We can afford–and should be aiming–to cut military spending, says Melvin Goodman, a 24-year veteran of the CIA. He’s definitely in the minority on this opinion, with only 21% of Americans backing the idea that sequester spending cuts are a good idea. On The Cycle on Wednesday, Goodman explained how the cuts could be positive.
Although he doesn’t subscribe to the “meat-ax” approach–basically the 9% reductions in budgets across the board that the sequester would kick in–he does think the cuts can force a useful conversation about how resources should be allocated. “The same old thinking that got us into the problems we’re in now” won’t be the solution to getting us out of them.
One prescription is putting money into the State Department instead of the Department of Defense. And while Goodman feels that Secretary of States have not made a good case for this of late, the focus should be on honing and crafting a coherent foreign policy strategy for the administration and the country, rather than simply being an ambassador-at-large. “John Kerry will do better” in this regard, Goodman said.
He also suggests minimizing foreign aid in the form of boots on the ground, as well as demilitarizing intelligence agencies like the CIA. In other words, the U.S. should pull back on action and rely instead on a more analytic and strategic role in world military affairs led by the State Department and supported, in certain cases, by the Defense Department. That would help us to avoid “unwinnable wars such as Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan.” So while the sequester cuts may be stressful, Goodman said, they could successfully push the Defense Department to reevaluate its priorities and be more nimple and innovative.
“Obama should go back to his ’08 positions when he talked about limits on military power, limited utility of American military power,” Goodman said. After the sequester, Obama may have no choice.