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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Melvin A. Goodman, National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism

Welcome Melvin A. Goodman (Center for International Policy) (TruthOut) (DemocracyNow!) and Host Steve Horn ( (deSmogBlog)

National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism

Often the most ardent critics of the American Empire are those who were once functionaries within in.

Melvin Goodman, author of the new book National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism, fits the mold. He follows in the footsteps of the likes of Ray McGovern, Andrew Bacevich, and the late and great Chalmers Johnson, the next in the line of insiders-turned-dissenters of U.S. foreign policy.

Goodman, a former Soviet analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. Department of State for 24 years and a professor of international relations at the National War College for another 18 years, has seen the internal levers of imperial power projection at their worst and minces no words in describing the ugly side of the bipartisan consensus on empire in the nascent 400+ page tome.

While the U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration debate slicing and dicing the social safety net – with Social Security and Medicare on the prospective chopping block – Goodman points out what Bacevich described as the “cow most sacred” in a Jan. 2011 article.

That cow? None other than the Pentagon budget, worshipped by “liberals and conservatives” alike, as Goodman explained in the book’s first paragraph. Goodman opened with a bang:

“We have the most expensive and lethal military force in the world, but we face no existential threat; nonetheless, liberals and conservatives alike declare the defense budget sacrosanct. A reasonable reduction in the amount we spend on defense would enable us to reduce our debt and invest in peaceful progress and development of a civilian economy…[We] spend far more on defense, homeland security, and intelligence than the rest of the world combined.”

In short, Goodman spends the bulk of the book discussing the foreign policy elite perpetuating what historian William Appleman Williams called Empire as a Way of Life – “American Exceptionalism” in its ugliest, most bellicose form – from the dawn of the Cold War until over a decade after the launch of the “War on Terrorism,” now coined the “Long War.”

Militarization, he wrote in his book, has captured the entire intelligence community of which he was formerly a part.

“The militarization of intelligence risks increased tailoring of intelligence to suit the interests of the military community and its legion of supporters on Capitol Hill,” he posited, saying that the appointment of the now-disgraced Gen. David Petraeus served as Exhibit A of the sordid shift. “The CIA has become the most militarized…intelligence organization in Washington.”

This militarization, Goodman makes clear, is leaving behind what author Tim Weiner described as a “legacy of ashes” as it becomes what Johnson described as the “President’s Private Army.”

Though Dwight Eisenhower did not mention Congress in his famous “military-industrial complex” (MIC) departing address, Goodman says it stretches to Congress as well. In so doing, he echoes the argument made by Johnson in his “Blowback” series, saying because the MIC stretches into every congressional district, every member of the U.S. Congress has become servile to its demands.

Interestingly, some scholars such as Henry Giroux – author of The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex – argue that this complex also extends into the sphere of higher education. Goodman formerly served on the faculty of the National War College and Giroux and others argue that universities on-the-whole have transformed into “war colleges.”

Most alarmingly, Goodman points out that it’s all coming home to the “core” of the empire.

He points to domestic intelligence agencies spying on/infiltrating antiwar groups, President Obama’s New Year’s Eve signing of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 which legalizes extra-judicial indefinite detention at home, and domestic police forces utilization of unmanned aerial drones as a few examples.

The New Yorker‘s legendary investigative journalist put it best on his blurb for the book, writing that “Goodman is not only telling us how to save wasted billions—he is also telling us how to save ourselves.”

With the Obama Administration waging a slew of non-transparent “dirty wars” abroad, Goodman’s book is a welcome and necessary wake-up call for those who’ve been asleep to the reality of the mechanisms, costs, and consequences of maintaining the American Empire.


[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

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