President Ronald Reagan demanded unprecedented defense spending in peacetime when the Soviet Union was in decay and decline. He also endorsed the Goldwater-Nichol Act in 1986 that created a new class of military viceroys (commanders in chief or CINCS) to make regional foreign policy, which marginalized the role of the State Department.

President George H.W. Bush deployed 26,000 troops to Panama (Operation Just Cause) only one month after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, indicating that use of force would not play a lesser role despite the new international environment. President Bill Clinton weakened our ability to conduct international diplomacy by abolishing the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the United States Information Agency and substantially reducing funding for the Agency for International Development (AID).

Clinton became the first president in 35 years to fail to stand up to the Pentagon on an arms control treaty, when he was unwilling to challenge the military's opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). President Obama, unfortunately, has still not named a new head of AID, and has not thrown his support to ratification for the CTBT...
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